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Mnuchin (L) and Powell at the IMF and World Bank Annual Meetings, Oct. 17, 2019, Washington, D.C. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Small business loan recipients, or at least their lawyers, will be glued to their computers today, as both Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Fed Chair Jay Powell testify "in front" of the Senate Banking Committee.

On the grill: Expect lots of questions about the Paycheck Protection Program, in terms of application, effectiveness and possible changes.

The SBA did finally release forgiveness guidelines on Saturday, a scant 20 days past its legislated deadline.

  • It included some clarification and simplification of the "covered period," which is eight weeks.
  • There has been a growing push to expand the "covered period" to upward of 24 weeks, particularly for businesses that received PPP loans but have not yet reopened.
  • That was a constant refrain yesterday from restaurant owners and CEOs during a White House roundtable whose headlines got hijacked by President Trump's personal medical regimen. Every time Trump pivoted to meal deductibility or payroll tax cuts, the restauranteurs brought it back to the covered period. And, in doing so, indirectly criticized Mnuchin, who was sitting directly to Trump's left.
  • Mnuchin said that he was negotiating a covered period extension, but it would likely be short of 24 weeks.

Around $164 billion of PPP2 was spoken for as of Saturday night, with no indication that the replenished pot will be exhausted. Overall, the PPP program has approved over 4.3 million loans totaling around $513 billion, with average loan sizes of $118,000.

  • California's small businesses received the most loans and loan dollars, followed by Texas, New York and Florida.
  • Two lenders have approved more than $25 billion in loans each, although the SBA did not disclose their identities. There still has been no disclosure of individual loan recipients, nor a public commitment by the SBA to do so.

Also: Both Mnuchin and Powell will be asked about the bigger company lending programs and why a large amount of the allocated money hasn't been disbursed. It should be interesting to see if issues like affiliation and leverage limits get raised, as both remain top of mind for private equity.

The bottom line: The CARES Act was bipartisan, which means both sides of the aisle have a vested interest in its success.

Go deeper

Aug 14, 2020 - World

Lawmakers demand answers from World Bank on Xinjiang loan

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

U.S. lawmakers are demanding answers from the World Bank about its continued operation of a $50 million loan program in Xinjiang, following Axios reporting on the loans.

Why it matters: The Chinese government is currently waging a campaign of cultural and demographic genocide against ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, in northwest China. The lawmakers contend that the recipients of the loans may be complicit in that repression.

58 mins ago - World

Maximum pressure campaign escalates with Fakhrizadeh killing

Photo: Fars News Agency via AP

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran’s military nuclear program, is a new height in the maximum pressure campaign led by the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government against Iran.

Why it matters: It exceeds the capture of the Iranian nuclear archives by the Mossad, and the sabotage in the advanced centrifuge facility in Natanz.

Scoop: Biden weighs retired General Lloyd Austin for Pentagon chief

Lloyd Austin testifying before Congress in 2015. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joe Biden is considering retired four-star General Lloyd Austin as his nominee for defense secretary, adding him to a shortlist that includes Jeh Johnson, Tammy Duckworth and Michele Flournoy, two sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making tell Axios.

Why it matters: A nominee for Pentagon chief was noticeably absent when the president-elect rolled out his national security team Tuesday. Flournoy had been widely seen as the likely pick, but Axios is told other factors — race, experience, Biden's comfort level — have come into play.