The U.S. Senate passed by unanimous consent a five-week extension of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) on Tuesday night just a few hours before the application window on the program was scheduled to close.
The House of Representatives would have to pass the measure and President Donald Trump would have to sign it before the extension would take effect. Both chambers of Congress are expected to adjourn by the end of the week for a two-week recess.
The surprise move is intended to provide more time for small businesses to apply for the approximately $129 billion in PPP funding remaining. The PPP was launched in early April as the COVID-19 pandemic battered the U.S. economy and forced many businesses to close. The program provides forgivable loans that small businesses and other qualifying entities can use to cover payroll and other select costs.
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), which oversees the program with the Treasury Department, stopped accepting loan applications at midnight Tuesday. The plan approved by the Senate on Tuesday night would extend the application period until Aug. 8.
Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said in a tweet that extending the deadline was an important step, and that the next step should be to pass a second round of PPP loans to aid the smallest businesses with the most need.
Sen. Macro Rubio, R-Fla., the chair of the Senate Small Business Committee, said in a tweet that he did not object to extending the PPP deadline until Aug. 8 but that the vast majority of small businesses that wanted PPP funds have already used the program.
“What we really need to pass very soon is targeted help for those who need a second round of aid,” Rubio said.
As of 5 p.m. ET on Tuesday, the SBA had approved nearly 4.9 million loans for a total of more than $520 billion.