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WATCH: White House news briefing on U.S. coronavirus response

WASHINGTON — The White House says it is prepared to launch a $350 billion lending program on Friday that is intended to help struggling small businesses that have been affected by the coronavirus catastrophe.

Small Business Administration administrator Jovita Carranza said the paycheck protection program will help small companies keep employees on payroll and remain afloat.

Lenders have raised concerns that they won’t be able to handle the crush of applications as businesses scurry for a cash infusion and help keeping employees on the payroll. The Labor Department announced that unemployment claims soared to 6.6 million last week, more than double the previous week.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the administration decided to raise interest rate to 1% instead of 50 basis points to make the program more attractive to community lenders.

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