Small business owners urge congress to expand Paycheck Protection Program

WASHINGTON — Small business owners are calling on congress to pass more aid now to avoid closures across the country.

As negotiations for another round of pandemic relief remain at a standstill, small business owners say they want the Paycheck Protection Program to be expanded.

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While business owners say the CARES Act helped keep them afloat at the onset of the pandemic, now- nine months later- they say that can’t wait much longer for more help.

At the center of the discussion, the Paycheck Protection Program, known as the PPP.

The lending program passed under the CARES Act was a lifeline for small business in many cases.

But for some, like Iman McFarland of 21st Century Expo Group, Inc., those funds have run out.

“We’ve laid off our staff. We’ve cut employee benefits, forgone paying ourselves, and dipped into personal savings to cover business expenses,” McFarland said Thursday during a hearing in front of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

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Others agreed, congress needs to act now to expand the program.

“PPP round one has proven not to be enough,” said the President of SBA lending for First Home Bank, Thomas Zernick.

In addition to more PPP, small business owners called for commercial rental assistance, loan forgiveness for loans of $150,000 or less, and more lending options from the community development financial institutions fund, known as CDFIs.

CDFIs specifically help businesses in communities most in financial need.

“Too many of our minority-owned, women-owned, and rural businesses are unbanked and underbanked,” said Dafina Williams of the Opportunity Finance Network. “If we want relief to reach these small businesses, we must reach the lenders who are working in these markets.”

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Lawmakers from both parties say more small business aid must be included in the next round of relief aid.

A bipartisan group is working on another stimulus proposal that includes more aid for small businesses, but there’s no clear timelines on when that could be passed.