The $349 billion earmarked as part of the federal stimulus package for the Paycheck Protection Program, which was created to provide financial relief for small businesses in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, has been depleted.
The U.S. Small Business Administration posted a notice on its website Thursday stating that it is no longer accepting new applications for Paycheck Protection Program loans or for Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL). The agency is also unable to enroll new lenders in the Paycheck Protection Program.
“All PPP funds are exhausted,” an SBA spokesperson wrote in an email to Forbes. Here’s what you need to know about where the program stands now.
Unprecedented Demand for Support
From April 3—when the Paycheck Protection Program was launched—through April 16, more than 1.6 million loans were approved by almost 5,000 participating lenders.
“The SBA has processed more than 14 years’ worth of loans in less than 14 days,” said U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin and SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza in a joint statement Wednesday.
But many small business owners encountered issues getting funding, due to problems including late and in many cases unclear guidance sent to participating banks by the federal government. Plus, some analysts say the program could use revamping, as the terms may not make sense for some businesses.
Under the current rules, a business who employs 500 people or less (except in certain industries, in which businesses are eligible with more than 500 employees) could qualify for up to $10 million in forgivable loans. To get forgiveness, the loan proceeds must be used to cover certain expenses, including payroll at a non-reduced rate for eight weeks from the time the loan is received. But the hardest hit businesses which aren’t generating any revenue may have already laid off workers and may not find the promise of a forgiven loan sufficient reason to bring them back.
Additionally, of the loans that have already been disbursed, a disproportionate number have been paid out to just a handful of industries. For example, SBA data from April 13 shows that construction companies received the biggest slice of the $349 billion pie, netting 13.73% of approved funding. Businesses in the arts, entertainment and recreation industries—which are presumably among the hardest hit—received just 1.49% of the approved funding.
What Happens Next?
Negotiations continue on Capitol Hill as lawmakers attempt to move past a stalemate about how additional federal funding should be allocated to existing relief programs, including the Paycheck Protection Program.
Democrats, however, would like to see Republicans allocate additional money to boost hospitals and states, which are already suffering severe shortfalls due to coronavirus-related costs and reduced revenues. They’d like to see $100 billion allocated to health care providers, $150 billion for states and cities, and more support for SNAP.
Democrats are also interested in making sure that part of the new $250 billion in small-business funding goes to the EIDL program, which provides forgivable grants. And they’d like to see guarantees that direct some of the funding for PPP to community-based lenders, which are more accessible to minority-owned and rural businesses that are less likely to have existing relationships with the larger banks.
This recent PPP development is set to put more pressure on Democrats as Republicans — including President Donald Trump — criticize their efforts to block a funding bill. Democratic leaders have signaled, however, that they aren’t planning to cave on such measures unless they receive some concessions from the GOP.
“As of right now, we are waiting on Congress to approve additional funding. Loans cannot be approved at any institutions until then,” says Nick Simpson, senior vice president for public affairs at the Consumer Bankers Association.
Small business owners can turn to their states and local nonprofits to find low-cost loans and grants. Many lenders say they will work with business owners struggling to make payments on their debts by offering fee waivers, payment deferrals and other forms of relief.
The SBA’s website currently offers guidance for small businesses struggling to stay solvent via a link to the SBA’s Enhanced Debt Relief programs. The SBA will cover the principal, interest and fees on qualifying loans for six months and provide automatic deferments through Dec. 31, 2020 on disaster loans that were in “regular servicing” status on March 1.
Those whose Paycheck Protection Program applications were pending or who had not yet submitted their paperwork to an SBA-approved lender will have to wait for relief as Congress tussles over how to move forward.
“[Business owners] should get in touch with their legislators and tell them the program needs to be updated, “ says Amanda Ballantyne, executive director of The Main Street Alliance, a small business advocacy group. “The longer Congress waits to fix it, the less effective it will be.”