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While small businesses around Pinal County, Arizona and the United States are facing immense uncertainty, funds have run dry for the Payroll Protection Program, a forgivable, low-interest loan program administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The program launched on April 3 with $349 billion as part of the CARES Act but was tapped-out within days. Now, for over a week, lawmakers have been debating the particulars of its expansion, deflected by political and policy details.

The expansion proposal could include a $250 billion refill of the PPP. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Republican senators were ready to vote Thursday, but Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were asking for additional funding for programs that had not run out.

Much of the news coverage about PPP running out of funds discusses the impact on small businesses, but the silent casualty of the beleaguered program is the American worker.

Over 5 million Americans applied for unemployment last week, bringing the four-week total to over 22 million. With the rescue program’s expansion stuck in stalemate on Capitol Hill, it’s hard to imagine what that number could climb to.

Small businesses employ over 50% of the country’s workers and are the ones in greatest need of Payroll Protection Program funds.

While social distancing appears to have slowed the spread of the coronavirus, we need our lawmakers to keep our economy intact. The economic aftermath of COVID-19 could leave many businesses closed forever, and the jobs they required evaporated with them.

Congress should move to pass immediately a $250 billion expansion of the Payroll Protection Program and debate other matters separately.

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