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Small Business Emergency Relief Program Hits $349 Billion Cap In Less Than 2 Weeks

Jovita Carranza, head of the Small Business Administration, has urged Congress to appropriate more money for the Paycheck Protection Program as soon as possible.
Mandel Ngan
AFP via Getty Images
Jovita Carranza, head of the Small Business Administration, has urged Congress to appropriate more money for the Paycheck Protection Program as soon as possible.

Updated at 3:45 p.m. ET

The $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program to boost small businesses during the coronavirus economic crisis has run out of money.

"The SBA is currently unable to accept new applications for the Paycheck Protection Program based on available appropriations funding," a Small Business Administration spokesperson said in an emailed statement Thursday. "Similarly, we are unable to enroll new PPP lenders at this time."

An online portal for lenders had an identical message as of Thursday morning.

The program was passed as part of the CARES Act, Congress' $2 trillion economic relief bill. One of its main goals is to incentivize businesses to keep or rehire employees. The loans are forgivable, contingent upon how much of the money is spent on payroll expenses.

However, the program was plagued by technical difficulties and delays from its opening on April 3.

On Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Small Business Administration Administrator Jovita Carranza urged Congress to appropriate more money for the program as soon as possible.

"By law, the SBA will not be able to issue new loan approvals once the programs experience a lapse in appropriations," they said in a statement.

"We urge Congress to appropriate additional funds for the Paycheck Protection Program — a critical and overwhelmingly bipartisan program — at which point we will once again be able to process loan applications, issue loan numbers and protect millions more paychecks," Carranza and Mnuchin added.

Both Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill agree that they want to appropriate more money for the program. However, they disagree on exactly how to do that.

Democrats, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, want to set aside some of the money in the program to go through "community development financial institutions," as Pelosi told CNN this week. Those are places, like smaller banks and credit unions, that she said could get the money to smaller businesses without banking relationships.

Those businesses have had difficulties in accessing the program, as many banks have limited PPP applications to businesses with existing relationships.

Republican lawmakers have said they want to simply add money to the program without adding those changes.

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Danielle Kurtzleben is a political correspondent assigned to NPR's Washington Desk. She appears on NPR shows, writes for the web, and is a regular on The NPR Politics Podcast. She is covering the 2020 presidential election, with particular focuses on on economic policy and gender politics.
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