US President Joe Biden (L) visits W.S. Jenks & Son, a hardware store that has benefited from a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan, in Washington, DC, on March 9, 2021. - Biden met with Michael Siegel (R), co-owner of W.S. Jenks & Son, and Mary Anna Ackley, owner of Little Wild Things Farm, a business next door to Jenks & Son which also benefited from the PPP. (Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)
CNN  — 

President Joe Biden on Tuesday visited a hardware store in Washington, DC, to highlight the changes his administration has made to the Paycheck Protection Program to help the smallest of businesses amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The owners of W.S. Jenks & Son applied for a PPP loan during the two-week exclusive window Biden announced last month for small businesses with fewer than 20 employees, according to a White House official. The hardware store bills itself as the oldest in Washington.

The President also met with the owner of another small business located on the same property, Little Wild Things Farm, who applied for the same loan, according to the official.

“400,000 small businesses went out of business. They got in line but they couldn’t get the help, and we found out that an awful lot of that went to bigger businesses that in fact weren’t supposed to qualify,” Biden said when he met with the owners.

“Because there used to be a thing called an inspector general to see where the money went, and the last administration fired the inspector general so a lot of money went to people who shouldn’t have gotten help,” Biden added.

Mike Siegel, co-owner of W.S. Jenks & Sons with his father, Jerry, told Biden that when the coronavirus pandemic hit the first thing the business did was to send all of his at-risk employees home.

“We paid them through that process. That first wave of loans was very helpful to allow us to do that. Obviously that was not cost effective but we felt like we had to do that for our employees,” Siegel said.

The Biden administration also changed some eligibility rules for the program that went into effect the first week of March. The self-employed, sole proprietors and independent contractors can now qualify for more money. They previously were excluded altogether or received as little as $1 because the loan amounts were calculated based on the number of employees.

The loan program also opened up to small business owners with non-fraud related felonies, those delinquent on their federal student loans and some non-citizen residents, such as Green Card holders or those in the country on visas – all of who were excluded earlier.

Congress created the program last March under the Trump administration to help small business owners hit hard by the pandemic and lockdown measures. The first round of loans was slow to reach the smallest businesses.

Biden didn’t answer shouted questions from reporters about the situation on the US-Mexico border during the visit. The number of migrants arrested on the southern border has been increasing in recent weeks, causing alarm among officials as they scramble to provide resources for the increase in minors and families who are unlawfully crossing into the US.

CNN’s Katie Lobosco and Geneva Sands contributed to this report.