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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The U.S. Senate finally did its job last night, providing greater flexibility to the millions of small businesses that received loans via the Paycheck Protection Program. It now heads to President Trump, who is expected to sign the bill into law.

Why it matters: This should both help save small businesses and protect payrolls, without costing extra taxpayer dollars.

Two big changes:

  1. Recipients now have 24 weeks to spend funds from the time of origination, in order to be eligible for at least some loan forgiveness. This is up from the original eight weeks.
  2. The percent of funds that must be spent on payroll was lowered from 75% to 60%, in order to be eligible for at least some loan forgiveness. But there also is now a cliff, whereby payroll spend below 60% prevents any loan forgiveness.

Politics: This is essentially the House bill passed last week on a 417-1 vote. Some GOP senators had wanted an extension to 16 weeks instead of to 24, but yielded for the sake of expediency (some of the original 8-week periods are about to expire).

  • Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) yesterday blocked an initial attempt at unanimous consent, but then got a (still-unreleased) letter clarifying that a related program extension to Dec. 31 only applies to spending instead of to applications.

Devil in the details: If this impacts your business or your portfolio company, talk to counsel. Particularly for tax ramifications, or if your business is entering into an M&A agreement while still in an active loan period.

What's next: There is still at least $100 billion of PPP funds available, and there are some expectations that last night's fix will spark a new surge in applications.

Go deeper

Unemployment claims tick higher

Photo: Bridget Bennett/AFP via Getty Images

New applications for unemployment bumped higher last week, after jobless claims filings steadily dropped in recent weeks, the Labor Department said on Thursday.

Why it matters: Economists are hesitant to draw too many conclusions about the broader economy from this week's higher filings alone, but they're watching for worsening effects on the labor market as Congress' stimulus negotiations stall.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Omicron variant lifts Moderna's stock price — CDC strengthens COVID booster recommendation.
  2. Politics: Biden says fight against Omicron won't include "shutdowns or lockdowns."
  3. States: Federal court blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for health workers in 10 states — NYC urges masks indoors "at all times" regardless of vaccination status — New York declares state of emergency amid concerns over Omicron.
  4. World: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating worldWHO warns against travel bans on southern African countries — First North American Omicron cases identified in Canada.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Kendall Baker, author of Sports
Updated 1 hour ago - Sports

College football gone mad

Former Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly walks in front of his players. Photo: David Madison/Getty Images

In the span of two days, the head coaches of two of the biggest college football programs in America have jumped ship, wooed by even greater challenges — and the almighty dollar.

Driving the news: Lincoln Riley is ditching Oklahoma for USC in a deal reportedly worth $110 million. LSU poached Brian Kelly from Notre Dame with a reported 10-year, $100 million contract.