‘Paycheck Protection’ may run out of cash as Congress struggles to reach agreement for added funding

WASHINGTON — Within the $2 trillion emergency stimulus bill approved by Congress last month is hundreds of billions of dollars to help hard-hit small businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program.

But it’s so poplular it may run out of money soon if Congress can’t agree on adding more money.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pleaded with Democrats to add hundreds of billions of dollars to the program.

“Please do not block emergency aid you do not even oppose,” McConnell said. “Thirty percent of the total funding was spoken for in just the first few days.”

McConnell said the only change would be the amount, increasing the funds available from $350 billion to $600 billion.

“That is by definition a clean bill,” he said.

But Senate Democrats blocked the effort to make the change by unanimous consent. Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley said the program needs more money but problems with the program need to be fixed first.

“Unless you’re a larger small business with an established lending-and-borrowing relationship with the bank, you’re very unlikely to get in the door,” Merkley said.

Merkley said small business owners who employ fewer than 50 people, minority business owners and non-profits like community hospitals are having trouble accessing the SBA-backed loans.

“We need to make sure that small businesses that aren’t currently being helped get help,” he said.

Democrats introduced their own bill that gives an additional $250 billion to hospitals and states. But that effort was blocked by Republicans.