Washington (AFP) – President Donald Trump on Friday signed into law a nearly half-trillion dollar relief package for the US economy in the latest bid to stave off the crushing effects of the coronavirus shutdown.
The package will pump another $483 billion of government funds into the world’s biggest economy.
A majority of the money, which follows a $2.2 trillion rescue fund enacted in March, will be sent to small businesses.
Following Senate approval earlier this week, the bill was passed by the House of Representatives on Thursday as another 4.4 million US workers filed new claims for jobless benefits.
That brought total new unemployment claims to 26.4 million since mid-March.
Joblessness has skyrocketed as much of the nation shut down to curb the spread of the virus, which has taken more than 50,000 lives in the US since February.
The new package provides $320 billion for small businesses to keep their doors open and pay their workers, after the initial $349 billion in the Paycheck Protection Program was drained in just two weeks.
PPP lending will resume Monday, according to a statement Friday from US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Small Business Administration chief Jovita Carranza.
“The PPP has supported more than 1.66 million small businesses and protected over 30 million jobs for hardworking Americans. With the additional funds appropriated by Congress, tens of millions of additional workers will benefit from this critical relief,” they said.
“We encourage all approved lenders to process loan applications previously submitted by eligible borrowers and disburse funds expeditiously.”
However, they cautioned that borrowers “should carefully review PPP regulations and guidance and the certifications required to obtain a loan” — a reference to the rules barring large firms with easy access to other sources of funding from the program.
The US Treasury tightened the rules amid the uproar over news that major restaurant chains like Potbelly Sandwich Works, Ruth’s Chris Steak House and upscale burger joint Shake Shack received tens of millions from the program.
Ruth’s Hospitality and Shake Shack have announced they are returning the funds.
The new funding from Congress also provides $75 billion for hospitals, $25 billion to expand virus testing and $60 billion in disaster recovery loans and grants.