Congress Rushes to Seal Deal to Replenish Small Business Relief Program


“There’s still a few more i’s to dot and t’s to cross,” Mr. Schumer said, “but we have a deal.”

Congressional aides warned that final text had not been agreed to, even as lawmakers voiced optimism that a deal could be reached within hours. Even if the Senate were able to approve the legislation on Tuesday, the House would not take action on the measure until Thursday morning to allow lawmakers time to return to Washington for a recorded vote.

In the two weeks since Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, first requested an expedited infusion of $250 billion to shore up the newly created loan program for distressed small businesses, funding has lapsed and the program has been unable to process applications for millions of companies. Democrats rejected the administration’s request to pass a stand-alone bill funding the program, which was created last month by the $2.2 trillion stimulus law, and insisted that the money be coupled with additional funds for hospitals, testing and state and local governments.

While negotiators agreed to increase the administration’s original request, it is unclear how long the new funds could sustain the program, which had a rocky rollout that stretched the capacity of the Small Business Administration, the small federal agency overseeing it. It took only 13 days to exhaust the original tranche of $349 billion, which covered more than 1.6 million loans from nearly 5,000 lenders — more than 14 years’ worth of loans typically processed by the agency.

Mr. Schumer, Mr. Mnuchin, Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, spoke after midnight Tuesday in an effort to resolve an impasse over Democrats’ demands for a national testing strategy, as well as whether to allocate funds to state and local governments. Representative Steny H. Hoyer, Democrat of Maryland and the majority leader, said that the funds included in the measure would be divided between state governments and the federal government to expand testing across the country.

“This was not political — this was not something we didn’t think was critically important” Mr. Hoyer said. “If it wasn’t critical, I don’t think the Republicans would’ve agreed.”

“This is a victory for everybody,” he added.

Mr. Schumer also indicated that while there would not be a new round of aid for states and cities in the measure, the White House had agreed to give those governments flexibility in using money allocated in previous coronavirus legislation to help compensate for revenue shortfalls. Mr. Mnuchin and Republican leaders had objected to including more such funding in the interim package, saying it should be part of a future bill.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York criticized the emerging plan because it did not include money for state and local governments. The National Governors Association had called for half a trillion dollars to help counter budgetary shortfalls.



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