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There was bipartisan support in Congress on Tuesday for increased funding for a new federal program guaranteeing loans to small businesses that looks to be days away from exhaustion after Sen. Susan Collins of Maine called for at least $200 billion more.
Additional funding for the $350 billion Paycheck Protection Program, which the Republican senator from Maine co-authored, could come to a vote in Congress as soon as Thursday. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Tuesday afternoon that he was working to secure the funding alongside congressional leadership from both parties.
Collins spokeswoman Annie Clark said Tuesday that the senator had suggested between $200 billion and $250 billion in additional funding for the program, a figure that was also floated by several of Collins’ Republican colleagues. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, told CNN that the program needs more funding, but that Democrats could push for some changes.
The program, which was a centerpiece of the $2.2 trillion stimulus package passed last month, aims to encourage small businesses to keep employees on payroll by offering low-interest loans that are forgiven if companies meet certain criteria, including not laying off any workers.
Early data from banks suggested the currently allocated amount of money would be exhausted within a matter of days after it opened on Friday. That high demand came despite a bumpy rollout of the program, with banks struggling to keep up with changing guidance from the Small Business Administration that prevented many from closing on loans as of Monday.
The program was set to run through June 30. Collins’ office said on Monday afternoon that nearly 1,800 Maine businesses alone were approved to receive more than $500 million so far. That is more than a third of the funds Maine would receive through the program in total if the $350 billion were allocated to states on a per-capita basis.