US Senate OKs bill allowing flexibility in payroll protection loans
Saipan— The businesses and nonprofits that have been approved for Paycheck Protection Program loans will have more flexibility in use of the money under terms of legislation Congress has now sent to the President Trump for his signature.
In the CNMI, 362 have been approved for this loan being administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration, according to Rep. Gregorio Sablan, the CNMI's delegate to Congress.
The House bill, H.R. 7010, passed the Senate on a voice vote Wednesday night after earlier attempts by Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin to block the bill. In the House the vote was almost unanimous, 417 to 1.
“The $35,679,198 that Marianas businesses and nonprofits are receiving through the Paycheck Protection Program will help them pay their employees, rent, utilities, and other costs. The money will circulate through the Marianas economy, which is good for everyone, and keep those businesses alive through the coronavirus crisis,” Sablan said.
The Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act makes the money more helpful by stretching out the time when it can be used, expanding what it can be spent for, and giving more time for repayment, if the loan is not converted to a grant. PPP loans can be completely forgiven, if borrowers meet certain program requirements.
Originally the PPP loan period was for eight weeks. But it is now clear the economy in the Marianas and nationwide will not quickly snap back. So, the Flexibility Act expands the time in which the money must be used to 24 weeks.
The Act also removes a requirement, imposed by the Trump administration, that no more than 25 percent of a PPP loan can be used for fixed costs. Now, businesses will be able to spend 40 percent of the money for rent, utilities, and other on-going expenses. The other 60 percent must go to payroll.
Many of the PPP loans are expected to be converted to outright grants from the federal government, if requirements like the new 60-40 rule are met. In the event that the loan does have to be repaid, the Flexibility Act extends the payback time from one year to five years, another acknowledgement of the economic hardship the coronavirus is causing.
The Paycheck Protection Program has proven popular with struggling businesses nationwide. It was established in
the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, CARES, Act in March with $350 billion in funding. That money was quickly used up, however; and Congress responded with an additional $310 billion in April. Currently there remains over $100 billion that businesses and nonprofit organizations may still apply for.