Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Tuesday he was directed by President Donald Trump to call on congressional leaders to secure an additional $250 billion in relief funding to small businesses to cope with the pandemic.
Mnuchin, the Trump administration’s chief negotiator on the previous rescue bill, said he spoke with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) “to secure an additional $250 billion for the #PPPLoan program to make sure small businesses get the money they need!”
The Paycheck Protection Program, which is part of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, gives businesses low-interest loans of about 2.5 times their average monthly payroll. The loans will be fully or partially forgiven if businesses show that the money was used to retain or rehire employees and pay some overhead expenses through June 30.
Mnuchin’s statement comes after McConnell said he too would be seeking additional funds for small business relief.
“Jobs are literally being saved as we speak,” McConnell said in a statement Tuesday, referring to the surge in takeup of the $349 billion available to small businesses as part of the program.
“In just a few days, this program has become overwhelmingly popular,” he said. “Thanks to the hard work of small businesses and lenders, billions of dollars have already landed and tens of billions more are already in the pipeline.”
Businesses have been hit hard by forced shutdowns and dropoff in demand as stay-at-home orders across the country disrupt behavior and consumption patterns. Nearly 10 million Americans have filed for unemployment in the past two weeks, which McConnell called “a record-shattering tragedy.”
Now, demand for the relief funds threatens to outstrip supply, McConnell said.
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told Politico that there were already “$50 billion in loan commitments” and 178,000 loans being processed.
“If the demand is that high, which I would regard as a good thing because we just want to get folks through this tough period, why not ask for more money?” he told the outlet, echoing McConnell’s position on more funding.
“Congress needs to quickly provide more funding or this crucial program will run dry. That cannot happen,” McConnell said, calling for lawmakers to “act with speed and total focus to provide more money for this uncontroversial bipartisan program.”
But while McConnell called for lawmakers to act quickly, he cautioned against padding new legislation with pet spending projects.
“As the administration works to implement this historic legislation and push money out the door, Senate Republicans believe any potential further action will need to be tailored to the actual needs of our nation, not plucked off preexisting partisan wish lists,” he said.
Pelosi said in March that free testing for the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as novel coronavirus, could be in the next bill that Congress takes up, in addition to treatment for those who test positive for COVID-19, the disease the virus causes.
“There are so many things we didn’t get in any of these bills yet in a way that we need to,” she told reporters.
Pelosi has also called for bolstering the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for workers, a 15 percent increase in food stamps, and more money sent to state and local governments.
In a statement to CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Pelosi said it’s important the small business loan program isn’t administered in a way that “solidifies inequality.”
According to The Wall Street Journal, Senate Democrats were not explicit when asked by reporters whether they would threaten to block small business funding as a way of including their priorities in the next relief package.
Schumer was cited by the WSJ as specifying that “one of our very highest priorities” would be a provision boosting pay for essential workers, which includes transit workers, grocery clerks, health care staff, and others.
McConnell said he would seek to get the additional funds passed on Thursday.
“I will work with Leader Schumer and hope to approve further funding for the Paycheck Protection Program by unanimous consent or voice vote during the next scheduled Senate session on Thursday,” McConnell said.