THE Senate is working quickly to approve more funding — $250 billion — for small businesses amid the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent economic fallout.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday he’s working with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to pass the funding.
"Congress needs to act with speed and total focus to provide more money for this uncontroversial bipartisan program,” he said in a statement.
McConnell said he hopes “to approve further funding for the Paycheck Protection Program by unanimous consent or voice vote during the next scheduled Senate session on Thursday.”
The funding would supplement the $350 billion approved for companies in the recently-passed $2.2 trillion rescue package.
It would include an immediate additional $250 billion or so, Republican operatives told The Associated Press.
The Paycheck Protection Program provides loans to businesses with up to 500 employees.
Per the Small Business Administration, which is guaranteeing the loans, “lenders may begin processing loan applications as soon as April 3, 2020.”
The program will be available through June 30, 2020.
The program’s money is meant to help companies that have suffered massive revenue losses due to the coronavirus outbreak, including restaurants across the country forced to shut down.
They provide for deferred payments and offer the prospect of forgiveness if the money is used to retain workers or hire back those who have been laid off.
This would be the fourth package from Congress since the start of the coronavirus outbreak and remains a top GOP priority.
Thursday's vote requires unanimous agreement since it's planned for a “pro forma” session that wouldn't typically involve Senate business.
“This program has become overwhelmingly popular,” McConnell said in a statement.
“Jobs are literally being saved as we speak,” he said. “But it is quickly becoming clear that Congress will need to provide more funding or this crucial program may run dry.”
“That cannot happen,” the Senate majority leader said.
“Nearly 10 million Americans filed for unemployment in just the last two weeks. This is already a record-shattering tragedy and every day counts.”
On Tuesday, Schumer called for up to $25,000 “heroes” pay for frontline health care and service industry workers for the rest of the year.
Bigger corporations would be expected to pay the bill for the pay hike, he said, while the federal government would provide funding for smaller firms.
Schumer declared the pay hike for nurses, truck drivers, grocery store clerks and others the “highest priority.”
Congressional leaders and President Donald Trump seem to be coming to a consensus on the need for more aid amid the pandemic and the stark economic shutdown resulting from it.
“We’re going to take good care of our people,” Trump told reporters on Monday during his daily coronavirus press briefing. “It was not their fault.”
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said Monday she wants another round of direct payments to Americans and is pressing for greater help for state and local governments.
She has vowed to put the next package together in time for a House vote this month.
AP reported that Pelosi told House Democrats during a conference call on Monday that at least another $1 trillion would be needed.
Former Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen warned Democrats the economic fallout will depend on the public health response to the pandemic.
As businesses shutter to stop the virus’ spread, it has hurled the U.S. economy toward a recession.
Yellen said it was impossible to know how deep and long the recession would be, and added that it would depend on the health response.
The former Fed chair also told them the nation’s unemployment rate is now at least 13 percent and this week’s jobless report will show higher numbers than last week’s.
The earlier relief package, signed by Trump in March, included one-time $1,200 direct payments to Americans.
It also provided forgivable small business loans for companies to keep making payroll, and included unemployment pay, money for hospitals and a $500 billion fund for bigger corporations and industries.
Trump’s daughter Ivanka, who is also a senior adviser to the President, said in a video posted to Twitter on Tuesday: “The president, this whole administration is deeply committed to what is really the backbone of our economy — our amazing small businesses.”
“So in these times of vulnerability, fragility and just tremendous uncertainty, know that we are fighting for you,” she said, adding employers make up 47 percent of the country’s workforce.
“Over $40 billion in funds have been allocated, saving over two million American jobs — and we’re really at the beginning. So we’re fighting for you.”
Ivanka Trump then added the Trump administration will also make announcements about “new, really exciting partnerships with the private sector to deliver more relief.”
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