Small business owners are pleading with Congress to extend the Paycheck Protection Program to help businesses stay afloat as the coronavirus pandemic grinds through the second half of 2020.
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In a letter to Congressional leaders Monday, over 100 CEOs warned their "lifeline is coming to an end," referring to the nearly $520 billion worth of loans from the Small Business Administration earlier in the pandemic. The outbreak has infected more than 4.7 million Americans, killing more than 156,000, and prompted massive lockdowns to curb its spread.
The program was initially set to expire in July before Congress extended the deadline to August 8. Now, plans for a further extension have hit shaky ground as Republicans and Democrats spar over other aspects of a new stimulus package, including additional unemployment benefits and a payroll tax cut, which has long been on President Trump's wishlist.
Businesses are simultaneously arguing that a mere two months of extra funding will not be sufficient to keep them from shuttering for good as uncertainty looms about reopenings in certain parts of the country, particularly in states that are seeing a resurgence of COVID-19 cases.
"Most small businesses don't have enough cash in the bank to weather more months of reduced revenue and customer traffic."
"Most small businesses don't have enough cash in the bank to weather more months of reduced revenue and customer traffic," the letter said. "To survive until a vaccine is widely available, millions of small businesses will require longer-term support from the federal government."
Small businesses employ almost half of all private-sector workers, the letter notes, and account for 44 percent of U.S. GDP.
"This is not a call for bottomless handouts," the letter, which included signatories from companies such as Salesforce, Allbirds, and Dunkin' Brands, said.
Republicans are fighting for a pared-down relief package valued at $1 trillion, while Democrats say $3.5 trillion is necessary to provide sufficient help.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who was instrumental in the initial PPP plan, told the Wall Street Journal on Sunday that Congress is closer to nailing down details of a PPP extension than other portions of the stimulus bill.
Included in a new deal could be $25 billion specifically for small businesses with 10 employees or less, a category in which “a large percentage of small businesses owned by minorities would fit,” Rubio said.
In addition, Republicans are pushing for $100 billion to provide low-cost, long-term loans to companies that faced a seasonal blow to business.