The Senate on Tuesday cleared legislation to extend the deadline for businesses to apply for coronavirus aid under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which will expire at the end of Tuesday.
Under the bill passed by the Senate by unanimous consent, the deadline for applying for PPP loans — which go to businesses with fewer than 500 employees — would be extended until Aug. 8.
There's approximately $130 billion in unspent money under the Paycheck Protection Program, which has prompted a discussion among lawmakers about what to do with the funds.
Sen. Ben Cardin (Md.), the top Democrat on the Senate Small Business Committee, said that while there needs to be another round of small-business help, extending the application period will delay the deadline until the Senate goes on its August recess, with lawmakers eyeing another coronavirus bill next month.
"The resources are there. The need is there. We just need to change the date," Cardin said about the bill.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), the chairman of the Small Business Committee, said he has no objections to extending the application deadline but that "the vast majority of #SmallBusiness that wanted to benefit from the program have already used it."
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who helped negotiate the initial small-business sections of the March coronavirus bill, said that extending the deadline would ensure we "don't see an interruption in this program" while Congress negotiates another coronavirus relief bill.
It wasn't immediately clear if the Democratic request would be able to clear the Senate. Democrats have tried to pass other coronavirus-related legislation this week but have been blocked by Republicans. Under the Senate's rules, any one senator can try to pass a bill by unanimous consent, but any one senator can object.
"I'm pleased because we have an agreement. ... I came here thinking we would not be able to get agreement," Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) said from the Senate floor.
Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) tried to change the bill to include a requirement that any new loans would have to go to businesses that have seen a downturn in revenue due to the coronavirus.
"Under my colleagues' proposal, companies that have not been harmed at all by the coronavirus will have the ability to receive taxpayer funded loans," Scott said.
But Cardin rejected the change, noting that while he agreed with Scott's concerns, he didn't want to change the guidelines midprogram. Scott then backed down and let the application extension clear the Senate.