“We want most of this money to go to workers,” Mnuchin said Thursday at an online event hosted by The Hill newspaper. “We believe that the 75% was exactly consistent with the way the program was designed.”

The Paycheck Protection Program, the centerpiece of the $2.2 trillion relief package that Congress enacted in March, allows loans of as much as $10 million that can be forgiven if a business spends it within eight weeks on payroll and certain other expenses such as rent.

The idea was to help businesses keep workers employed while they were closed during stay-at-home orders and be ready to reopen when the bans lifted. But restaurants and other small businesses have said they need more time to spend the funds because they won’t be ready to reopen or be fully functional at the end of eight weeks.

“We’re in the 10th week of the pandemic, and I think it’s going to take some time for our restaurants and our owners to get back to the capacity levels and the traffic levels that we were seeing pre-Covid,” Jose Cil, the chief executive of Burger King parent company Restaurant Brands International, told President Donald Trump a meeting at the White House on Monday. Cil backed an extension to 24 weeks.

The $3 trillion Democratic relief package passed by the House last week, which is opposed by Republicans, would extend the loan-forgiveness period to 24 weeks.

The timing matters because the first companies that received loans after the PPP program opened on April 3 will see the eight-week loan-forgiveness periods begin to expire at the end of next week and in early June.

This article was provided by Bloomberg News.

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