PPP pandemic relief for small businesses is beset by confusion and dashed hopes

The federal government’s massive Payroll Protection Program, which has been a lifeline for small businesses hit by the pandemic, has become so mired in confusion and delays as money runs out that hundreds of thousands of applicants may get no help, especially in underserved minority communities.

During the first months after President Biden took office, his administration far exceeded its predecessor in channeling funds to vulnerable companies. But in recent weeks, as the program’s expiration date arrives tomorrow, the agency responsible for it has been overwhelmed, and lenders can’t even be sure how much money is still available for loans.

Under the program, the Small Business Administration oversees lending by private banks to firms that meet the program’s criteria, with government guarantees for forgivable loans.

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