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Pelosi presses Mnuchin on $500B coronavirus 'interim' package

Pelosi presses Mnuchin on $500B coronavirus 'interim' package
© Greg Nash

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiObama chief economist says Democrats should accept smaller coronavirus relief package if necessary The five biggest challenges facing President-elect Biden Democrats were united on top issues this Congress — but will it hold? MORE (D-Calif.) on Friday pressed the Trump administration to boost funding for states and hospitals in the next round of coronavirus relief, which stalled in the Senate a day earlier.

In a phone call with Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinMonumental economic challenges await Biden's Treasury secretary Biden's Treasury pick will have lengthy to-do list on taxes On The Money: Initial jobless claims rise for 2nd week | Dow dips below 30K | Mnuchin draws fire for COVID-19 relief move | Manhattan DA appeals dismissal of Manafort charges MORE, Pelosi said that while Democrats support an additional $250 billion for small businesses, as the administration and congressional Republicans have proposed, they'll also insist on language ensuring that businesses owned by minorities, and those operating in rural areas, are able to access the funds quickly, according to Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill.

Marginalized small businesses have struggled to access funding under the $350 billion first-come, first-served emergency loan program approved by Congress, raising concerns that the bulk of the benefits will go to larger enterprises that have well-greased relationships with lending institutions.

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"[Pelosi] reiterated Democrats’ position that the initiative must not solidify the disparity in access to capital faced by many small businesses in underserved areas," Hammill said in an email.

The Treasury Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Democrats also want an additional $150 billion for state and local governments, to help facilitate the emergency response, and $100 billion more for hospitals and community health centers providing front-line care in the coronavirus fight. Those requests come on top of the $150 billion for states, and roughly $120 billion for hospitals, already adopted late last month in the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

At the direction of the White House, Senate Republicans sought Thursday to pass legislation providing an additional $250 billion for quick-access loans to small businesses under the Paycheck Protection Program, an emergency initiative created under CARES. It was blocked by Senate Democrats because it excluded the same provisions Pelosi is seeking.

Mnuchin and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerThe five biggest challenges facing President-elect Biden Collins urges voters to turn out in Georgia runoffs Protect America's houses of worship in year-end appropriations package MORE (D-N.Y.) have been in negotiations to break the impasse. Pelosi's conversation with the Treasury secretary on Friday is an indication she'll be central to any agreement, which would also need to move through the House, controlled by Democrats, to reach President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rages against '60 Minutes' for interview with Krebs Cornyn spox: Neera Tanden has 'no chance' of being confirmed as Biden's OMB pick Pa. lawmaker was informed of positive coronavirus test while meeting with Trump: report MORE's desk.

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Separately, Democrats are working on a much broader package, dubbed CARES 2, to include a boost in funding for medical supplies, coronavirus care, unemployment insurance and cash payments to individuals.

House Democrats have grumbled that they were largely cut out of the negotiations over the initial CARES bill; Pelosi is fighting to ensure the lower chamber plays a greater role in what's to come.

“The Speaker recommends proceeding on a bipartisan basis involving the four corners of the House and Senate so that Congress can move expeditiously on an interim package and a CARES 2 package to put additional money in the hands of those who need it most and ensure our frontline workers have the resources they need,” Hammill said in an email.

Pelosi was joined on Friday's call by Rep. Peter DeFazioPeter Anthony DeFazioDemocrats were united on top issues this Congress — but will it hold? On the Trail: Five House results illustrate a politically divided America OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Down ballot races carry environmental implications | US officially exits Paris climate accord  MORE (D-Ore.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, who's crafting a sweeping infrastructure bill that Democrats hope, eventually, to incorporate in Congress's coronavirus response.

DeFazio and Mnuchin spoke about a provision of the CARES Act, soon to be launched by Treasury, designed to keep airline workers employed through the crisis, Hammill said.

DeFazio's office declined to comment.

Updated at 4:21 p.m.