Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) issued a joint warning to Republican legislators to “stop posturing” on coronavirus relief measures, even though Democrats have stalled a much-needed influx of cash for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) over demands for diversity programs and targeted handouts.
The pair of Democrat leaders issued a joint statement Monday excoriating Republicans for holding up much-needed relief funds and demanding that the GOP come to the bargaining table on so-called “interim” assistance measure rather than focusing on a clean PPP bill.
“We have real problems facing this country, and it’s time for the Republicans to quit the political posturing by proposing bills they know will not pass either chamber and get serious and work with us towards a solution,” Pelosi and Schumer said, per the Hill.
The disagreement stems directly from the PPP add-on bill, which would inject an additional $250 billion into the $350 billion program designed to provide low- and diminishing-interest loans to businesses with less than 500 employees affected by coronavirus-related lockdowns. Even though the program has been in operation just over a week, banks like JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo report that they’re out of funds and have already closed their application windows.
Democrats don’t want a “clean” PPP bill, however, and are demanding a much larger relief package, with $100 billion for hospitals and $150 billion in funding to state and city governments, with an eye to boosting government-sponsored food aid programs.
They also want guarantees that minority- and female-owned businesses can jump to the front of the line for some of the PPP loans, creating a further government hurdle for small businesses looking for help.
Pelosi and Schumer were, at least, finally willing to acknowledge that the PPP is in serious trouble. Just last week, Pelosi told her weekly press conference that there was “no data” to support the idea that the fund was being swiftly depleted.
“Small businesses, hospitals, frontline workers and state and local governments across the country are struggling to keep up with this national crisis. They need more help from the federal government and they need it fast. … While the Trump Administration struggles to figure out how to distribute the funds provided for in the CARES Act, it’s clear that those appropriated amounts will not be enough to cover the tremendous need,” Pelosi and Schumer said in the statement.
“Further changes must also be made to the SBA’s [Small Business Administration] assistance initiative, as many eligible small businesses continue to be excluded from the Paycheck Protection Program by big banks with significant lending capacity,” Pelosi and Schumer said.
The Monday statement added an additional request for a handout for coronavirus testing and for personal protective equipment.
“We all desire an end to the shutdown orders so we can get Americans back to work and back to normal,” Pelosi and Schumer say. “However, there is still not enough testing available to realistically allow that to happen.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the force behind the clean PPP expansion, answered his colleagues simply but firmly: “We will continue to seek a clean PPP funding increase. We hope our Democratic colleagues familiarize themselves with the facts and the data before the program runs dry.”