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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.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
19 mins ago - Health

What overwhelmed hospitals look like

A healthcare professional suits up to enter a COVID-19 patient's room in the ICU at Van Wert County Hospital in Ohio. Photo: Megan Jelinger/AFP

Utah doctors are doing what they say is the equivalent of rationing care. Intensive care beds in Minnesota are nearly full. And the country overall continues to break hospitalization records — all as millions of Americans travel to spend Thanksgiving with friends and family.

Why it matters: America's health care workers are exhausted, and the sickest coronavirus patients aren't receiving the kind of care that could make the difference between living and dying.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
39 mins ago - Economy & Business

Southwest CEO: "You should fly"

The official guidance of the CDC says that "postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others this year."

  • Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly, however, took the opposing position when he was interviewed by "Axios on HBO." "You should fly," he told me, adding that "we need to have as much commerce and business and movement as is safe to do."