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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

America today launched its $350 billion bailout for small businesses, and already there is widespread skepticism that the program will run smoothly or be large enough to meet demand.

What's new: House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy yesterday said that the affiliation rule will be waived for any company with less than 500 employees that doesn't have a controlling outside shareholder, thus making most VC-backed startups eligible for PPP loans. This was based on a conversation he'd just had with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

What's wrong: Treasury hasn't yet released the aforementioned guidance, which creates an impossible situation for banks that are actually being asked to review and approve the loans. And that's just the tip of the guidance gum-works — with bankers complaining before last night that all they'd gotten were flimsy bullet points, rather than the granular details they really need.

  • JPMorgan Chase, one of the nation's largest business lenders, yesterday warned that it likely didn't have enough information to begin accepting PPP loan applications today.
  • As of this morning, its website says, in bold print: "Please don't send us any SBA or Treasury department forms."

One level deeper: Even if adequate guidance does come and loans get granted, there are worries in D.C. that the federal bureaucracy isn't prepared. Axios' Alayna Treene reports:

Lawmakers and staff who helped draft the rescue package have privately expressed concerns that the Trump administration — particularly the Small Business Administration and Labor Department — may be overwhelmed by the demand for loans and unable to get checks out the door as fast and responsibly as they're needed.
Some fear a repeat of what happened with the botched rollout of the Affordable Care Act in 2013 when the site crashed due to tremendous demand.

Two levels deeper: Even if none of those fears come to pass, as Mnuchin this morning is suggesting via Twitter, there's dawning dread that $350 billion just isn't enough money. Not only because the pandemic has knocked so many small businesses and nonprofits off their feet, but also because there are few guardrails to prevent solvent groups from participating.

  • McCarthy downplayed the need for a "phase 4" stimulus yesterday, including President Trump's call for a $2 trillion infrastructure package, saying he'd need more data on how "phase 3" plays out.

The bottom line: This is understandably messy. The CARES Act wasn't even law at this time last week, yet today banks are asked to begin processing and funding tens of thousands of federally guaranteed loans. You don't blame pilots for the bumpy ride, you just pray they can land it safely in the end.

Go deeper: America's coronavirus bailouts

Go deeper

The hard math behind America's labor shortage

Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Congressional Budget Office; Chart: Axios Visuals

Yes, the pandemic has created unusual temporary labor market dynamics. But in the bigger picture, the 2010s were a golden age for companies seeking cheap labor. The 2020s are not.

The big picture: In the 2010s, the massive millennial generation was entering the workforce, the massive baby bo0m generation was still hard at work, and there was a multi-year hangover from the deep recession caused by the global financial crisis.

Advocates fret Roe v. Wade's 49th anniversary could be its last

Photo: Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for Women's March Inc

As Saturday marks the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court's landmark decision that legalized abortion access in the U.S., advocates warn the ruling is "more at risk now than ever."

The big picture: The Supreme Court in December heard a challenge to a Mississippi 15-week abortion ban that could throw Roe's survival into question, or at least narrow its scope.

Updated 11 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker