The government is preparing to restart its central small-business relief program.


The federal government released updated rules for lenders just before midnight on Wednesday for the next round of Paycheck Protection Program lending, but it did not set a date for when it expects to begin taking applications.

Lenders anticipate the program could restart as soon as next week. Last month’s stimulus package included $284 billion for new loans through the small-business relief program, which ended in August after distributing $523 billion to more than five million businesses. In this next round, the hardest-hit business — those whose sales have dropped at least 25 percent from before the pandemic — can qualify for a second loan. First-time borrowers will also be eligible for loans.

The Small Business Administration, which runs the program, plans to give small lenders a head start. In its first two days, the program will accept loan applications only from community lenders like Community Development Financial Institutions, which specialize in working with low-income borrowers and in areas underserved by larger lenders.

For second loans of more than $150,000, applicants will need to provide their lender with records proving their sales have declined. Lenders will need to do a “good faith review” of those documents, but will be allowed to rely on borrowers’ certifications that their claims are accurate — a win for lenders, which are concerned about being held liable for fraudulent claims.

For smaller loans, borrowers will not need to provide their sales records as part of their application, but the S.B.A. can request them later.

The S.B.A. is scrambling to release a variety of relief measures included in last month’s stimulus bill, including a $15 billion grant program for music clubs, theaters and other live-events venues. The agency has not yet released any details on that program, and it will not start until after President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. takes office.



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