President BidenJoe BidenRand Paul calls for Fauci's firing over 'lack of judgment' Dems look to keep tax on billionaires in spending bill Six big off-year elections you might be missing MORE on Tuesday visited a neighborhood hardware store in Washington, D.C., that received a small business coronavirus relief loan to highlight his administration’s efforts to prioritize assistance to the smallest companies impacted by the pandemic.
Biden visited W.S. Jenks & Son, located in Northeast D.C., which the White House says received a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan in the past two weeks as the Biden administration restricted applicants to businesses with fewer 20 employees.
The Treasury Department lending program was established by the bipartisan CARES Act last year. The program has been popular but withstood criticism in 2020 when data showed that much of the funding in the first round of loans went to large businesses such as major national chains.
Biden met with the co-owners of the hardware store, Mike and Jerry Siegel, and the owner of a local grower, Little Wild Things Farm, adjacent to the hardware store. The grower also received a loan in the past two weeks.
Biden asked the owners what hit them the hardest with respect to the pandemic. Mike Siegel said that the biggest challenge was deciding what to do with their staff, noting that the store sent at-risk employees home when the virus hit. Siegel said the first wave of PPP loans last year helped the hardware store to continue to pay its employees who stayed home.
President Biden visited W.S. Jenks & Son, a Washington, D.C. hardware store that applied for and received a Paycheck Protection Program loan during the two-week exclusive application period pic.twitter.com/98OCU4Hp2S— Bloomberg Quicktake (@Quicktake) March 9, 2021
Biden said that his administration changed the PPP to ensure that aid went to small businesses, noting that roughly 400,000 have closed down during the pandemic. He faulted the Trump administration for not ensuring that the money went to small businesses.
“We found out that an awful lot of that went to big businesses that weren’t supposed to qualify,” he said.
The Biden administration instituted a 14-day period running from February 24 to March 9 during which only firms with fewer than 20 employees could apply for assistance through the popular lending program. The special period ends on Tuesday, and businesses seeking PPP loans must apply before the March 31 deadline.
The Biden administration also made other changes to the program, like changing its loan calculating formula for those who are self-employed and lifting restrictions on those who have defaulted on student loan debt or have prior non-fraud felony convictions, in order to target assistance to the smallest businesses and those that are minority-owned.
Bharat Ramamurti, deputy director of the White House National Economic Council, told reporters later Tuesday that the Biden administration has seen a “significant increase” in the number of loans given to the smallest business, first-time participants, and women- and minority-owned firms since the changes.
Specifically, Ramamurti said that the government has approved more than 300,000 loans to businesses with fewer than five employees, representing a 15 increase, and nearly 200,000 loans to first-time PPP borrowers, representing a 25 percent increase, during the two-week period.
Ramamurti said there has also been a 14 percent increase in loans to women-owned businesses, a 20 percent increase in loans to minority-owned businesses and a 12 percent increase in loans to businesses in rural areas.
Tuesday’s brief visit comes as the House is poised to pass Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan on Wednesday after it passed the Senate. The bill provides an additional $7.25 billion for the PPP, $28 billion in funding for a new restaurant grant program as well as other provisions to assist businesses impacted by the pandemic.
—Updated at 1:50 p.m.