Senate

Warren: Congress should remove funding cap for small business aid in coronavirus bill

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Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said Wednesday that Congress should eliminate the cap on total aid for small businesses impacted by the coronavirus.

Warren, in a string of tweets, said “raising the cap” to provide more in total aid was a first step but didn’t go far enough given the concern from employers that the pool of money will run out.

“Small businesses across America are facing collapse. But the program Congress created to help them stay afloat & keep workers on payroll has too little money and too much confusion. We need a new law to fix the program and eliminate the cap on total relief – immediately,” Warren tweeted. “Every small business that qualifies should get the help they need, period. We should provide an absolute guarantee.”

Her call to remove the funding cap comes after Congress passed a $2.2 trillion relief package late last month that included $349 billion in loans — that, depending on their use, could turn into forgivable grants — for small businesses.

The program, known as the Paycheck Protection Program, has seen a high level of interest from business owners as the coronavirus outbreak has caused firms in almost all sectors of the economy to scale back or close altogether.

Administration officials and lawmakers say they believe more funding will be needed to cover the number of applications. The Treasury Department has requested an extra $250 billion, which would bring the total for the Paycheck Protection Program to $600 billion.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McMcConnell (R-Ky.) said on Tuesday that he will try to pass the bill by unanimous consent or voice vote as soon as Thursday. It’s unclear if Democrats, or fiscal hawks within his own conference, will allow the bill to move that quickly.

McConnell started a “hotline” for the additional funding on Wednesday morning, a move that requests senators inform leadership if they will object to the bill’s passage. The procedural tactic could give Senate leaders a count on how many senators are considering objecting.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) want hundreds of billions of dollars for hospitals, state and local governments and food assistance included within the new small business measure.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) on Tuesday accused McConnell of trying to “jam” Democrats, adding that Schumer should “stay strong.”

“McConnell’s latest stunt to jam Chuck Schumer on SBA $$$ without even talking to him is a lousy way to run a Senate,” he tweeted.

The small business program had a rocky rollout, including confusion about the requirements for applying for the federal aid and a surge in applications that threatened to overwhelm the system.

Warren in her tweets said Congress needs to simplify the Paycheck Protection Program, and the administration should tell businesses that they will get assistance if they are eligible.

“If anyone has any doubts about what needs to be done, just ask some small business owners. Millions of them have been put through hell over the past two weeks as they scrambled to try to get access to the money they desperately need,” she said.

Tags Charles Schumer Chuck Schumer coronavirus relief Elizabeth Warren Nancy Pelosi Paycheck Protection Program Sheldon Whitehouse small business loans

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