U.S. Small Businesses May Get More COVID-19 Emergency Funding

Credit: Universal Alloy Corporation

WASHINGTON—The Trump Administration has asked Congress for an additional $250 billion in small-business payroll loan funding, providing more cash to the coronavirus pandemic emergency funding program that many small aerospace suppliers are expected to tap. 

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin tweeted the news April 7, confirming that, “at the direction of President Trump,” he has asked Democrat and Republican leaders in both the House of Representatives and Senate for more Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funding “to make sure small businesses get the money they need!” 

The PPP, part of the March 27 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, was set up to quickly get funds to eligible businesses to cover eight weeks of payroll costs as well as most rent, utility and mortgage-interest expenses. Companies can apply for a one-time PPP loan of up to 2.5 times their average monthly 2019 payroll, up to a maximum $10 million. So long as 75% of the funds are used for payroll costs, the loans do not have to be repaid, making them de facto grants. 

The CARES Act allocates $349 billion to the program, but early popularly suggests that more funding may be needed to meet demand. The Small Business Administration (SBA) processed more than $70 billion in loans in PPP’s first three days after the program opened April 3, though it did not say how much of that has been funded. Some 250,000 small businesses, out of an estimated 30 million, have applied for PPP funds.

Mnuchin said he has spoken with Congressional leaders and is confident that he has bipartisan buy-in.

“We look forward to the Senate passing that on [April 9], and the House passing that on [April 10]” Mnuchin told reporters during an April 7 media briefing.

Additional funding could be approved quickly. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) said in a statement that he would work with Mnuchin and fellow Senate leaders to approve further funding within days. House Democrats are already working on a larger bill, which leader Nancy Pelosi calls CARES 2, that includes more PPP funding.

PPP loan applications, submitted through the SBA Small Business Administration (SBA) and funded by participating lenders, began rushing in as soon as the program opened April 3. SBA Mnuchin said April 7 that more than 3,000 lenders are onboard, with additional institutions expected to participate. The program experienced some early hiccups, due in part to its scale and how quickly it has come together. CARES became law on March 27, and interim rules on how PPP would work were issued late April 2, just hours before applications were set to start. 

The PPP’s broad applicability, lack of requirements for guarantees or other collateral, and de facto grant properties—the loans become forgivable if guidance is followed—have made it a catch-all for many small businesses. The general SBA limit for a small business is 500 employees, but it is based on staff or revenue limits set in the North American Industry Classification System. Many aviation businesses, aircraft and engine parts makers and maintenance providers, have limits above 500 employees. The PPP’s potential reach and theoretically streamlined application and fulfillment times mean industry trade associations that represent smaller businesses are urging their members to examine PPP loans. 

Sean Broderick

Senior Air Transport & Safety Editor Sean Broderick covers aviation safety, MRO, and the airline business from Aviation Week Network's Washington, D.C. office.