Trump says should be possible to allow PPP borrowers more time to use loans

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to reporters after arriving from Camp David to the White House in Washington, U.S. May 17, 2020. REUTERS/Eric Thayer

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday extending the amount of time borrowers in the Paycheck Protection Program have to spend their funds to 24 weeks from the current eight weeks “should be easy.”

Trump made the comment at a White House roundtable event with restaurant executives, who urged the extension. Restaurants have been particularly hard hit by social distancing orders to combat the coronavirus pandemic, forcing many establishments to close or offer only takeout or delivery.

Small businesses have griped that the current terms of the PPP program, which requires them to spend the relief funds within eight weeks of receiving them, are too rigid to meet all their needs. Businesses must spend that money within the allotted time frame in order for the loans to be forgiven.

"We think probably taking it to 24 weeks would be appropriate to allow for restaurant owners that are participating in the program to be able to manage through and rehire the employees, which is what the purpose of PPP was intended for," said Jose Cil, chief executive of Restaurant Brands International QSR.TO, which includes fast food chains Burger King and Popeyes.

“We need those fixes now,” said Sean Feeney, co-founder of New York-based Grovehouse restaurant company.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he was working on a technical fix to the PPP program that could extend the amount of time, but it may not be for 24 weeks. He said he had bipartisan support for the change.

On Sunday, Republican Senator Marco Rubio and Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen said they supported an extension.

Reporting by Jeff Mason; Writing by Eric Beech; Editing by Sandra Maler and Aurora Ellis