The White House and congressional leaders have agreed on a new $470 billion pandemic relief plan with funds for a tapped-out small business aid program and aid for coronavirus testing and overwhelmed hospitals. President Donald Trump said he’d sign the measure and begin discussions on a next round of stimulus.
The Senate passed the measure Tuesday afternoon by unanimous consent. The House could vote as soon as Thursday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said.
The new package would provide $310 billion to replenish the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses, which was part of the $2 trillion stimulus approved late last month and ran out of money last week.
Several trade groups, including the National Automobile Dealers Association and the American International Automobile Dealers Association, advocated more funding for the program and sent a letter to Congress last week asking it to “act expeditiously” to assure the program has the resources it needs to help the country’s small-business economy through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Trump in a tweet urged Congress to approve the package, adding, “After I sign this Bill, we will begin discussions on the next Legislative Initiative with fiscal relief to State/Local Governments for lost revenues” and other spending.
Passage would allow the government to take new applicants for the Paycheck Protection Program which provides forgivable loans to small business that keep employees on the payroll for eight weeks. Of the new funds, $60 billion would be set aside for smaller financial institutions.
In addition, the plan includes: $60 billion in loans and grants for a separate Economic Injury Disaster Loan program; $75 billion for hospitals, with a significant portion aimed at those in rural areas; $25 billion for virus testing.
One of the final sticking points was language on how the new testing program would be run.
Pelosi said on CNN Monday night that there was an agreement on the principles of the aid package and that negotiations were “down to the fine print.”
Pelosi and her leadership team have sent members notices there will be an 11 a.m. Wednesday caucus call to go over the emergency funding measure.
Democrats had blocked a bill almost two weeks ago that would have added $250 billion to the small business aid plan without the extra money for other programs. Republicans hammered Democrats for the move, but Democrats argued that more hospital funds were needed amid the Covid-19 pandemic even if all previous funds hadn’t yet been spent.
Ultimately, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin decided to strike a bipartisan deal with Pelosi and Schumer by acceding to some of their demands. Democrats had also sought $150 billion for state and local governments, but Republicans rejected that proposal.
Trump said on Twitter that a further funding measure should include aid to state and local governments as well as “much needed Infrastructure Investments for Bridges, Tunnels, Broadband, Tax Incentives for Restaurants, Entertainment, Sports, and Payroll Tax Cuts to increase Economic Growth.”