Senate Democrats blocked an emergency measure designed to inject an additional $250 billion into a swiftly depleting fund to bolster Americans small businesses Thursday, telling Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) that they want “add-ons to help businesses in disadvantaged communities and additional funding for states and hospitals” in addition to the extra funding.
The news comes amid a Department of Labor report showing an astounding 10% of the American workforce has now applied for unemployment insurance and concerns that small businesses are rapidly running out of survival time, especially as most states have now extended coronavirus-related lockdowns until the end of April.
Originally, an emergency coronavirus relief measure, negotiated by the Senate, featured a $350 billion fund for small businesses, but demand has far exceeded supply, leaving Republicans begging Democrats to help pass an emergency cash infusion to save American entrepreneurs.
The measure is designed to expand the Paycheck Protection Act, which “helps businesses with under 500 employees apply for loans up to cover eight weeks of their payroll, benefit and rent expenses. The loans will be converted to grants and fully forgiven if 75% of the loan is used to keep employees on the payroll,” per Fox News.
The program is “on track to be depleted” by the end of this month.
“The extra funding is being sought amid concerns that the original $350 billion program to help businesses stay afloat during coronavirus pandemic could run dry in the near future in the face of an enormous demand,” Fox News reports. “McConnell pleaded with Democrats to pass a measure that would change the funding for the program from $350 billion to $600 billion total in a ‘clean’ emergency measure.”
Since the Senate is in recess and most Members are in their home districts, sheltering in place to avoid spreading the coronavirus, McConnell had hoped to get the measure passed with a small group of in-town Senators, and by unanimous consent.
Democrats likely sensed an opportunity to pass additional funding for pet projects. Unsurprisingly, they say their package will cost “double” what Republicans are asking.
“Democrats say they’ve got a better plan, and want additional provisions and protections to help businesses in disadvantaged communities,” Fox News adds. “Their proposal would cost roughly double the Republicans’ and include additional funding for hospitals and local governments.”
McConnell was left incensed.
“This does not have to be nor should it be contentious,” he said, adding that lawmakers who want greater handouts to “disadvantaged communities” can include that in the fourth coronavirus relief bill, currently being drafted by the House of Representatives.
“To my Democratic colleagues, please do not block emergency aid you do not even oppose just because you want something more,” he added. “The country cannot afford unnecessary wrangling or political maneuvering.”
Democrats contended that McConnell’s plan was a “stunt” and that, while the measure might have passed the Senate by unanimous consent, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) wasn’t about to allow it through the House without significant debate, particularly given that she has her own relief plan on the agenda for when Congress returns to work in three weeks.