Top House Republican backs easing rules for coronavirus loan program

FILE PHOTO: McCarthy speaks to the media
FILE PHOTO: U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks to the media in Washington, U.S., March 22, 2020. (REUTERS/Mary F. Calvert/File Photo)

U.S. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday said he could support extending the time allowed for small businesses to use federal loans to keep their enterprises afloat during the coronavirus pandemic – one of several ideas circulating in Congress for next steps on legislation.

Some businesses have expressed concerns that under the “Paycheck Protection Program” they have been unable to use the loan money within an eight-week time frame.

McCarthy raised the possibility of extending the time limit to 10 or 12 weeks. If borrowers meet conditions of the loans, they are converted to grants.

He said an extension would be appropriate because “a number of states have been shut down longer.” Representatives for the restaurant industry had pressed President Donald Trump on Monday for a 24-week repayment period.

On Friday, the House of Representatives approved a $3 trillion bill pushed by Democrats as a next step in Washington’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Its passage was expected to kick off a new round of negotiations involving the White House and Congress.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, has not embraced an additional infusion of federal funding, on top of the approximately $3 trillion already enacted. Instead, he is pushing for new protections for businesses from liability lawsuits as they reopen after weeks of being shut due to the highly contagious coronavirus.

Nevertheless, a group of Senate Democrats and Republicans on Monday signed onto a bill that would establish a $500 billion fund to help state and local governments, whose revenues are being severely curtailed by the closing of the U.S. economy in March.

Some lawmakers also have discussed the need to revise unemployment insurance provisions with the national jobless rate spiking to 14.7 percent in April.