She did not directly mention the Paycheck Protection Program — the largest lending program by far in the agency’s nearly 70-year history — but she acknowledged the turmoil many companies are experiencing.
“So many small businesses across the country have been devastated by the pandemic and economic crisis,” Ms. Guzman said. “A disproportionate impact has fallen, as it often does, on our businesses owned by people of color.”
Most of the program’s financiers, including some of the country’s largest banks, said they plan to resume lending. Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Cross River Bank and Wells Fargo, which collectively made more than one million loans, said they intend to start taking applications as soon as the S.B.A. gives them the green light.
Bankers said their borrowers are clamoring to apply for a second loan.
“We think we are likely in for a very tough winter until the vaccine is more widely available, and we expect there will be a pretty heavy demand,” said John Asbury, the chief executive of Atlantic Union Bank, in Richmond, Va., which made more than 11,000 loans through the program’s first iteration.
The relief loans, which are backed by the government but issued by banks, are designed to be forgiven so long as borrowers use most of the money to pay their workers. The rare offer of essentially free money has been a lifeline for business owners grappling with the pandemic’s forced shutdowns and other economic shocks.
Holly Schaffner, the owner of Mrs. Turbo’s Cookies, a bakery in Ohio, received two P.P.P. loans totaling $48,000 for her two stores. Before the pandemic, she had 20 employees; in March, as the crisis took hold and she was briefly forced to close, her staff plunged to six. Her sales dropped as much as 70 percent in some months last year.
The relief loans allowed her to rehire several people she had laid off. “If it hadn’t been for that money, I’m not sure I would have had the revenue to be able to make a payroll,” she said. “It was incredibly helpful.”