By Alan Wolf, YSN

The Senate is considering a bi-partisan proposal to change how and when Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans could be spent.

The bill, championed by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Chairman of the Senate’s small business and entrepreneurship committee, would allow borrowers to use the funds to pay for personal protective equipment (PPE) and safety-related infrastructure such as plexiglass shields and upgrades to ventilation systems.

The proposal would also extend the time limit for spending the funds under the loan forgiveness provision from eight to 16 weeks.

The bill has been endorsed by other key senators, including the committee’s ranking member Ben Cardin (D-MD); committee member Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH); and Susan Collins (R-ME), who chairs an employment and workplace safety subcommittee.

Also supporting the initiative is the National Retail Federation (NRF), the world’s largest retail trade group. “This measure will allow retailers to take the time to make sure their stores are safe for their workers and customers and allow them to invest in equipment and modifications important to ensuring safety,” said David French, the NRF’s Senior Vice President for Government Relations. “We appreciate that Congress recognizes that businesses struggling with how to respond to COVID-19 need more flexibility.”

The NRF also supports a House measure that would give businesses up to 24 weeks to spend their PPP loans and would repeal the requirement that at least 75 percent of the funds be allocated to payroll.

The Senate bill could come up for a vote as early as today and the House measure is expected to see a vote next week, the NRF said.