Processing begins Wednesday on a second round of Paycheck Protection Program loans for small businesses and nonprofits that have already used up their first loans, according to federal officials.

Community financial institutions – which represent around 10% of eligible lenders – were able to start accepting loan applications on Monday for entities seeking their first PPP loans.

“This is extremely important, just as important as the first round of money, which has served as a lifeline for small businesses all summer,” said Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts. “But even though some restrictions were relaxed in the fall, that doesn’t mean customers have walked through the door. Rent continued and payments to suppliers continued.

Federal authorities are making the loans exclusively available to small community lenders for several days as the program resumes. Additional identity checks are intended to correct some of the confusion and fraud associated with the first round of spring. This program ran out of money within days as companies rushed to claim funds with few eligibility restrictions. Most very small businesses without a strong connection to a lender were left out of the process and unable to secure financing.

Officials say they don’t anticipate the system will be inundated with demands this time around and that the $ 284 billion Congress approved for this cycle will not run out.

The new round includes $ 60 billion for companies that have yet to access the process, and it focuses on companies with 10 or fewer employees or those located in low-income areas. The initiative also has $ 30 billion to help increase the capacity of active lenders in underserved areas, including community development finance institutions, hunches of minority custodians and other small lenders.

Companies eligible for a second loan will be capped at 300 employees, instead of 500, and the maximum loan amount this time is $ 2 million, compared to $ 10 million.

“I’m not at all sure we won’t need a third round of funding,” Hurst said, adding that the need would depend “on when the restrictions are lifted and what message to consumers it is. sure to come back “.

The influx of cash comes at a critical time, with more than 60% of businesses believing that the worst of the pandemic-related economic crisis is yet to come, according to a recent survey of 600 small business owners by the House of Commons. US trade and insurer MetLife Inc. About half of survey respondents said they will have to close within a year unless the economy improves.

Herald wire services contributed to this report.