Mnuchin says small business loans start Friday

The U.S. is pressing ahead with launching a nearly $350 billion loan program for small businesses on Friday (April 3).

It's a centerpiece of the $2 trillion coronavirus relief package passed last week.

The aim is to keep businesses from laying off their employees during the economic shutdown.

On Thursday (April 2) U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin encouraged businesses to go to lenders to apply for loans, although he acknowledged not every bank would be able to start processing applications.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY, STEVEN MNUCHIN, SAYING:

"You get the money, you'll get it the same day, you use this to pay your workers. Please bring your workers back to work. If you've let them go, you have eight weeks plus overhead. This is a very important program."

Depending on the size of their businesses, owners can get loans of up to $10 million for expenses like rent, utilities, and cover about eight weeks of payroll.

The loans would then be fully refundable by the Treasury.

But - bankers say that program could run out fast.

The massive program has put major strains on the Small Business Administration.

The SBA is known for usually taking a slow approach to government-backed loans for small companies.

So lenders were initially concerned that the rapid rollout of the loans, which the administration promised would be issued within days, could lead to fraud and money laundering.

But the Treasury and SBA also announced on Thursday it will allow banks to rely on borrower certifications, and told banks they won't liable if borrowers break the rules of the program.

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