House sends $484 billion relief package to President’s desk

COVID-19 , Government Affairs ,

Source: Nation's Restaurant News

The House voted overwhelmingly on Thursday — 388 to 5 — to approve the $484 billion coronavirus relief package, the latest round of stimulus funding that includes another $310 billion to replenish the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, for small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The package includes another $10 billion for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan, or EIDL, program, and sets aside $60 billion for smaller community banks and credit unions that typically serve mom-and-pop borrowers. The bill — which was passed unanimously by the Senate on Tuesday — goes next to the President, who is expected to sign the bill into law on Friday.

The funding will refill the coffers for the Small Business Administration loan program, which has come under criticism this week after many larger companies with relationships with larger banks were able to win loans as soon as the program launched April 3. The funding quickly ran out last week.

The loans were designed for small businesses with fewer than 500 workers, but restaurants were given a specific exemption. Restaurant companies with any physical location with fewer than 500 employees could apply, so companies like Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Shake Shack and Potbelly won PPP loans.

Facing backlash, Shake Shack, Kura Sushi, Sweetgreen and Ruth’s Chris announced they would return the loans.

And the Treasury Department has now issued stricter guidelines for the PPP, making it more difficult for publicly traded businesses to receive the loans meant for small businesses. 

“Although the CARES Act suspends the ordinary requirement that borrowers must be unable to obtain credit elsewhere borrowers still must certify in good faith that their PPP loan request is necessary,” the new guidelines, updated on April 23, stipulate. “Borrowers must make this certification in good faith, taking into account their current business activity and their ability to access other sources of liquidity sufficient to support their ongoing operations in a manner that is not significantly detrimental to the business.”

According to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, returned funds will be recycled to make loans available for other businesses who need the funding. However, even with some companies publicly committing to returning their money, experts believe that the amount of funding passed Thursday by Congress is not enough to sustain demand, particularly from smaller businesses.

But Christopher Grimm, a representative of the Innovative Lending Platform Association said the guideline tweaks would “help a bit” but were not enough and argued that Congress should have added closer to $1 trillion in funding to keep up with demand from the truly small businesses.

“It is all but impossible to ensure that what we saw with the first round of PPP funds publicly-traded multi-million-dollar companies receiving hundreds in millions in loans [won’t happen again] because the way we define small businesses is so broad,” he said. “It encapsulates companies with anywhere from 1 to 500 employees, and over the past 12 years, businesses with fewer than 100 employees have been mostly ignored by banks.”