May 20, 2020 / 12:38 PM / 8 days ago

U.S. House to vote on extending small business coronavirus loan program

FILE PHOTO: Police officers wearing face masks guard the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, U.S., May 14, 2020. REUTERS/Erin Scott/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives plan to vote again next week on giving small businesses more time to utilize their coronavirus aid under the Paycheck Protection Program, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Wednesday.

Pelosi, responding to a question at a news conference, said the Democratic-majority House would vote on legislation to extend loan repayment and rehiring timelines under the program.

The $660 billion Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) established by Congress in March aimed to help businesses keep making payroll for eight weeks, despite lockdown orders during the coronavirus pandemic.

With many businesses moving toward the end of their eight-week period, there are widespread calls to extend it.

The House has already voted to extend the eight weeks to 24 weeks, part of a $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill lawmakers passed Friday that was roundly denounced by Senate Republicans.

Pelosi said Wednesday lawmakers would now consider a separate PPP bill. Although the provisions were expected to be largely the same, aides said a stand-alone bill would make it easier for the Senate to act on the program, which has wide bipartisan support.

“What it does is extend the time which you can hire, re-hire people, extend the time which you can pay back, and also undo the 75-25, which was debilitating,” Pelosi said, referring to the requirement that at least 75% of a loan go to payroll and no more than 25% go to other costs.

“We saw a quick fix on how we could make this work better,” she said.

The Republican head of the Senate’s small business committee, Senator Marco Rubio, said Wednesday there was broad agreement that companies need more time; he favors 12 to 16 weeks. “There’s actually unanimity up here for the most part,” he told Fox News.

Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Andrew Heavens and David Gregorio

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