WASHINGTON – Thousands of small businesses are getting a second chance at a financial lifeline as another $310 billion in government loans rolls out Monday, but industry experts expect the funds to run out in a few days.

Meanwhile, the SBA said Monday that $2 billion in small business loans that went to companies during the first round of funding has been returned. At least $500 million of that figure went to large publicly held companies, according to a Washington Post analysis of Securities and Exchange Commission records.

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In this April 2, 2020 file photo, “For Sale By Owner” and “Closed Due to Virus” signs are displayed in the window of a store in Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich. AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File

Concerns remain about whether the bailout funds – part of the Cares Act’s Paycheck Protection Program – will be cornered by industry insiders and large businesses that already have access to cash. At least 140 publicly held companies received funds from the first Paycheck Protection Program received loans, including large restaurant chains, a Fortune 500 auto retailer and a pharmaceutical company with $14 million in cash.

“In the time since the previous round of funding ran out, businesses and banks have used this time to prep and perfect applications,” said Juleanna Glover, a Washington-based corporate public affairs adviser tracking the program.

“Once the application portal reopens, there will be an immediate flood of tens of thousands of applicants. Maybe millions. I’d be surprised if this next tranche lasts even 72 hours,” Glover said.

Lenders say they already have thousands of applications cued up, and some have developed technology to make it easier to file loan applications in the SBA’s computer systems. JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America, two of the country’s largest banks, say they have tens of thousands of applications prepared. JPMorgan was the top lender in the first round of loans under the Paycheck Protection Program.

In a mark of the program’s importance during historic economic uncertainty, a joint statement published Friday by the Treasury Department and Small Business Administration emphasized the program’s potential to create and preserve jobs.

“The Trump Administration is fully committed to ensuring that America’s workers and small businesses continue to get the resources they need to get through this challenging time,” the statement reads.

The Paycheck Protection Program is a critical component of the $2 trillion federal stimulus program meant to combat the economic crisis brought by the coronavirus. The program empowers banks to offer federally subsidized loans at terms unavailable on the private market. Borrowers get an interest rate of just 1 percent and can have the loan entirely forgiven if they keep paying employees through the crisis. Small businesses are allowed to self-certify they qualify for the funds, allowing lenders to bypass much of the paperwork usually required for loan approvals.

Congress allocated new funding for the program last week after an earlier $349 billion in funding ran out in just 13 days.

Despite glitchy IT systems, a chaotic regulatory process and a disappointing lack of cooperation from some big banks, the initial rollout succeeded in quickly pumping hundreds of billions of dollars into a struggling small business community. The SBA and Treasury Department estimate more than 1.66 million small businesses were supported by the program, supporting more than 30 million jobs, according to the Small Business Administration.

Concerns remain that too much of the funding went to industry insiders or businesses that should have found funds elsewhere. Some lenders limited their lending activities to businesses they had existing lending relationships with, raising concerns that too much of the funding went to those who had an inside track.

Nearly 80% of the small businesses that applied for a loan were still waiting for an answer when the first round of funding ran out, according to a survey by the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

The Main Street Alliance, an advocacy group representing small businesses, argues there are still serious problems with the program.

“The dangerous inequities we saw with the first round will not be resolved” in the second round of funding, the group’s executive director, Amanda Ballantyne, said. “With funding likely to run out in 48 hours, it is ludicrous that Congress thinks it has already done its job supporting small businesses.”

Last week, several large hotel and restaurant chains paid back their PPP loans following public backlash. Restaurant chains Shake Shack, Kura Sushi and Ruth’s Chris Steak House announced they would pay back the money.

SBA administrator Jovita Carranza tweeted Monday that more than $2 billion in funds had been returned so far.

Congress and the SBA have taken limited efforts to ensure the next round of funding is distributed fairly. This funding includes money specifically set aside for minority-owned businesses. The SBA has warned publicly traded companies that they are unlikely to qualify, giving them until May 10 to pay back the money.

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