BILLIONS IN BUSINESS AID STILL UNUSED

Billions in business aid still unused. In April, when the federal government offered $349 billion in loans to small businesses reeling from government shutdown orders in the pandemic, the funding ran out in just 13 days, prompting Congress to swiftly approve a second round of $310 billion. As of last week, more than $130 billion was left in the fund, known as the Paycheck Protection Program. Even more striking was the fact that on many days last month, more money was being returned than borrowed, according to data from the Small business Administration, which is overseeing the program–highlighting its messy execution and confusing rules that deterred some small businesses from using the money. Thousands of companies that got loans have sent the money back, according to lenders. For some owners, the program’s terms were too restrictive: for others, the criteria for loan forgiveness was too murky. Some public companies that received these loans returned them after a public outcry, and in the initial rush, some borrowers accidentally got duplicate loans that they, too, returned. Billions in business aid still unused.

The amount of loans outstanding under the program dropped to $510.2 billion at the end of May, from $513.3 billion in the middle of the month, according to S.B.A. data. That meant about $3 billion had been canceled or returned, including at least $550 million from public companies. By last week, the amount of approved loans had inched back up to $511.5 billion–indicating that changes Congress made to the program last week to make it less restrictive could be pushing more money out the door. The Small Business Administration, which is relying on banks and other lenders to issue the loans, declined to say how many loans had been canceled.

The programs chaotic execution has “chilled the willingness of many small businesses to even apply for loans during the second round of PPP funding, and has caused many businesses to return disbursed loans out of fear of doing something wrong.