Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who spearheaded the landmark Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to help small businesses survive the coronavirus pandemic, now has to organize further funding to help the still-ailing economy, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported.
One of the new provisions is a $100 billion program under the Small Business Administration (SBA) 7a program to extend long-term, inexpensive loans to small businesses. Rubio said the idea was to help out “seasonal businesses who may have had their entire season wiped out, and at small businesses located in opportunity zones or other low-income census tracts.”
Rubio said the program would particularly aid minority-owned businesses and low income communities, which could have as little as two weeks’ cash on hand.
He was optimistic about the chances for cooperation with Democratic lawmakers on the PPP, where he said there was more agreement than on other aspects of the forthcoming stimulus package. WSJ notes that an aide to Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the committee, agreed that the PPP aspect of the negotiations was going well.
The PPP has been a focal point of negotiations in Congress as the next stimulus is being hashed out. Rubio and other leaders like Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, have said they want to narrow the focus of the loans to make sure they only reach the smallest businesses that actually need them, as opposed to earlier in the pandemic when numerous large companies were successful in getting PPP loans.
Rubio noted that the idea was different from European programs which worked as grant programs, because they wanted the “fear of it becoming a loan” to motivate people to keep working and for the economy to keep running.
But the crux of his plan was to hopefully help underserved communities. He said the goal was to keep the recovery from becoming uneven by making sure benefits got everywhere they needed to go. Part of the battle, he said, was making sure everyone knew how to access the money.
“One of the largest impediments we’ve learned about is financial know-how: knowing that these loans are available; knowing where to go get them; knowing what it takes to comply with the forgiveness standards; some of the financial-literacy support that small businesses would need,” Rubio said, according to WSJ.