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Senate extends pandemic assistance for small businesses for 2 months

The Senate on Thursday voted to extend the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program just a week before it was slated to expire.

Senators voted 92 to 7 to pass the PPP Extension Act of 2021, which extends the program to May 31 instead of the current March 31 deadline and gives the SBA another 30 days to process loans.  

Next, the bill will be sent to President Joe Biden to be signed into law. The White House has indicated its support for extending the program to support small businesses.

The vote comes about a week after the House of Representatives passed the PPP Extension Act of 2021 and sent the legislation to the Senate. A companion to the House bill had been introduced previously by a bi-partisan group including U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship Chair Ben Cardin, D-Md.; Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine; and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.

The program, which was established by the CARES Act to provide forgivable funding to small businesses, reopened in January with $284 billion in funding. Through March 21, the SBA had awarded more than 3.1 million loans worth a total of nearly $196 billion.

Calls to extend the PPP deadline have grown since the Biden administration in February announced changes to the program just weeks before it was set to end. Those changes included a 14-day priority application window for businesses with fewer than 20 employees, updated eligibility rules for the forgivable loans and a new calculation formula for sole proprietors.

Though the updates were slated to get more funding to the smallest businesses, many of which are minority- or women-owned, the timing created confusion for many. Sole proprietors, who would get more money under the new calculation formula, were particularly frustrated, especially those who missed out on bigger loans by a few days

In addition, the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which President Joe Biden signed into law in March, awarded more funding to the SBA. The bill included $7 billion to expand PPP along with other provisions aiding small businesses.