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The Treasury Department is considering holding off on giving more companies access to an untapped US$17 billion relief fund for national security businesses in case Boeing Co. and General Electric Co. eventually need the money, according to people familiar with the matter.

The loan program was created under the US$2.2-trillion Cares Act with the two defence giants specifically in mind, according to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. But so far, both companies have taken a pass, saying they don’t need the government loans after raising cash on Wall Street.

Only about 20 companies applied for loans by the program’s May 1 deadline, according to the Defense Department. There are about 300,000 companies in the Pentagon’s contractor supply chain, and some have turned to other Cares Act programs to win federal support. Treasury has until the end of the year to use the funds.

Defence officials have urged the Treasury Department to loosen the rules so that more companies could obtain loans but have yet to offer alternate criteria, the people said on the condition of anonymity.

A Treasury spokeswoman declined to comment and the Defense Department didn’t respond to requests for comment.

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