Senate votes to extend Paycheck Protection Program to deliver pandemic relief to businesses

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 13: The Capitol dome is seen early Wednesday morning before Amb. William Taylor And Deputy Assistant Secretary Of State George Kent testify at the first public impeachment hearing before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill November 13, 2019 in Washington, DC. In the first public impeachment hearings in more than two decades, House Democrats are trying to build a case that President Donald Trump committed extortion, bribery or coercion by trying to enlist Ukraine to investigate his political rival in exchange for military aide and a White House meeting that Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky sought with Trump. (Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)

(CNN) — The Senate voted 92-7 on Thursday to extend the Paycheck Protection Program, the federal government’s key relief effort to deliver aid to small businesses hard hit by the pandemic, as the deadline to apply for a loan rapidly approaches with billions of dollars still left untouched.

The program is currently on track to expire just days from now on March 31. The bill — titled the PPP Extension Act of 2021 — will extend the application deadline to May 31 and provide an additional 30-day period for the Small Business Administration to process applications that are still pending.

The legislation has bipartisan support and passed the House earlier this month. Now that it has been approved by the Senate, it will go to President Joe Biden to be signed into law.

Last year, the program approved 7.6 million loans worth more than $687 billion between April and August. Since it reopened in January for new first-time applicants and for second loans, about 3.1 million loans have been made totaling nearly $196 billion as of March 21.

The loans are forgiven if the business spends at least 60% of the money on payroll expenses — though business owners have to apply for the cancellation.

The money remaining is expected to run out in mid to late April, according to Patrick Kelly, an associate administrator of the Office of Capital Access at the SBA who appeared at a Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship hearing Wednesday.