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Rubio Reluctantly Backs PPP Expansion Bill

Posted on June 2, 2020

A key Senate Republican said he won’t stand in the way of the Senate fast-tracking the expansion of a popular small business loan program, paving the way for a vote.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., told Tax Notes June 1 that he won’t block the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020 (H.R. 7010), despite voicing displeasure with a provision in the bill.

The measure, which was approved by the House 417 to 1 on May 28, would give businesses 24 weeks instead of eight to use the loan money and qualify for forgiveness.

The bill would also reduce the threshold for the amount of loan money to be spent on payroll from 75 percent to 60 percent.

Rubio says the way the bill is written could hurt businesses that spend slightly less on payroll. “If you don’t spend 60 percent on payroll, if you only reach 59.9 percent of payroll, you’re going to get zero forgiveness on the whole thing,” he said. “I just want people to know that’s in there.”

Rubio, who chairs the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee and played an instrumental role in creating the loan program, indicated after the bill was approved by the House that it needed more work. But that may no longer be the case. “I think [the language] should be changed, but apparently everyone else wants to move forward and pass something even if it has that [language] in there,” he said.

The Senate attempted to fast-track its own version through unanimous consent — a parliamentary procedure to quickly approve legislation — on May 21, which would have extended the forgiveness period to 16 weeks. The Senate now plans to stick with the House version. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a floor speech that he anticipates the Senate will take up the bill soon, and Senate Finance Committee member John Cornyn, R-Texas, urged his colleagues to quickly approve the expansion.

But according to Rubio, trouble could still be on the horizon. “It has to be done by unanimous consent, and unanimous consent around here is not an easy thing to do,” he said.

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