Pelosi, Schumer want aid to states, hospitals in GOP small business bill

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) say a Republican request to funnel an additional $250 billion to a special small-business loan program for the coronavirus crisis must also include hundreds of billions of dollars for hospitals, state and local governments and food assistance.

“As Democrats have said since Day One, Congress must provide additional relief for small businesses and families, building on the strong down-payment made in the bipartisan CARES Act,” they said in a statement Wednesday morning.

The Democratic response comes a day after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he would ask for unanimous consent on the Senate floor Thursday to approve an additional $250 billion in funding for the popular small-business Paycheck Protection Program.

Now the ball is in McConnell’s court. He must decide whether to agree to the Democratic demands or refuse, which could delay additional funding for small businesses until after Easter weekend.

The administration said Wednesday that banks have already processed $70 billion in federally backed loans for more than 200,000 small businesses. This has sparked concern the funds may run dry before Congress reconvenes the week of April 20, as many small businesses are still waiting for aid.

Pelosi and Schumer say that half of the requested $250 billion in small-business assistance must be set aside for community-based financial institutions that serve minority-, women- and veteran-owned businesses as well as farmers and nonprofit groups in tribal, rural and urban communities.   

The Democrats say “improvements” must be made to the program to “ensure all eligible small businesses” can access funding.

Pelosi and Schumer also want an additional $100 billion for hospitals, community health centers and health systems and an additional $150 billion for state and local governments facing serious budgetary shortfalls.

The CARES Act provided $117 billion for hospitals, according to the American Hospital Association, and $150 billion for state and local governments, much of which has yet to be distributed.

The Democratic leaders are also calling for a 15 percent increase to the maximum Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which provides food assistance to low-income families.

Pelosi attempted to secure more money for food and nutrition assistance in last month’s negotiations but fell short of her goal.  

Pelosi and Schumer argue the need for additional funds are so critical that they need to be included with the $250 billion infusion for the small business program that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin asked for Tuesday.

“Sen. Schumer has spoken with Secretary Mnuchin today about Democrats’ very reasonable and needed ‘Small Business Plus’ proposal,” a spokesman for Schumer said Wednesday afternoon. “We hope our Republican colleagues will support this ‘Small Business Plus’ proposal tomorrow in the Senate.”

The Democratic leaders say other priorities can wait to be addressed in a fourth coronavirus relief package Congress will negotiate when it reconvenes in Washington on April 20, or possibly even later depending on the intensity of the coronavirus outbreak.

“After we pass this interim emergency legislation, Congress will move to pass a CARES 2 Act that will extend and expand the bipartisan CARES Act to meet the needs of the American people. CARES 2 must provide transformational relief as the American people weather this assault on their lives and livelihoods,” Pelosi and Schumer said in their statement.

“The American people need to know that their government is there for them in their time of great need,” they said.

The CARES Act, which became law on March 27, appropriated nearly $350 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program to provide eight weeks of cash-flow assistance to small businesses through federally guaranteed loans to businesses who keep their workers on payroll. The loans are forgiven if employers avoid layoffs.

Updated at 1:14 p.m.

Tags Chuck Schumer Coronavirus Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Small business relief Steven Mnuchin

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