Small business owners applying for PPP loans have until Aug. 8

More than 5.1M loans worth about $522B had been distributed through the program

Time is running out for small business owners who want to apply for a forgivable loan through the Paycheck Protection Program.

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The $670 billion rescue fund, created when Congress passed the CARES Act at the end of March, will officially expire on Saturday. There's roughly $138 billion remaining in the fund, a number that's actually increased since the end of June, in part because loans were canceled and duplicate reporting loans were deleted.

Since the program launched at the beginning of April, more than 5.1 million loans worth about $522 billion had been distributed through the program, according to SBA data.

TRUMP ADMIN RELEASES NAMES OF ALMOST 700,000 PPP BORROWERS

Demand for the program began to cool in the second tranche after Congress injected another $310 billion into the fund (the initial $349 billion evaporated within 13 days). Some small businesses worried that confusion and uncertainty around the loan's rules, particularly regarding forgiveness, could potentially leave them on the hook for the money.

Congress tried to assuage those fears with the passage of the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act at the beginning of June. Among other things, the legislation eased restrictions on how the money must be spent in order for the federal government to forgive it and essentially transform it into a grant. Borrowers were only required to spend 60 percent of the money on maintaining payroll, rather than the initially required 75 percent.

At its onset, the program was criticized heavily for granting aid to publicly traded companies that had other avenues for relief — even as small businesses languished. But the SBA and Treasury Department, which jointly administer the program, rushed to close the loopholes that allowed multimillion-dollar companies to tap the fund, including auditing any loan worth more than $2 million.

Companies returned or canceled more than $30 billion in taxpayer-funded loans obtained through the program, a senior administration official told FOX Business. Notable public companies that returned the virus aid include Shake Shack, Potbelly's and Ruth's Hospitality Group.

COMPANIES RETURNED $30B IN VIRUS RELIEF LOANS FROM PPP

In the months since it first launched, it's been lauded as a success in helping businesses survive the worst economic catastrophe since the Great Depression. The administration has not yet released data on the program's effectiveness in buttressing the economy. At the beginning of June, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin estimated it had saved some 50 million jobs.

Some lawmakers are now debating what to do with the leftover PPP money as a resurgence in COVID-19 cases threatens to derail the nation's gradual recovery.

CHINESE-OWNED COMPANIES RECEIVED MILLIONS IN PPP LOANS

Under the Republican senators' $1 trillion proposal they unveiled last week, the money would be repurposed for more targeted aid to the hardest-hit small businesses, which would be eligible to apply for a second loan.

The aid would be limited to businesses with no more than 300 employees, down from the original 500-worker limit established in the CARES Act. A portion of the money would be set aside for businesses with fewer than 10 workers.

“We are now beginning to see that as the PPP funds are being exhausted, some companies are having to face once again the potential of having to lay off some of their workers. And so that’s why it is time for a second round of PPP assistance,” Senate Small Business Committee Chairman Marco Rubio said last week.

FOX Business' Edward Lawrence contributed to this report

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