NEW YORK (AP) – Small businesses can still get help from the government’s coronavirus relief plan after Congress extended the paycheck protection program until August 8.

The program, which was due to expire on Tuesday, still has nearly $ 132 billion after granting more than 4.8 million loans since it began on April 3. Loan recipients included businesses as diverse as restaurants, dental offices, retailers, construction companies and manufacturers who have been devastated by the virus and the stop orders that state and local governments have issued in the hope to contain it. Non-profit organizations were also eligible.

The House gave final approval to the program extension last week. President Donald Trump signed it this weekend.

The PPP is part of a $ 2 trillion coronavirus aid package passed by Congress in March. On Monday, the Small Business Administration, which oversees the program, released the names of companies that have received loans over $ 150,000. They represented less than 15% of loans.

Some questions and answers about the PPP:

WHAT IS THE OBJECTIVE OF THE PPP?

The program aims to motivate small businesses to keep their employees or, if they have made them redundant, to put them back to work. The main incentive for businesses to apply for PPP loans is the discount offer if most of the money – originally 75% but later revised to 60% – is used for payroll. Businesses can borrow up to $ 10 million depending on their wage costs; the loans have a 1% interest rate and six-month deferred payments. Homeowners can also use the money for rent, mortgage interest, and insurance. If companies cut jobs or pay their employees, they would have to pay back some of the money.

HOW DO COMPANIES OBTAIN FORGIVENESS?

Homeowners must use the loan money within 24 weeks of receiving it; this number has also been revised from eight weeks originally. When money is spent, businesses can claim a rebate by documenting how much was used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest, insurance, or other expenses.

Many businesses like restaurants and retailers that have significantly slowed or stopped revenue altogether worry about having to pay back some of the money because they had to use some of it to restart their business.

HAS THE PPP SUCCESSFUL IN SAVING JOBS?

The full answer to this question won’t be known for months after the owners file their pardon applications which must document the number of workers they had on their payroll. Some businesses like restaurants and retailers may still not have enough revenue due to social distancing requirements and slowing consumer spending, and they may be reluctant to rehire all of their staff.

If the country’s unemployment rate is any indication, the PPP has indeed saved jobs. After climbing to 14.7% in April, it fell to 13.3% in May and 11.1% in June when businesses reopened. However, it is unclear what impact last month’s surge in coronavirus cases will have on hiring and retention of employees.

WERE COMPANIES SATISFIED WITH THE PROGRAM?

The reaction has been mixed. Granted, the companies that got the loan money were happy to have a cushion, but for many there are still concerns about having debt to pay off.

Companies that hire independent contractors cannot include what they pay these workers in their calculations, and therefore the money they borrowed was far less than they needed. Individual owners and new businesses struggled to apply and get money.

A series of obstacles hampered and slowed down the application process. The SBA approved over 4.8 million loans in less than three months, far more than the 58,000 it approved in 2019. There have been IT problems and arrears at the branch and at the banks in the beginning. Many banks also enraged homeowners early on by rejecting their applications if they didn’t have multiple accounts, including existing loans or lines of credit. And some of the country’s biggest banks took a week or more to start accepting applications.

The problems have made it more difficult for minority businesses to obtain loans, according to a report by the Center for Responsible Lending, a research group.

After submitting their applications, many homeowners waited weeks without knowing their status. Some have applied to several banks, hoping for better service. Their frustration was probably fueled in part by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s predictions that they could get the loan money on the same day they applied.

Some owners were so frustrated with the process or concerned about the forgiveness that they gave up and either did not apply or withdrew their application.

IS THIS WHY THERE IS MONEY?

This is part of it. But the unclaimed amount also includes around $ 30 billion returned by large corporations, including prominent names like the Los Angeles Lakers and restaurant chains Ruth’s Chris Steak House and Shake Shack. Many well-funded companies eventually paid back the money under pressure from the public and the Treasury Department. Senior administration officials who briefed reporters before the data was released said it was expected from the start that there would be money left over.

IS ANY OTHER PUBLIC ASSISTANCE AVAILABLE FOR SMALL BUSINESS?

The Federal Reserve created the Main Street Lending Program for small and medium-sized businesses. It offers loans starting at $ 250,000 with no principal repayment for two years. The companies apply for the loans through the banks.

The SBA also makes so-called economic disaster loans and grants available to businesses. Owners should contact the SBA directly through its website, www.sba.gov.

Many state and local governments and community development organizations also offer loans and grants.

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