House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin were optimistic about reaching a deal to top up funds in a loan program aimed at helping small businesses stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic.
Mnuchin said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that he’s hopeful the deal can be passed in the Senate on Monday and the House on Tuesday. Pelosi offered no specific timetable, though.
Discussions are focused on adding an additional $300 billion to the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, designed to help small businesses keep workers on their payrolls as much of the country remains under stay-at-home orders, Mnuchin said.
He also proposed $50 billion more for a separate Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, or EIDL, that provides financing and advances as grants of as much as $10,000.
Mnuchin said he’s had “constant discussions” with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Republican Leader Mark Meadows and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. “We’re all on board with the same plan,” he said.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, also on CNN, said he was hopeful the framework of the small-business deal could be reached on Sunday or early Monday.
Congress is “very close” to striking a bipartisan deal, Pelosi said on ABC’s “This Week,” adding that the Democratic caucus backs her approach to dig in and demand additional money for hospitals and other segments.
“We’re close. We have common ground,” Pelosi said on ABC’s “This Week.” “I think we’re very close to an agreement.”
Mnuchin said all sides were “making a lot of progress” on another $300 billion in small business funding. He said the deal will include hospitals -- if so, a key concession to Democrats -- but not for states and local governments.
House Republicans have scheduled an 8 p.m. conference call for Sunday to get an update from the their leaders on the status of negotiations on replenishing the tapped-out PPP, according to multiple party officials.
Democratic members in the House hadn’t received any notice as of Saturday night on getting an update.
One Republican lawmaker familiar with the situation said there’s been no official whipping or vote counting on a possible deal. The call Sunday is being billed as catching members up on the status of talks, the lawmaker said.
Democratic insistence that the Congress do more than simply “top up” the PPP funds stalled action on the measure last week as funds dwindled, drawing criticism from Republicans and President Donald Trump.
“Overwhelmingly, my caucus, and we’re working closely with the Senate Democrats, know that we have an opportunity, and an urgency, to do something for our hospitals, our teachers and firefighters and the rest, right now,” Pelosi said.
“It is very urgent though that we support our police and fire, first responders, teachers,” Pelosi said in a separate “Fox News Sunday” interview. “Everything we’re doing is about the coronavirus. Not going afield into anything else.”
Congressional Democrats on Friday night outlined a new compromise offer to Mnuchin, a senior Democratic aide said on Saturday.
Terms of the offer included allocating an already-requested $150 billion in state and local funding based on need, but also designating additional money for cities, counties and towns, the senior aide said.
Key swing states including Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin -- all won by Trump in 2016 -- would receive billions of dollars in new aid under the Democrats’ proposal.
The Small Business Association’s $349 billion program, which was intended to help mom-and-pop businesses, ran out of funds in less than two weeks. It’s come under fire for payouts made to certain operations like large chain restaurants.
In an interview on CNN Saturday, former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers said the types of businesses that can apply for funds “is too broad.”
“Most of the money now is going to people who have hundreds of people working for them, and millions of dollars in their accounts,” Summers said. “We need to change the rules.”
The industries that received the largest share of loans were construction; professional, scientific and technical services; manufacturing; and health care and social assistance, according to a report from the SBA.
There’s a need to make sure the smallest businesses, like florists, pizza shops or barber shops, and stores in disadvantaged communities, gain access, Summers said.
The PPP offers loans of as much as $10 million that convert to grants if proceeds are used to keep workers on the payroll and cover rent and other approved expenses for about two months, a stopgap designed to help businesses get by until the economy reopens.
“Yes, there are some big businesses” getting money from the PPP, Mnuchin said on CNN. “That was in the bill. But let me say, the majority of these are going to small businesses.” quickly in this next batch of money.
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