Senate passes bill to fix PPP loan program, sends it to Trump for signature

The Republican-controlled Senate unanimously passed a bill Wednesday that seeks to fix the Paycheck Protection Program, which provides direct relief to small businesses amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., asked for a unanimous consent vote Wednesday evening and received no objection hours after Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., objected to its passage because he wanted assurances of changes to be made in the program later.

The bill now awaits President Donald Trump’s signature.

The bill, called the Paycheck Protection Flexibility Act, would ease restrictions on the popular program, known as PPP. It comes after the program was scrutinized for providing aid to unintended recipients, such as large publicly traded companies, and many businesses around the country complained that they either could not tap into loans or did not receive adequate funds to keep their businesses afloat and their employees on the payroll.

Last week, the Democratic-controlled House passed the bipartisan bill, which would change how businesses could use loan money while still having their loans forgiven. The vote was nearly unanimous, at 417-1.

Under the bill, businesses would have more time to use their loan money beyond the initial eight-week timeline — which some local businesses that are prohibited from opening their doors have said did not work for them — and still qualify for loan forgiveness. It would also expand how much of the money would have to be spent on payroll costs.

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The bill would also eliminate restrictions limiting non-payroll expenses to 25 percent of the loan and the loan’s terms to two years. It would also extend the deadline to rehire employees to align with the expiration of enhanced unemployment insurance, which was created through the CARES Act and in some cases is higher than the median wage in 44 states.

Many businesses have reported an inability to rehire employees because they are making more on unemployment than they made working.

“Now, the President must sign this legislation and join us to support The Heroes Act to protect lives and livelihoods,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement. “Leader McConnell wants us to ‘pause,’ but the virus is not pausing and neither can we.”

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