COVID-19

The small business loans program is basically out of cash. What’s next?

David Brancaccio, Amy Scott, and Alex Schroeder Apr 16, 2020
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There's bipartisan agreement over the fact that there should be more money available, but members of Congress are at odds on how to get it done. Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

The small business loans program is basically out of cash. What’s next?

David Brancaccio, Amy Scott, and Alex Schroeder Apr 16, 2020
There's bipartisan agreement over the fact that there should be more money available, but members of Congress are at odds on how to get it done. Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images
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One of the key programs created by Congress to help small businesses and their workers get through this crisis is almost out of cash. The $350 billion Paycheck Protection Program has processed more than 1.6 million loans so far.

These are loans aimed at keeping workers on the payroll that are forgivable — so they become grants if a business meets the criteria. And members of Congress are at odds about how to get more aid to businesses.

Marketplace’s Amy Scott shared the details with “Marketplace Morning Report” host David Brancaccio. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

David Brancaccio: First, where’d the money flow?

Amy Scott: Construction, professional and technical services and manufacturing industries have received the biggest share of money, more than $30 billion each. There are concerns that some of the hardest hit businesses like restaurants and hotels aren’t getting enough help. The geographic differences break down as follows: Texas and California, the two biggest states by population, have seen the most money. But New York, especially hard hit by the virus, came in fourth, behind Illinois.

Most loans have been $150,000 or less, but that goes fast. The Small Business Administration says it’s processed “more than 14 years’ worth of loans in less than 14 days.”

Brancaccio: What is Congress going to do now that this pot has essentially been depleted?

Scott: There is bipartisan agreement that there should be more money. Republicans want another $250 billion for the program, but Democrats want more strings attached, like specific help for women- and minority-owned businesses Also, there’s the problem of actually passing anything, with Congress working from home right now and unlikely to come back to Washington until next month.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Which businesses are allowed to reopen right now? And which businesses are actually doing so?

As a patchwork of states start to reopen, businesses that fall into a gray area are wondering when they can reopen. In many places, salons are still shuttered. Bars are mostly closed, too, although restaurants may be allowed to ramp up, depending on the state. “It’s kind of all over the place,” said Elizabeth Milito of the National Federation of Independent Business.

Will you be able to go on vacation this summer?

There’s no chance that this summer will be a normal season for vacations either in the U.S. or internationally. But that doesn’t mean a trip will be impossible. People will just have to be smart about it. That could mean vacations closer to home, especially with gas prices so low. Air travel will be possible this summer, even if it is a very different experience than usual.

When does the expanded COVID-19 unemployment insurance run out?

The CARES Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump in March, authorized extra unemployment payments, increasing the amount of money, and broadening who qualifies. The increased unemployment benefits have an expiration date — an extra $600 per week the act authorized ends on July 31.

You can find answers to more questions here.

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