Hours before the Paycheck Protection Program was set to expire, the Senate on Tuesday agreed by unanimous consent to extend the coronavirus relief program until Aug. 8, which would give small businesses more time to apply for the $134 million in funds still available.
Lawmakers hope extending the deadline will allow more small businesses to apply for $134 million left in the program, which doles out forgivable loans to companies with less than 500 employees, as the coronavirus pandemic worsens in Southern and Western states.
The move also buys more time for Congress to figure out what to do with leftover money if funds remain and decided on the next legislative step to help small businesses, which could include a measure letting companies take out a second loan.
Though the Small Business Administration has approved nearly 4.8 million loan applications totaling $519 billion, confusion over how the loan program works might be deterring businesses from applying for the rest of the money available, according to a CNBC report earlier this month.
The bill still needs to pass the House of Representatives and be signed by Trump.
The PPP, which was signed into law by President Donald Trump as part of the CARES Act at the end of March, got off to a rocky start with technical glitches and criticism that large public companies were getting funds intended for small businesses. But experts say the program may have helped power the surprise net gain of 2.5 million jobs in May when forecasters were expecting the loss of 9 million.
The SBA is expected to release the names of most PPP loan recipients this week following pressure from Congress for more transparency, but the agency said it would only release information on businesses that got more than $150,000.