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Originally Published: Dec 21, 2020
Originally Published: Dec 21, 2020 Last Updated: Dec 30, 2020 4 min read
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UPDATE: The U.S. Small Business Administration announced Dec. 30 that it has extended the deadline to apply for Economic Injury Disaster Loan, or EIDL, program through December 2021. You can read more about the new EIDL application deadline here.

If you're a small business owner struggling to make ends meet due to the pandemic, there's still time to get financial help from the government — if you move fast. The deadline to apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan, or EIDL, is Dec. 31.

As of November, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has approved nearly 3.7 million EIDL loans totaling more than $194 billion. Funding is still available: An SBA spokeswoman tells Money that some $24.4 billion appropriated to the program by Congress has yet to be disbursed.

Businesses with fewer than 500 employees suffering from the pandemic are generally eligible to apply for EIDL, which are loans intended to pay for regular operating expenses — like rent, utilities and debt — that could have been met had COVID-19 not occurred.

The loans have a 3.75% fixed interest rate (2.75% for nonprofits) and terms of up to 30 years. Unlike loans made through the Paycheck Protection Program — which closed in August — they're not forgivable. (Applying for both PPP and EIDL is allowed, but business owners can't use the funds for the same purpose.)

You may remember EIDL making headlines over the summer, when the program provided applicants with advances of up to $10,000 that did not have to be repaid, essentially making them grants for businesses in need. This money has since run out, which has generated some controversy, as the SBA confirmed it was subtracting EIDL advances from any PPP forgiveness amounts.

Another unpopular EIDL policy generating buzz right now is its cap. The program, which predates the pandemic, typically gives loans of up to $2 million, but this summer the SBA quietly imposed a limit of $150,000. Many small business owners have argued that's not enough to sustain them.

In response, Sens. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., and John Cornyn, R-Texas, have proposed the EIDL for Small Businesses Act. The legislation would remove the cap and start up the $10,000 advances again. It would also give $180 billion in appropriations for the program and its advances.

"The EIDL program has helped many businesses keep their doors open during the pandemic, and this legislation would help make sure they are able to receive the full assistance they need to stay afloat and help get our economy back on track," Cornyn said in a July news release.

The new stimulus bill making its way through Congress includes another proposed $20 billion in EIDL funds for businesses in low-income neighborhoods; though the details of who qualifies, and when the new deadline would be, are unclear.

As it stands, the EIDL deadline is New Year's Eve. So move fast.

More from Money:

Getting a PPP Loan Is Hard. Using It Is Even Trickier

How I Saved My Small Business: A Fairy-for-Hire Goes Digital to Keep Kids Entertained During Quarantine

PPP Loan Forgiveness: 5 Important Questions About Applications, Automatic Approvals, and Additional Relief