When asked about states’ rights to decide when to reopen schools and businesses, Trump said, “The president of the United States calls the shots.”
WASHINGTON – The Senate approved a measure Tuesday that would revive a program geared to keep small businesses from shuttering and their employees from going on unemployment because of the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
The nearly half-trillion-dollar measure, which was approved through voice vote, would provide more funds to the Paycheck Protection Program, which was halted last week after it ran out of money.
The $484 billion bill would inject the program, which provides loans to small businesses, with more than $320 billion. Of that, $60 billion would be set aside for community-based lenders, smaller banks and credit unions to assist smaller businesses that don’t have established relationships with big banks and had a harder time accessing the funds in the first round of loans. About $10 billion of that would also be allocated for administration fees.
The measure would also bolster the Small Business Administration’s disaster loan and grant programs, which dried up during the coronavirus crisis.
The legislation includes $75 billion to help overwhelmed hospitals and $25 billion for a new coronavirus testing program, two provisions Democrats pushed for in negotiations. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the testing funds were one of the last pieces agreed on and requires the administration report a national strategic testing plan on how it will increase testing across the country.
The legislation will now head to the House, where it’s scheduled to be taken up Thursday. If approved, it will head to President Donald Trump for approval.
“We’ve had tremendous support for the PPP,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said at the White House on Tuesday. He promised the program would be “up and running” again soon after it passes both chambers and is signed by Trump. He estimated that the program has saved 30 million jobs.
Here is how the federal government is stepping in to support small businesses and health care providers.
Congressional leaders and the Trump administration haggled for weeks over details in the plan before coming to an agreement Tuesday. Mnuchin asked Congress this month for an additional $250 billion in emergency funds to bolster the program. Democrats objected to the GOP offer, demanding more money for hospitals, state and local governments and food stamp benefits.
Congressional Republicans blamed Democrats for the funding lapse, arguing they held hostage money desperately needed for businesses and workers.
“I am encouraged that Democratic leaders have finally agreed to reopen the Paycheck Protection Program and abandon a number of their unrelated demands,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said after the two sides reached a deal. “Republicans never wanted this crucial program for workers and small businesses to shut down. We tried to pass additional funding a week before it lapsed. But Democratic leaders blocked the money and spent days trying to negotiate extraneous issues that were never on the table. I am grateful our colleagues have walked away from those demands and will finally let Congress act.”
Democrats applauded the new bill, which nearly doubled the amount of funds being spent. They also noted that an additional relief measure was still being worked on, something the White House has also signaled support for.
“Congressional Democrats are proud to have secured an agreement on an interim emergency funding package that has been transformed to provide real support for the lives and livelihoods of the American people,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Schumer said in joint statement. “Democrats flipped this emergency package from an insufficient Republican plan that left behind hospitals and health and frontline workers and did nothing to aid the survival of the most vulnerable small businesses on Main Street.”
Trump signaled he’s ready to sign the agreement.
“I urge the Senate and House to pass the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act with additional funding for PPP, Hospitals, and Testing,” Trump said in a tweet Tuesday. “After I sign this Bill, we will begin discussions on the next Legislative Initiative with fiscal relief to State/Local Governments for lost revenues from COVID 19, much needed Infrastructure Investments for Bridges, Tunnels, Broadband, Tax Incentives for Restaurants, Entertainment, Sports, and Payroll Tax Cuts to increase Economic Growth.”
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The program was originally provided $349 billion as part of the massive economic stimulus package approved in March. It launched April 3 and processed 1.6 million loan application before funds ran out on Thursday.
Hundreds of House lawmakers are expected to return to Washington on Thursday to ensure the measure passes quickly, as several members have aired grievances with details in the bill. On Thursday, the House is also expected to vote on a change in its rules that would allow lawmakers to vote by proxy, a process that would allow another lawmaker to vote on their behalf to prevent travel and risking further spread of the coronavirus.
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