(UnitedVoice.com) – Top congressional Democrats were adamant in a new notion to pass an “interim” emergency coronavirus bill on Wednesday morning. They feel that Congress should provide more relief to small businesses, states, hospitals, and food assistance programs while the economy is shut down to combat COVID-19. They’re calling for this before Congress begins work on a Phase 4 rescue package in the coming weeks.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in a joint statement said $500 billion in additional funding is needed right now and not a moment later.
What Prompted This Statement?
On Tuesday, President Trump said the $350 billion Paycheck Protection Loan program established in the third stimulus plan was running out of money. The program had just launched on Friday. He also acknowledged that, due to extreme demand, the Small Business Administration (SBA) was struggling to get the aid approved quickly. Also, some banks were either having problems getting eligibility from the SBA or they were rejecting loans from eligible borrowers because they were not customers.
The program was designed to help keep the economy afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic by providing loans to small businesses with 500 employees or less. That also includes independent contractors and self-employed workers. The loans will be quickly forgiven if business owners use the money to make payroll, pay mortgages or rent, or utilities over an eight-week timeframe after the loan is made. The first $10,000 is a full grant that does not have to be paid back.
What Is Being Considered in the $500 Billion “Interim” Emergency Aid Bill?
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he spoke with Pelosi, Schumer, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) on Tuesday morning. Mnuchin requested an additional $250 billion to prevent the program from going broke. He urged Congress to pass a bill as quickly as Thursday in the Senate and Friday in the House.
Pelosi and Schumer have agreed to add the $250 billion. In Pelosi’s statement, she said the situation calls for “Bold, urgent, and ongoing action from Congress to protect American’s lives and livelihoods.” Schumer said, “Congress must provide additional relief for small businesses and families.” In addition to the $250 billion in new aid to small businesses, both said that improvements need to be made to include ensuring banks can’t turn away eligible small businesses.
Other Interim Funding Priorities
In addition to the loans and grants for small businesses, Pelosi and Schumer are also calling for:
- $100 billion for hospitals, community health centers, and health systems — with money going towards producing and distributing a national rapid test for COVID-19 and personal protective equipment (PPE) for first responders and medical care providers.
- $150 billion for state and local governments as they lose tax revenues and increase expenses in the battle against COVID-19.
- 15% increase to food stamps — also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
McConnell said he intends to hold a vote this week in the Senate. Pelosi said the House will follow suit immediately. It seems that this interim measure will quickly pass through Congress.
Congressional leaders and the Trump Administration have signaled they intend to pass a CARES 2 Act into law by May. It would include an additional direct payment relief plan similar to what Americans can expect in the next few weeks. In the meantime, the “interim” bill will help fill in the gaps.
By Don Purdum, Freelance Contributor
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