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GOP senator: 'Millions of dollars are being wasted' in coronavirus small business fund

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) said Monday that Congress needs to make changes to a program that provides aid to small businesses, arguing that larger companies and those that have not been hurt by the coronavirus are receiving assistance.

Scott pointed to reports that large chain stores and restaurants had qualified for loans under the Small Business Administration's Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which is meant to provide loans and grants to companies with fewer than 500 employees.

“I am concerned that many businesses with thousands of employees have found loopholes to qualify for these loans meant for small businesses. Unfortunately, when it comes to the PPP, millions of dollars are being wasted," he said in a statement.

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"Right now, companies that are not being harmed at all by the Coronavirus crisis have the ability to receive taxpayer-funded loans that can be forgiven. That’s wrong, and it takes money out of the hands of those Americans who really need it," he added.

BuzzFeed News reported last week that the sandwich chain Potbelly and Ruth's Chris Steak House have received loans of $10 million and $20 million, respectively. Shake Shack announced over the weekend that it would return a $10 million loan.

The chains said they were able to apply for funds because the program allows them to do so as long they don't have more than 500 employees at a single location.

Scott is also calling on Congress to "clarify" that PPP assistance should only be available to businesses that can "show a substantial reduction in revenue due to the Coronavirus." Scott also wants Congress to specify that banks cannot add qualifying requirements for the PPP funds beyond what was included in last month's $2.2 trillion bill.

Congress provided $349 billion for PPP funds, but that money ran out late last week amid high levels of demand as the coronavirus has forced businesses to scale back or close altogether. Congressional negotiators and Trump administration officials are closing in on a deal on an interim bill that would provide an additional $250 billion in PPP funding and an additional $50 billion to $60 billion for small banks.

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They are hoping to reach an agreement Monday, which would allow Congress to pass the measure within days. But sources told The Hill that negotiations were still ongoing as of Monday morning.

The Senate has a pro forma session scheduled for Monday at 2 p.m.; after that they aren't expected to be in session again until Thursday.

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinDemocrats call Trump's COVID-19 response 'among the worst failures of leadership in American history' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump, Biden set for weekend swing state sprint Mnuchin says he learned of Pelosi's letter to him about stimulus talks 'in the press' MORE was asked during an interview Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union" about reports that chains were having easier access to PPP funds.

"Let me say, the majority of these are going to small businesses. And I heard straight from my local cleaners and other areas that were really pleased they were able to get these loans quickly," Mnuchin said.