Calling small businesses the “glue in the heart and soul of our community,” President Joe Biden on Feb. 22 announced changes to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

Administered by the Small Business Administration (SBA), PPP was created last April to help small companies (with 500 or fewer employees) by providing loans to help businesses keep their workforce employed during the COVID-19 crisis. Borrowers may be eligible for PPP loan forgiveness.

One criticism of the program was that some of the businesses getting PPP loans didn’t look much like small businesses, such as casinos and large construction firms.

Biden wants to ensure that the “mom-and-pop” shops get their share of PPP funds, so for two weeks, the only businesses that will be able to apply for PPP loans are those with fewer than 20 employees. This exclusivity period was starting at 9 a.m. Feb. 24.

The move also is intended to provide equitable relief for small businesses. The SBA focuses on reaching women-owned, minority-owned, low- and moderate-income, rural and other underserved areas.

SBA Senior Advisor Michael Roth said in a news release, “The important policy changes we are announcing further ensure inclusivity and integrity by increasing access and much-needed aid to Main Street businesses that anchor our neighborhoods and help families build wealth.”

In addition to the 14-day loan application period for businesses with fewer than 20 employees, the administration also has made the following changes to the PPP:

• Allow sole proprietors, independent contractors and self-employed individuals to receive more financial support by revising the PPP’s funding formula for these categories of applicants

• Eliminate an exclusionary restriction on PPP access for small business owners with prior non-fraud felony convictions, consistent with a bipartisan congressional proposal

• Eliminate PPP access restrictions on small business owners who have struggled to make federal student loan payments by eliminating federal student loan debt delinquency and default as disqualifiers to participating in the PPP

• Ensure access for non-citizen small business owners who are lawful U.S. residents by clarifying that they may use Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) to apply for the PPP

These four changes will be implemented by the first week of March.

In the past month the PPP has already seen improvements, according to a news release from the SBA:

• For businesses with fewer than 10 employees, the share of funding is up nearly 60%

• For businesses in rural communities, the share of funding is up nearly 30%

• The share of funding distributed through Community Development Financial Institutions and Minority Depository Institutions is up more than 40%

To learn more about the PPP, including how to apply, go to www.sba.gov/ppp.

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