Lawmakers haggling over a bill to replenish a small business relief fund that ran dry last week may be back in the same position in a matter of days.
Bankers responsible for doling out federal loans to small businesses amid the coronavirus pandemic are warning that a fresh cash infusion to the relief fund may run out in as little as two days, according to Politico. The Paycheck Protection Program, as the aid fund is called, ran out of its initial $350 billion allocation on Thursday.
“This is going to go within, at most, 72 hours,” Consumer Bankers Association President Richard Hunt said, referring to the $300 billion infusion in the current draft of the bill. “But the odds are more like 48 hours.”
Banking industry representatives say that the program burned through its initial cash at a rate of $50 billion per day and that the PPP needs about $1 trillion to meet the demand of hundreds of thousands of pending applications for emergency loans. American Bankers Association executive vice president James Ballentine is warning lawmakers that the next round of loans will be approved even faster as banks have become comfortable with the program’s loan process and have continued to work with small businesses on their applications while the fund has sat dry.
Democratic lawmakers blocked GOP attempts to replenish the PPP late last week and early this week. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have forced Republican leaders into extended bargaining sessions to secure funding earmarked just for businesses owned by minorities, women, and other groups. Democrats are also pushing to get more federal funding for state and local governments amid the pandemic.
“We cannot let minority-owned small businesses fall through the cracks of the Paycheck Protection Program. I joined my colleagues this week calling for data transparency on small business loans to make sure that people of color aren’t being shut out from help during a pandemic,” Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) tweeted on Saturday.
On Sunday, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) slammed Pelosi for holding up the funding for the PPP, which was designed to keep small businesses from going under while widespread stay-at-home orders keep them from operating.
“I always like to say that the Democrats who are holding this up, realize you’re not negatively impacting businesses, as much as you’re negatively impacting people’s ability to pay their rent, to pay their utilities, to feed their kids,” Scott said in an interview with Fox News. “This is a serious situation, that we shouldn’t have a lapse in funding for the PPP program. We should tell Ms. Nancy Pelosi, please give us our paychecks. People need their paychecks. And stop holding it hostage in order to do something else.”
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