The Paycheck Protection Program officially hit its limit on Thursday, less than two weeks after its launch. The PPP, which makes 100% guaranteed federal loans available to small businesses in an effort to help keep American workers employed and assist employers in paying health insurance premiums, hit its $349 billion initial allotment this week as the SBA announced over 1.6 million applications were approved. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza released a statement Thursday: “The SBA has processed more than 14 years’ worth of loans in less than 14 days... 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.”
While Democrats and Republicans agree that the program needs more funding, there has been significant friction on how to go about doing that. GOP lawmakers supported a swift approval of an additional $250 billion but Senate Democrats blocked the measure late last week, stating that any additional funding bill must also include money for other programs such as another $100 billion for providers, $150 billion for states and cities and further funding for SNAP. Additionally, some Democrats would like a portion of new PPP funding to be set aside for community-based lenders, as many small businesses report difficulties going through big banks like JPMorgan and Bank of America. Any additional PPP funding will likely not move forward until most lawmakers return to the Capitol in May.
Meanwhile, federal agencies continue to release guidance and take action in relation to the pandemic. The White House has released a guide
to re-opening the American economy, a controversial move, as many public health experts urge caution. The Administration released its three-phase plan during a COVID-19 briefing on Thursday to help states loosen their restrictions. President Trump told governors that “you are going to call your own shots” as long as they meet the following criteria: a downward trajectory of influenza-like illnesses and COVID-19 syndromic cases reported within a 14-day period; a downward trajectory of documented cases or positive tests as a percent of total tests within a 14-day period; hospitals treating patients without crisis care; and a robust testing program in place for at-risk healthcare workers, including emerging antibody testing.
When a state enters phase one, according to the guidelines, individuals should continue to social-distance when in public, and social settings of more than 10 people should be avoided. Vulnerable individuals should continue to stay at home and members of their households should be mindful of the potential impact their returning to work could have. In phase two, vulnerable individuals must still stay home, social gatherings of more than 50 should be avoided, non-essential travel can resume, and schools, daycare centers and camps can reopen. In phase three, employees should physically return to work and vulnerable individuals no longer need to stay home but should limit exposure in social settings.