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Coronavirus Small Businesses Relief Funds Run Dry amid Congressional Deadlock

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi walks to the House Chamber floor on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., March 27, 2020. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

The $349 billion in emergency funding for small businesses has run out less than one month after it was created as part of the $2.2 trillion phase-three coronavirus economic relief bill.

“The SBA is currently unable to accept new applications for the Paycheck Protection Program based on available appropriations funding,” the Small Business Administrations said in a statement Thursday. “Similarly, we are unable to enroll new PPP lenders at this time.” Earlier Thursday, the agency said it had approved over 1.6 million loan applications.

It is unclear when the program might be replenished since Congress is not due to be back in session until May 4. Republicans and the White House attempted to add $251 billion more to the program last week, but Democrats pushed back, calling for more targeted relief to minority- and women-owned companies as well as local governments and hospitals.

Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) met with Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin on Wednesday to attempt to make a deal, but outstanding issues remain. Additional funding could be proposed during a Senate “pro forma” session scheduled for Thursday afternoon, but any deal remains unlikely and could be blocked by a single lawmaker.

Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), one of the architects behind the program, blamed Democrats for the holdup in a video statement on Twitter, calling it “absurd” and “ridiculous”

“Now that we’ve reached the cap because it’s been so successful, the Democrats are blocking more money for it,” Rubio said. ” . . . They’re blocking it because they say they want more money for other things — I agree we need to do more for those other things. But why do we have to hold the most successful part of the CARES act, that’s helping millions of people, hostage?”

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