Federal government runs out of money for small business program, impacting Malheur County employers

Businesses in Malheur County are posting notices to their customers as the pandemic forces some to close their doors and others to sharply curtail services. (The Enterprise/file photo)

Two federal programs meant to help keep alive small businesses across the U.S., including in Malheur County, have run out of money.

The U.S. Small Business Administration announced Thursday morning that it would no longer accept applications for its disaster loan program and the Paycheck Protection Program. Congress appropriated $349 billion for the paycheck program and that has been exhausted, federal officials said.

The paycheck program allowed businesses to borrow money to cover about two months of payroll. If they kept employees on, the loans would be forgiven.

Financial institutions in Malheur County and across Oregon have been working overtime to work with business owners to process applications for the loans. It’s unclear what happens to applications that have been submitted but weren’t yet fully processed.

Businesses who anticipated joining the paycheck program but haven’t yet filed for now are left without access to the federal program.

Greg Smith, Malheur County economic development director, said he was postponing the webinar scheduled for Thursday evening, April 16, that was intended to help businesses with federal programs. Smith said the webinar would likely be scheduled for next week.

This is a developing story and the Enterprise reporting team is gathering additional information.