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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Federal regulators still haven't provided the required guidance on Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness, a scant 18 days past deadline, but it's become less important for the vast majority of small business recipients.

Driving the news: The key buzzword this week was "safe harbor."

  • The Small Business Administration said it would provide safe harbor to all PPP borrowers of less than $2 million, in terms of deeming their certifications to have been made in good faith.
  • In other words, no more need to sweat over whether or not their applications met the "necessity" criteria.

It also extended the "safe harbor" for no-questions-asked loan returns to May 18. This is basically for borrowers of above $2 million, or smaller borrowers who have concerns about their applications other than the aforementioned "necessity" criteria.

  • An SBA spokesperson tells Axios that companies that returned PPP loans are allowed to reapply, so long as they no longer have an active E-Tran loan number.

But back to that lack of forgiveness guidance: It's still a real problem. Not just for larger borrowers, but even for smaller ones that have larger operational expenses than employee expenses.

  • A recent Inspector General report noted that "tens of thousands of borrowers" won't meet the SBA requirement that 75% of PPP loans be used on payroll.
  • Some suggest that this could be why so many small businesses, upwards of 25%, never even bothered applying for PPP.
  • There's speculation that the 75% floor could be lowered in forgiveness guidance, given that it doesn't appear in the actual CARES Act. But at this point it's hard to really know. As one banker said to me: "If you don't like the PPP rules today, don't worry about it because they'll change again tomorrow."

The bottom line: Flexibility for PPP borrowers has increased, particularly as social media attention and political criticism has waned.

Go deeper: Swing states hit as the coronavirus rips small business

Go deeper

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
Aug 7, 2020 - Economy & Business

Household debt and credit delinquencies dropped during Q2

Reproduced from New York Fed Consumer Credit Panel; Chart: Axios Visuals

Americans cut back on credit cards and increased savings during the worst three-month economic period in U.S. history, as household debt fell for the first time in six years, data from the New York Fed showed.

By the numbers: Total debt declined 0.2% to $14.27 trillion in the second quarter, led by a $76 billion drop in outstanding credit-card balances.

Updated 30 mins ago - World

In photos: Pope Francis spreads message of peace on first trip to Iraq

Iraqis dressed in traditional outfits greet Pope Francis upon his arrival at Erbil airport, the capital of the northern Iraqi Kurdish autonomous region, on March 7. Photo: Safin Hamed/AFP via Getty Images

Pope Francis was on Sunday visiting northern areas of Iraq once held by Islamic State militants.

Why it matters: This is the first-ever papal trip to Iraq. The purpose of Francis' four-day visit is largely intended to reassure the country's Christian minority, who were violently persecuted by ISIS, which controlled the region from 2014-2017.

Cuomo faces fresh misconduct allegations from former aides

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo during a February press conference in New York City. Photo: Seth Wenig/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

The office of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) was on Saturday facing fresh accusations of misconduct against his staff, including further allegations of inappropriate behavior against two more women. His office denies the claims.

Driving the news: The Washington Post reported Cuomo allegedly embraced an aide when he led the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and that two male staffers who worked for him in the governor's office accused him of routinely berating them "with explicit language."