The White House is requesting an additional $251 billion for additional small business lending as part of the government’s coronavirus response, eliciting a counter from congressional Democrats asking for $125 billion in targeted aid for farmers, women, minorities, and veteran-owned businesses.
“I’ll be asking Congress to provide an additional $250 billion for the paycheck protection, which will help keep Americans employed, to facilitate a quick and full recovery,” President Trump said on Tuesday at the White House during a coronavirus task force briefing.
The Senate’s phase-three package, which passed last month, earmarked $350 billion to make small business loans through commercial banks to companies with 500 or fewer employees, provided the companies agree to keep workers on the payroll. As part of the “Paycheck Protection Program,” most or all of the loan would be written off if the borrower retained its workers and didn’t cut their wages, with the government repaying the banks for the forgiven portions of the loans.
In a letter to Capitol Hill, the White House Office of Management and Budget said that the program, conducted through the Small Business Administration (SBA), has administered over 220,000 loans — totaling approximately $66 billion. “Given the level of demand for the program, the Administration believes the funds appropriated for this program will soon be exhausted,” the letter reads.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said in a statement on Tuesday that he hoped to approve the additional funding with unanimous consent or a voice vote during a procedural session on Thursday, without the full chamber present.
“It is quickly becoming clear that Congress will need to provide more funding or this crucial program may run dry,” McConnell said. “That cannot happen. Nearly 10 million Americans filed for unemployment in just the last two weeks. This is already a record-shattering tragedy, and every day counts.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) — who said she was open to “an interim package” — countered with their own proposal Wednesday, which placed a number of conditions on the new funding to make sure 50 percent of it goes to farmers, women, minorities, and veteran-owned businesses. The proposal also called for an additional $100 billion in hospital funding and $150 billion more for state and local governments.