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Biden signs bill extending small business loan program

President BidenJoe BidenBiden taps California workplace safety leader to head up OSHA Romney blasts end of filibuster, expansion of SCOTUS US mulling cash payments to help curb migration MORE on Tuesday signed legislation extending a loan program designed to help small businesses adversely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

The bill, passed in overwhelming bipartisan votes in the House and Senate earlier this month, extends the deadline for businesses to apply for assistance through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) by two months, from March 31 to May 31.

Biden cheered the bill as a “bipartisan accomplishment” in the Oval Office on Tuesday afternoon as he signed it into law.

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In addition to extending the window in which businesses can apply for the loans, the bill signed by Biden on Tuesday also gives the Small Business Administration (SBA) until June 30 to process loan applications.

Congress has been under pressure from the business community to extend the application window in order to provide further support for businesses while the U.S. population gets vaccinated for COVID-19 over the coming weeks and months.

The change will give businesses more time to apply for first-time loans or “second draw” loans, those available to some businesses who have already received assistance. Businesses and lenders who have encountered issues with the application process will also have more time to sort out those problems.

The program, administered by the SBA, was first established by Congress through the CARES Act under the Trump administration last year to get low-interest loans to businesses struggling during the pandemic.

Congress has re-funded the program multiple times and Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan signed into law earlier this month provided additional funding for the PPP to assist small businesses. About $79 billion in funding remains for the program, according to the SBA.

The Biden administration announced changes to the program in February aimed at prioritizing the smallest businesses as well as those that are minority-owned and located in rural communities. This included a two-week period in March when only businesses with fewer than 20 employees could apply for assistance.

The administration also changed its loan calculating formula for sole proprietors, independent contractors and self-employed individuals and eliminated restrictions preventing business owners with prior non-fraud felony convictions or who have been delinquent on federal student loans from receiving assistance.