The U.S. government’s Paycheck Protection Program reopened on Monday, offering another $284 billion in funds and allowing second loans to some small businesses.
Congress authorized the restart of the COVID-19 relief program as part of the Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits and Venues Act it passed last month.
First-time borrowers are eligible to apply for forgivable loans of up to $10 million while loans of up to $2 million are available for second-time borrowers who have no more than 300 employees and can show a 25% reduction in gross receipts between comparable quarters in 2019 and 2020.
To date, the program has distributed $525 billion through more than 5 million loans. The government has also changed the program’s rules by, among other things, allowing borrowers to set the term of their loans to anywhere between eight and 24 weeks.
The new guidance “builds on the success of the program and adapts to the changing needs of small business owners by providing targeted relief and a simpler forgiveness process to ensure their path to recovery,” Jovita Carranza, administrator of the Small Business Administration, said in a news release.
Starting on Monday, community financial institutions, including banks and credit unions that lend in low-income communities, will be able to initiate PPP loan applications. All lenders will be able to participate shortly thereafter.
“By prioritizing smaller lenders, the SBA hopes to address criticism from lawmakers that minority and women-owned businesses did not get enough money during the first two PPP rounds last year compared with bigger businesses,” Reuters reported.
However, some small lenders warned that they wouldn’t be ready for Monday’s restart, citing the complexity of the loan process.
“I understand the desire to put this out as quickly as possible but I’m afraid we’re going to have a real serious problem meeting customer expectations when we have no idea how the application even looks,” Robert James II, chair of the National Bankers Association, which represents minority banks, told Politico. “I’m afraid we’ll end up being kind of the lab rats and not really able to functionally help our customers.”