Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Wednesday that he will ask Congress for more money to sustain U.S. small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic if the White House doles out all of a new $350 billion loan pool.
"One of the things I've heard is this small business program is going to be so popular that we're going to run out of our $350 billion," he told CNBC's "Squawk on the Street." "If that's the case, I can assure you that will be top of the list for me to go back to Congress on. It has huge bipartisan support and we want to protect small business."
As businesses across the country shut down to limit the outbreak's spread, Congress passed the small business funding last week as part of an unprecedented $2 trillion package to try to prevent economic calamity. Some lawmakers have already pushed for another emergency relief bill, a prospect Mnuchin seemed open to despite what he called the White House's immediate focus on executing the biggest emergency spending plan in U.S. history.
The small business measures aim to help companies cover payroll and other expenses during the punishing outbreak. Firms with fewer than 500 employees can use the money to cover salary, wages and benefits, with a maximum loan of $10 million or 250% of monthly payroll.
The loans will be available through Small Business Administration-approved lenders. Payments will be deferred for six months, and companies can apply for forgiveness on at least part of what they borrow.
Companies can get the loans forgiven if they use the funds on pay, rent, mortgage or utilities, but the amount forgiven gets reduced if businesses cut jobs or reduce pay.
Lenders will start processing applications for the loans as soon as Friday, according to the SBA.
Numerous lawmakers have already called for more legislation to mitigate the pandemic's damage as widespread layoffs hit workers and the health-care system in parts of the country buckles under the strain of COVID-19. Jobless claims have already reached a record 3.3 million. Friday's government employment report for March will show an even broader picture of how the outbreak has hurt workers.
Businesses in large parts of the country are expected to stay shut down at least through April.
The U.S. has more than 189,000 cases of COVID-19, and at least 4,081 deaths have been linked to the disease, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.