Aid to small businesses risks drying up as negotiations stall
WASHINGTON – Billions of dollars in additional aid for small businesses have been left in the crossfire as congressional leaders argue over what should be included in a new package of conoravirus aid.
At the center of the fight is $ 250 billion to quickly replenish evaporating funds for paycheck protection program (PPP), a fund for small businesses. This would be in addition to the nearly $ 350 billion approved by Congress last month as part of the response to the $ 2.2 trillion pandemic known as the CARES Act.
The PPP offers business owners low interest loans of 500 workers or less to stay afloat. These loans will be canceled by the government if at least 75% of the money is used to keep employees on the payroll.
While Republicans and Democrats agree that money is needed to keep the agenda running, Democrats argue that this is not the only area that needs additional funding. Senate Democrats blocked the measure’s swift passage last week, insisting more money needed to be included for hospitals and state and local governments.
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Democrats also insisted that certain conditions be attached to the billions for small businesses to ensure that rural areas and businesses owned by minorities and women are also helped. Republicans, meanwhile, have opposed such efforts, arguing that adding additional provisions could open a box of worms for lengthy negotiations. Instead, Republicans say they only want to adjust the amount of funds for small businesses and address other issues in the next legislative effort to tackle the virus, which could arrive later this month.
“We have real problems this country is facing, and it is time for Republicans to step out of politics by proposing bills that they know will not pass either chamber and become serious and will work with us to find a solution, ”said Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader. Chuck Schumer said Monday in a joint statement.
The pair have both discussed their demands with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and are hoping for a bipartisan compromise, but the White House has previously opposed including additional provisions in this small business package, which together , left the future to the funds – which could dry up in a few days – in the air.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Slammed Democrats on Thursday for blocking legislation, saying the money was needed to keep a program afloat that has processed more than hundreds of billions in loans to hundreds of thousands of businesses in just a few days. its launch. He said the sheer volume of loans meant the program would use up its $ 350 billion cap within days. As of Monday, more than $ 232 billion had been allocated of the $ 350 billion.
“I want to add more money to the only part of our bipartisan bill that is short of money,” the Kentucky senator told the Senate, adding that it was not time for “unnecessary bickering or squabbling. political maneuvers “on the part of the opponents.
On Monday, the future of the bill and the business funds remained uncertain.
The House announced on Monday that it would not meet before May 4, although the chamber can meet to pass additional legislation if necessary. The Senate is expected to be back in town on April 20.
Both houses could choose to pass the measure by unanimous consent, although the procedure allows a single lawmaker to object and force his colleagues to return to Washington.