Pelosi and Schumer Push for Billions More in Aid

Pelosi and Schumer Push for Billions More in Aid

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Plus, reopen the country in May?
Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Pelosi and Schumer Want Billions More for Hospitals, States, Food Aid

With the Trump administration seeking another $250 billion for small businesses struggling during the coronavirus crisis, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer said Wednesday that they would like to include hundreds of billions more in a relief package that could pass as early as this week.

In a joint statement, the Democratic leaders called for more than $250 billion in additional funds, above and beyond the new money for small businesses, in the next round of relief:

  • $100 billion for hospitals, community health centers and health systems;
  • $150 billion for state and local governments struggling with increased demand for services even as revenues plummet;
  • a 15% increase in the maximum benefit in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Pelosi and Schumer also said they would seek new rules for the small business assistance program, including a requirement that half of the new small business funds, or $125 billion, be distributed “through community-based financial institutions that serve farmers, family, women, minority and veteran-owned small businesses and nonprofits in rural, tribal, suburban and urban communities across our country.”

The political calculus: The Democrats’ demands are something of a political gamble, says The Washington Post’s Erica Werner, as they look to make a deal with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: “It was unclear whether McConnell intended to accept any of the Democrats’ demands or would push forward with trying to pass the $250 billion increase for small businesses by unanimous consent on Thursday, daring Democrats to object.” Schumer has not indicated whether he would hold up the boost for small businesses, which comes on top of the $350 billion already allocated to them in the $2 trillion relief package, if McConnell fails to include the additional funds Democrats are seeking.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told Politico Wednesday that he thought the two sides could make a deal. "I don’t think we’re that far apart in some respects,” Hoyer said. “McConnell is apparently only doing what the administration asked him to do and I think he is also, to some degree, playing chicken."

More relief to come, at some point: However the small business package plays out, Pelosi and Schumer made it clear that are pursuing another large aid package: “After we pass this interim emergency legislation, Congress will move to pass a CARES 2 Act that will extend and expand the bipartisan CARES Act to meet the needs of the American people."

Republicans warned Tuesday, however, that the next round of comprehensive relief could take weeks to negotiate. “There’s not as much urgency to doing a 4.0 right now,” a Republican aide told The Hill, referring to a fourth relief bill. “[I]t’s not like the market is saying, ‘Oh my God, when is 4.0 coming?’”

Small Business Aid Program Struggles

Small business owners have rushed to get their hands on the $350 billion in aid already provided by Congres in the $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill, but the program has been beset by technical glitches and confusion over its rules and requirements since it launched last Friday.

The program is being administered by the Small Business Administration, with banks throughout the country acting as conduits for the funds, but the SBA isn’t really equipped to handle the sheer size of the new program. According to The New York Times, the SBA typically backs about $30 billion in loans per year – the same amount the agency is now being asked to handle in a single day.

Big banks have talked about the huge volumes of loans they have approved in the past few days and President Trump said $70 billion in loans have been processed, but smaller banks have complained about the online system crashing repeatedly, and few small businesses have reported receiving money. The administration “has not released the amount that has gone out from banks to businesses,” CNBC’s Kate Rogers tweeted Wednesday. “We continue to ask.”

Patrick Ryan, the chief executive of First Bank in New Jersey, told the Times that the “expectation that this $2 trillion package would go through Congress and that the money would be flowing three days later, that was never a realistic expectation.”

Why it matters: Time is of the essence as small businesses run out of cash. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said applicants could “walk into a bank ... and get money,” but so far that has not been the case. Despite the initial problems, though, bankers continue to express confidence that the money will start flowing soon as the system works out the kinks. “We want to assure everybody if you don’t get a loan this week, you’ll get a loan next week or the following week,” Mnuchin told CNBC Wednesday. “The money will be there.”

Number of the Day: $490 Million

That’s how much the federal government will pay General Motors to produce 30,000 ventilators, according to The Washington Post Wednesday. The company will start manufacturing the machines next week at a plant in Kokomo, Indiana, although it doesn’t expect to complete the order until August, well past the projected peak demand time for the life-saving devices. GM said it would sell the ventilators at cost.

Quote of the Day

“Realistically, COVID-19 will be here for the next 18 months or more. We will not be able to return to normalcy until we find a vaccine or effective medications. I know that's dreadful news to hear. How are people supposed to find work if this goes on in some form for a year and a half? Is all that economic pain worth trying to stop COVID-19? The truth is we have no choice.”

– Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, an oncologist at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School and one of the architects of the Affordable Care Act, in an interview with MSNBC’s on Lawrence O'Donnell.

The Trump administration is taking a very different position on the possible end of the coronavirus, with reports Wednesday that the White House is working on plans to “reopen” the county as soon as next month. "Once we OPEN UP OUR GREAT COUNTRY, and it will be sooner rather than later, the horror of the Invisible Enemy, except for those that sadly lost a family member or friend, must be quickly forgotten. Our Economy will BOOM, perhaps like never before!!!" President Trump tweeted Wednesday.

RIP, John Prine.

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