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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The Biden administration earlier this week paused the Paycheck Protection Program for businesses with more than 20 employees, in an effort to get more loans to very small businesses.

Why it matters: PPP implementation has taken lots of arrows since its initial launch last April, but this move seems to be getting broad-based applause. Even if no one really knows if it will achieve its objective.

Backdrop: PPP was reauthorized late last year with another $284 billion, but several big rules changed. The most significant was that applicants for second-draw loans must be able to demonstrate at least a 25% revenue loss in 2020, either for the entire year or for a single quarter (compared to the same quarter in 2019).

  • The U.S. Small Business Administration reports that over $140 billion of PPP 2 has been disbursed to over 1.9 million businesses. Since last April, there have been more than 7 million PPP loans, totaling $663 billion.

The problem: When PPP originally rolled out, many larger businesses got loans before smaller businesses — namely because they had deeper relationships with lenders and more access to lawyers and accountants.

  • And when the original pool was quickly depleted, some small business owners either didn't realize it was later refreshed or still didn't know how to apply.

What's happening now: A White House official explains that the two-week moratorium on larger applicants is to enable the more than 5,000 lenders to get the word out that there's still over $100 billion remaining in PPP loans. Plus, lenders will have more time to work with small businesses that might have poorly organized records.

  • Bill Briggs, who served as the SBA's deputy associate administrator in the Trump administration, tells me that "it's important that small businesses are reminded that PPP still exists."
  • He adds that lenders must overcome levels of institutional distrust among some potential applicants — including religious nonprofits — and that key to the changes is that it gives both lenders and the SBA some timing slack so that they can both operationally catch up.

The bottom line: We should get a sense on how many Main Street jobs were supported by this extra effort at some point next month, or if it was already a lost cause.

Go deeper

"Atmospheric river" to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood

A map depicting 24-hour preciptation forecast (inches) ending Monday at 5a.m. local time. Photo: NOAA

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are set dump historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest from this weekend, forecasters warn.

Why it matters: A strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is predicted to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood.

10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves to be removed after fires

A firefighter looks up at a giant sequoia tree after fire burned through the Sequoia National Forest near California Hot Springs, California, on Sept. 23. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

"Upwards of" 10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves have been "weakened by drought, disease, age, and/or fire" and must be removed in the wake of California's wildfires, the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks announced.

Why it matters: The damage to these trees, considered "national treasures," and work to remove them means a nearby key highway must remain closed to visitors as they have "the potential to strike people, cars, other structures, or create barriers to emergency response services," per a statement from the national parks.

Obama stumps for McAuliffe, urges Virginians not "to go back to the chaos"

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Former President Barack Obama framed a Nov. 2 gubernatorial race as a bellwether for the Democratic Party and the country, telling a crowd at a campaign event for Terry McAuliffe on Saturday that "I believe you, right here in Virginia, are going to show the rest of the country and the world that we're not going to indulge in our worst instincts."

Why it matters: With just over a week to go before Election Day in the Commonwealth, McAuliffe is bringing out the big guns. The 44th president appeared on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University to urge supporters to get to the polls.