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Capitol Report: Hundreds of billions of dollars at stake if PPP lapses, warns senator

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A key Democratic senator said Tuesday more than half a trillion dollars in lending authority still exists for the Paycheck Protection Program, but the program will need to be extended quickly, as-is, for that cash to get out the door.

The PPP, which provides forgivable loans to small businesses to allow them to pay employees even if the businesses are shuttered, is set to see its loan authority expire March 31. A bill passed by the House last week would extend that deadline to May 31.

“We’ll have a hearing on this tomorrow — we’ll get the exact numbers — but we’re estimating that at the end of March there’s going to be about $550 billion still remaining in PPP-allocated funds,” said Sen. Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat who heads the Senate’s Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee.

“So the funds are there. But we need to extend the law in order for this to work,” he said at a news conference.

The House passed its extension last week on a 415-3 vote, with the “no” votes coming from three Republican lawmakers — Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Rep. Thomas Massie and Rep. Tom McClintock.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he wants to get the House bill passed this week in the Senate, which would require senators accepting the bill as-is, with no changes, because the House will not return until April.

“We hope the Senate will move the bill quickly, that no one will stand in the way, that no one will block,” Schumer said Tuesday.

The office of Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, has not said whether he supports the bill or whether it has drawn any objection from his party’s 50 senators that could block a simple voice vote.

Cardin said some fellow lawmakers had asked him if some tweaks to the program could be made, and he said his panel was open making needed changes.

“But the first order of business is to make sure the program is still there, and that requires passage of this bill unamended by the end of this week,” he said.

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