WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Democrats and Republicans are near agreement on approving extra money to help small businesses hurt by the coronavirus pandemic and could seal a deal as early as Monday, President Donald Trump said, despite hopes for a deal on Sunday.
U.S. President Donald Trump attends the daily coronavirus disease (COVID-19) task force briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 19, 2020. REUTERS/Al Drago
Trump told his daily White House briefing on the crisis that Republicans were “close” to getting a deal with Democrats, and suggested there could be a resolution on Monday.
“A lot of good work has been going on. We could have an answer tomorrow,” the Republican president said.
Earlier on Sunday, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer had said he hoped a deal could be reached Sunday evening although he cautioned that many issues remained.
An agreement would end a stalemate over Trump’s request to add $250 billion to a small-business loan program established last month as part of a $2.3 trillion coronavirus economic relief plan. That fund has already been exhausted.
Democratic leaders want more money for small businesses but with additional safeguards to ensure that credit reaches businesses in underserved communities. They also sought more funds for state and local governments and hospitals, as well as food aid for the poor.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told senators on a conference call on Sunday that additional funding Democrats wanted for state and local governments or food for the poor would not be in the package
Congress plans to take up another major coronavirus relief measure after the small-business fund is replenished. And Democratic Senator Bob Menendez and Republican Senator Bill Cassidy announced on Sunday they would formally introduce legislation to create a $500 billion fund to help state and local governments respond to the crisis.
GOVERNORS SPARRING WITH TRUMP
The United States has by far the world’s largest number of confirmed coronavirus cases, with more than 750,000 infections and over 40,000 deaths. State governors are sparring with Trump over when to reopen their economies.
Governors of hard-hit states have said they need more federal funding for increased testing and to cope with the pandemic’s effect on their budgets.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said his state faced a budget deficit of up to $15 billion, which could spell cuts in funding for schools and hospitals.
“You have the president saying 15 times, ‘It’s up to the governors, it’s up to the governors, it’s up to the governors.’ And then they’re going to pass a piece of legislation that gives you know what to states? Zero,” Cuomo, a Democrat, said at his daily coronavirus briefing.
Trump, who praised Cuomo at his briefing, said Vice President Mike Pence would lead a call with all 50 state governors on Monday to talk about further coronavirus aid.
Mnuchin said on CNN the deal being discussed with Congress would include a further $300 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program loan program for small businesses, after the initial $350 billion was exhausted on Thursday.
He said there would be $75 billion allocated to hospitals and a $25 billion federal program “that can be used with the states with new technology to invest in testing.”
About $50 billion would be added to the Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster loan fund, another program to help small businesses, Mnuchin said.
Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, told ABC’s “This Week” she wanted to help police and fire departments, teachers, healthcare workers and hospitals. She also said Democrats wanted to ensure the money was reaching “all of America’s small businesses.”
More than 25% of the $350 billion already allocated went to fewer than 2% of the firms that got relief, and they included a number of publicly traded companies with thousands of employees, highly paid executives and hundreds of millions of dollars in annual sales.
Reporting by Nandita Bose, Lindsay Dunsmuir, Susan Cornwell and Doina Chiacu in Washington; Additional reporting by Gabriela Borter and Barbara Goldberg in New York and Patricia Zengerle in Washington; Writing by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Grant McCool, Peter Cooney and Cynthia Osterman