Biden boosts pandemic lending to smallest businesses

President Joe Biden speaks to member of the media after exiting Air Force One, Friday, Feb. 19, 2021, in Andrews Air Force Base, Md. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Joe Biden announced changes Monday to target more federal pandemic assistance to the nation's smallest businesses and ventures owned by women and people of color.

Biden says a lot of these mom and pop businesses "got muscled out of the way" by larger businesses seeking federal money in the early days of the pandemic. He said changes taking effect Wednesday will provide long overdue aid to these smaller enterprises that he says are being "crushed" by the pandemic-driven economic downturn.

"America's small businesses are hurting, hurting badly and they need help now," Biden said.

Under the pandemic-era Paycheck Protection Program, the administration is establishing a two-week window, starting Wednesday, in which only businesses with fewer than 20 employees - the overwhelming majority of small businesses - can apply for the forgivable loans.

Biden's