Ocasio-Cortez: Republicans are prioritizing big chains in coronavirus relief 

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) on Thursday accused Republicans of having more urgency to help large businesses than they do for families when drafting the next coronavirus relief package. 

“It is a joke when Republicans say that they have urgency around this bill,” she said on the House floor. “The only folks that they have urgency around are folks like Ruth’s Chris Steak House and Shake Shack; those are the people getting assistance in this bill.”

The congresswoman, whose district has been one of the hardest-hit by the pandemic, was referring to reports that large chains were eligible for loans allocated by Congress in the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The program, managed by the Small Business Administration (SBA), provides forgivable loans to small businesses impacted by the pandemic as long as they continue to pay their employees.

The initial funding for the program ran out last week, soon after the application was made available, leaving thousands of small businesses without relief while a number of larger businesses received loans including the two restaurant chains mentioned by Ocasio-Cortez, which received millions in forgivable loans. Both companies have since said they will repay the loans.

On Thursday, it was reported the hotel chain of former Trump administration official Gordon Sondland also received a loan through the PPP.

The House is set to vote Thursday on a bill that would provide more than $300 billion to replenish funding for small businesses amid the pandemic, with $60 billion earmarked for community banks and smaller lenders. The PPP was initially funded with $349 billion.

The legislation being voted on also includes $75 billion for hospitals, $25 billion for testing and $60 billion for emergency disaster loans and grants.

The Senate passed the bill Tuesday.

Amid negotiations, Democratic leaders refused to approve new PPP funding without provisions to gear money toward businesses owned by women and minorities.

“You are not trying fix this bill for mom and pops,” Ocasio-Cortez said of her GOP colleagues. “We have to fight to fund hospitals. Fighting to fund testing. … It is unconscionable.”

The New York congresswoman has been pushing for rent and mortgage relief for those left unemployed by shutdowns. The rent and mortgage freezes that currently exist have been issued on the state level. 

“If you had urgency you would legislate like rent was due on May 1,” she said.

Tags Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Gordon Sondland Ruth's Chris Steak House Shake Shack

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