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Small-business rescue package expected to swell to $350 billion or more

Small-business rescue package expected to swell to $350 billion or more
© Greg Nash

Senate negotiators are very close to a deal to provide at least $350 billion to small businesses around the country amid fallout over the coronavirus outbreak, which would be $100 billion more than what the Trump administration proposed earlier this week.

Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioDemocrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks GOP senator congratulates Biden, says Trump should accept results GOP lawmaker patience runs thin with Trump tactics MORE (R-Fla.), chairman of the Senate Small Business Committee, said he is pushing to extend a forgivable loan program for small businesses to “as many weeks as possible” but is waiting for a cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office.

He expects the total cost of the small business chapter of the phase three stimulus deal to reach or exceed $350 billion.

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“It’s going to be big. It needs to be big. We’re talking about half the workers in the country,” Rubio said, adding that $350 billion “is the range we’re operating off of” and “could be a little more.”

“We’d like to help even more people, so we’re working through that right now,” he said.

Rubio said there’s a bipartisan agreement on a cash flow assistance program that would give employers federally guaranteed loans that would be forgiven if they keep their workers on payroll throughout the health care crisis.

The question now is how long to extend the program and how to ensure local banks and credit unions participate in the program.

“We’re now down to, how long will the money that’s being appropriated last? We want it to be long enough to get us through this period,” Rubio said. “What can we do to make it more attractive for virtually every lender in America to act as a way to get this to people?”

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Rubio said there’s no decision yet on how long the loan program should last.

“How long are we going to be operating under these circumstances? We’ve never faced anything like this before. I’m trying to get as many weeks as possible,” he added.

Under Rubio’s plan, small-business loans would be made immediately available through existing Small Business Administration-certified banks and credit unions. It would streamline the process to encourage more lenders to participate.

He has worked closely with Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinDemocratic senators urge Facebook to take action on anti-Muslim bigotry On The Money: Biden, Democratic leaders push for lame-duck coronavirus deal | Business groups shudder at Sanders as Labor secretary | Congress could pass retirement bill as soon as this year Top Democrat: Congress could pass retirement bill as soon as this year MORE (Md.), the senior Democrat on the Small Business Committee, and Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTeam Trump offering 'fire hose' of conspiracy Kool-Aid for supporters Democrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks Hogan 'embarrassed that more people' in the GOP 'aren't speaking up' against Trump MORE (R-Maine).