Congress stumbles over new COVID-19 aid for small businesses, states and hospitals

Washington – Victim of partisan resentment, hopes evaporated on Thursday that Congress would approve more money to help small businesses survive the coronavirus crisis, and eventually provide billions more to hospitals and the government of the State.

Senate Democrats have opposed a GOP plan to add $250 billion to a small business loan program known as the $350 billion funded Paycheck Protection Program in the latest bill. revival law.

Republicans rejected a Democratic counter-proposal — backed by Connecticut lawmakers — that would add hundreds of billions of dollars to boost aid to state and local governments, as well as hospitals and food stamp recipients .

“The well is emptying,” Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, said of the federal money for these programs.

The Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, allows banks approved by the Small Business Administration to lend to businesses with 500 or fewer employees. These loans could be canceled under certain circumstances, with the federal government reimbursing the lenders. But is it quickly exhausted, with $100 billion already committed despite a difficult deployment.

In Connecticut, banks have approved loans for at least 1,300 small businesses.

In a recent survey of 3,000 members with 500 or fewer employees, the Connecticut Trade and Industry Associations found that 90% had applied for a PPP loan. Sixty-three percent of respondents say the money will help them achieve their employee retention goals. Another third were unsure.

Blumenthal agrees with the GOP’s goal of boosting the small business loan program, but says hospitals and state governments also need more money.

The CBIA survey also determined that 75% of these applications are still pending.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said “there is a real concern” that the $350 billion approved for the small business loan program “is insufficient.”

While Democrats like Blumenthal agree with Republicans that the program should be increased by $250 billion, they are also seeking new regulations that would require half of that money, $125 billion, to be made available to small lenders. community, minority depository institutions and small banks and credit unions with less than $10 billion in consolidated assets.

The latest federal stimulus package, called the CARES Act, also provided the Connecticut state government about $1.5 billion to help cover crisis expenses.

Blumenthal said the $1.5 billion allocated to Connecticut “is barely enough to cover a fraction of the state’s needs.”

Blumenthal said he supports Democrats’ efforts to boost state money by an additional $150 billion and an additional $100 billion for hospitals.

The Democratic proposal would also increase food stamp benefits by 15% and permanently derail President Donald Trump’s attempts to impose new work requirements on some adult beneficiaries, now on hold during the coronavirus crisis, and other relief plans. administration to restrict enrollment in the program. It would likely be a “poison pill” that could prevent Trump from backing the package.

Senator Richard Blumenthal visited a mobile pantry that was running out of food. More federal money to help is “mission critical,” he said.

Passing legislation in the House or Senate without calling back lawmakers in Washington DC requires unanimous consent, which is difficult to achieve even when party leaders have agreed to a deal. This is currently not the case.

On the Senate floor on Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., accused Democrats of treating “working Americans like political hostages” by refusing to add more money to the program paycheck protection unless the package adds money for hospitals, state governments and the food stamp program.

“Please don’t block emergency aid that you don’t even object to just because you want something more,” he said.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., responded that McConnell was performing “a complete political stunt” by offering a “do it alone, take it or leave it” proposal that was designed to fail.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, told reporters Thursday that she is committed to a program that helps vulnerable people as well as small businesses.

“We made our statement,” Pelosi said. “There is a disparity in access to capital in our country. We don’t want this coronavirus tragedy to exacerbate that disparity, or the sclerosis. »

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