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Senate sends bill modifying Paycheck Protection Program to Trump

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Washington — The Senate on Wednesday approved legislation making changes to the Paycheck Protection Program implemented to aid small businesses hurting because of the coronavirus pandemic, sending the measure to President Trump's desk for his signature.

The Senate approved the measure, which passed the House with near-unanimous support last week, by voice vote. Just one lawmaker in the lower chamber, GOP Congressman Thomas Massie of Kentucky, voted against the bill modifying the Paycheck Protection Program.

Congress created the program as part of the $2 trillion rescue package signed into law in March, as the coronavirus forced many businesses to close their doors and governors ordered residents to limit their activities outside the home to only those deemed essential.

The Paycheck Protection Program aimed to help small businesses keep workers on the payroll and pay their own bills during the pandemic by providing businesses with fewer than 500 employees with forgivable, low-interest loans.

The program proved to be massively popular, and the first $349 billion approved for the program was depleted by mid-April. Congress then authorized another $310 billion for the program.

Introduced by Republican Congressman Chip Roy of Texas and Democratic Congressman Dean Phillips of Minnesota, the legislation passed Wednesday evening eased restrictions for small businesses that were approved for lending from the program. The measure extended the loan forgiveness period to 24 weeks and altered a provision that required recipients to use at least 75% of their loan for payroll costs. Small businesses now have to use at least 60% of their loan on payroll and 40% on other costs.

Senate Democrats attempted to pass the House-passed reform bill by unanimous consent, but GOP Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin objected. The measure later passed by voice vote.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she and her fellow House Democrats are "pleased" with the Senate's approval of the bill and urged passage of the next coronavirus aid package passed by the House last month.

"This critical, bipartisan legislation will help struggling small businesses on Main Street get back on their feet by providing desperately-needed flexibility in loan forgiveness," Pelosi said in a statement. "Now, the president must sign this legislation and join us to support The Heroes Act to protect lives and livelihoods."

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