By Lenore Fedow
The U.S. House of Representatives passed an additional $484B in funding for small businesses and hospitals Thursday evening. (Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Martin Falbisoner)
Washington—President Donald Trump is expected to sign off on $484 billion in funding Friday afternoon that will prop up small businesses and hospitals struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The new bill includes an additional $310 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program, which offers loans to businesses with 500 or fewer employees that may be forgiven if used on payroll.

The program, approved by Congress and signed into law by the president last month, is part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which provides aid to keep businesses afloat during the coronavirus pandemic.

The PPP ran out of its previous $350 billion in available funding after applications poured in.

The rollout of the program was rocky, as banks and small businesses dealt with system crashes and a lack of direction from the federal government.

As the well ran dry and frustration mounted, reports that big business had been benefiting from PPP added fuel to the fire.

More than 100 publicly traded companies received millions in coronavirus aid earmarked for small businesses.

The text of the law allowed for any business classified under an “accommodation and food services” code that “employs not more than 500 employees per physical location” to qualify, which opened the door for big restaurant chains like Shake Shack and Ruth’s Chris Steak House to receive loans.

“The intent of this money was not for big public companies that have access to capital,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin at a White House briefing Tuesday.

In response to backlash, Shake Shack returned the $10 million it had received while Ruth’s Chris Steak House gave back its $20 million.

The Small Business Administration issued new guidance Thursday to deter big businesses from applying for the renewed funding and put pressure on more big businesses to return the money.

“It is unlikely that a public company with substantial market value and access to capital markets will be able to make the required certification in good faith, and such a company should be prepared to demonstrate to SBA, upon request, the basis for its certification,” said the SBA.

Of the new $310 billion in funds, $60 billion will go to small lenders, set aside in response to Democrats blocking a $250 billion funding bill earlier this month that they felt did not include adequate funding for community-based financial institutions, which they said would benefit minorities, veterans, and rural Americans.

When applying for the first round of PPP loans, those who had existing relationships with banking institutions were said to be prioritized.

In a recent Jewelers of America-led webinar, Dentons partner Randy Nuckolls noted it may speed up the process if retailers use their regular banks to apply.

Of the $60 billion for small lenders, $30 billion has been set aside for loans made by federally insured lenders with assets between $10 billion and $50 billion. The other $30 billion will go to loans made by community financial institutions, as well as small federally insured banks and credit unions with assets under $10 billion.

It has not been announced when the money will become available, but a source told CNN that once the bill is signed into law, it could take an additional day before the Small Business Administration can reopen the program.

The money could run out in less than 10 days due to the large backlog of applications, according to the CNN report.

The SBA will also receive $60 billion to put toward its Economic Injury Disaster Loan grants.

The SBA had offered a new emergency grant allowing a business that has applied for a disaster loan to get an immediate advance of up to $10,000, which can be used for payroll purposes.

The bill also includes $75 billion in grants to hospitals tending to COVID-19 patients. An additional $25 billion will go toward boosting coronavirus testing.

The House also approved putting in place a Democratic-majority select subcommittee to oversee the Trump administration’s use of $500 billion in funding for corporations, states, and municipalities hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump lauded the passing of the bill at a White House briefing Thursday.

“At a time when many Americans are enduring significant economic challenges, this bill will help small businesses to keep millions of workers on the payroll,” the president said.

More than 26 million people have filed for unemployment insurance over the most recent five-week period, per government data released Thursday.

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the government has allocated around $2.4 trillion across four relief bills, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

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