Loan programme aids 1.6M US small businesses

WASHINGTON (AFP) – A massive loan programme aimed at keeping United States (US) small businesses from closing their doors due to the coronavirus pandemic has aided 1.6 million enterprises nationwide, officials said on Friday.

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was part of a massive USD2.2 trillion stimulus bill passed late last month to spare the world’s largest economy the worst effects of the pandemic.

Yet unemployment data shows 22 million people lost their jobs since mid-March, and the USD349 billion allocated to the PPP had been completely spent by Thursday.

In a joint statement on Friday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Small Business Administration (SBA) chief Jovita Carranza said the programme “is saving millions of American jobs and helping small businesses get through this challenging time”.

“The SBA processed more than 14 years’ worth of loans in less than 14 days, which will protect a vast number of American jobs,” the statement said, noting 1.6 million small businesses in all 50 states and territories received money from 5,000 different lenders.

“The vast majority of these loans – 74 per cent of them – were for under USD150,000, demonstrating the accessibility of this programme to even the smallest of small businesses,” the statement said, noting that the recipients were spread across the economy.

With the fund tapped out, Democratic and Republican lawmakers in Congress are negotiating over adding another USD250 billion.

“We urge Congress to protect millions more American workers and their families by appropriating additional funding to support PPP,” the statement said.