Talks drag out $ 450 billion in virus aid to small businesses and hospitals
In the further course of the talks, the contours of the deal seem largely determined. Most of the funding, about $ 300 billion, would be used to kickstart a small business wage and salary loan program that is running out of money. Additional aid would come to hospitals and billions more would be spent to fund testing for the virus, an important step in building the confidence needed to reopen national economies.
The nascent draft measure – originally conceived by Republicans as a $ 250 billion bridging measure to replenish wage subsidies for smaller businesses – has become the second largest of the four coronavirus response bills to date. Democratic demands have caused the measure to skyrocket, although they are likely to be denied the money to help struggling state and local governments.
The Senate met for a brief pro forma session Monday afternoon that could have provided a window to implement the impending measure through expedited procedures that require unanimous approval of the pre-legislative legislation, but it was not ready in time.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Has scheduled another Senate session Tuesday in the hope that an agreement will be reached by then.
“It’s been four days since the Paycheck Protection program ran out of money. Republicans have been trying to raise funds for this critical program for a week and a half, ”McConnell said. “Our Democratic colleagues are still prolonging their talks with the government, so unfortunately the Senate will not be able to raise funds for Americans’ paychecks today.”
The House of Representatives has announced that, according to a schedule update from Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., It could meet on Wednesday to vote on the outstanding package. The chamber will likely have to call the legislature back to Washington to vote, which poses logistical challenges.
As small business owners faltered amid a coronavirus outbreak that paralyzed many economic activity, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin – the government’s top man in talks with the Democrats – said he was hoping for a deal that would pass Congress quickly and the Small Business Administration program could reach it by the middle of the week. However, optimism about an immediate agreement was subdued.
“I heard from our legislative team today that they hope we can strike a deal this week,” White House top adviser Kellyanne Conway said on Fox News Monday. “The secretary is very confident. He said there was a deal going on yesterday. Much better position than us, say, a week ago. “
The nascent deal combines the government’s efforts to replenish the small business fund with Democratic calls for more money to spend on hospitals and virus testing. It would allocate more than $ 300 billion to the small business payroll program, with about $ 60 billion allocated to community lenders looking to focus on underserved neighborhoods and rural areas.
Another $ 60 billion would be available for a small business loan and grant program that previously aimed to help businesses hit by natural disasters such as hurricanes. In addition, according to interlocutors, it would bring in $ 75 billion for hospitals and $ 25 billion for testing.
In a Sunday afternoon conference call attended by Trump, Mnuchin, and Republican Senators, McConnell said the only remaining discussion point was money for tests, according to a Senate GOP executive assistant, speaking on condition of anonymity, to a private one Call to discuss. But as with the recent $ 2 trillion move, the talks instead got on a familiar hold on Monday, with new sticking points emerging on hospital funding and other issues.
The Democrats have pushed for funding for states and local governments whose revenues have collapsed. They had proposed $ 150 billion for the effort, but GOP leaders were tough on the opposition, at least on the current package of COVID-19 aid.
“The president stands ready to include this in the next bill, but wants to bring this across the finish line with a focus on small businesses, hospitals and testing,” Mnuchin said on CNN on Sunday.
The government’s paycheck protection program was inundated with loan application companies and hit mid-range last Thursday after nearly 1.7 million loans were approved. That left thousands of small businesses in the balance as they sought help. The National Federation of Independent Business, a GOP-friendly organization that campaigns for small businesses in Washington, said it had surveyed its members and reported that only 1 in 5 applicants have received money so far.
About $ 75 billion would go to U.S. hospitals – those struggling amid rising coronavirus cases, as well as those struggling financially after undergoing elective surgery during the pandemic . About $ 25 billion would be added for COVID-19 testing, which states say is badly needed.
Based on a company’s wage bill, the SBA loans offer forgiveness to owners as they keep workers or reinstate those who have been laid off. The law allows forgiveness for companies in any industry – even companies like hedge funds and law firms. There is a $ 100,000 limit on the amount of employee compensation that can be considered when calculating the loan waiver.