Democrats Float $500 Billion In New Aid

Apr 8, 2020

The top Democrats in Congress Wednesday proposed pushing the next round of economic stimulus to $500 billion, double what the Trump administration and GOP leaders are seeking.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin asked Congress Tuesday to add $250 billion to a program for small businesses, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement Wednesday that they also want $100 billion for hospitals and $150 billion for state and local governments. Democrats are also calling for a 15% increase in nutrition assistance for the needy.

The next stimulus package “must provide transformational relief as the American people weather this assault on their lives and livelihoods,” the Democratic leaders said. “The American people need to know that their government is there for them in their time of great need.”

The Democrats’ counteroffer could complicate an attempt by the administration and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to approve additional funds by the end of the week for the $350 billion Paycheck Protection Program for small companies. Republican Senator Marco Rubio said on Twitter that McConnell took a procedural step to have the $250 billion in additional aid passed by a voice vote on Thursday, which wouldn’t require most lawmakers to return to Washington.

Doug Andres, a spokesman for McConnell, declined to comment about his plans for voting as soon as tomorrow and did not respond to a question about whether negotiations with Schumer are continuing. McConnell has said he plans to move a measure by unanimous consent, so any objection from Senate Democrats would block the effort.

Mnuchin on Wednesday said he still hopes Congress will approve the additional funds quickly.

“I want to assure all small businesses out there, we will not run out of money,” Mnuchin said in a CNBC interview. “We hope they pass this tomorrow and Friday. And we want to assure everybody, if you don’t get a loan next week, you’ll get a loan next week or the following week. The money will be there.”

President Donald Trump said that as of Tuesday the Small Business Administration had processed $70 billion in guaranteed loans, “which is far greater than we would have ever thought.”

Mnuchin said previously that he’d spoken with Pelosi and Schumer as well as McConnell and House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy about quickly securing the money.

Pelosi said Tuesday she supported providing additional funding but didn’t commit to seeking quick approval without additional conditions. The speaker is scheduled to hold a conference call with House Democrats and Vice President Mike Pence at 1 p.m. Wednesday.

That program “needs money right away, we know that,” Pelosi said on CNN Tuesday. But she said the government doesn’t have data so far on who is receiving the money. Democrats want to make sure the program is benefiting everyone who qualifies for it, she said.

“So we have certain considerations if we need to go forward with that,” Pelosi said without elaborating.

Under the Democrats’ proposal Wednesday, half of the small business assistance -- or $125 billion -- would be channeled through community-based financial institutions that serve farmers, family, women, minority and veteran-owned companies.

Businesses have rushed to tap the $350 billion loan program that was part of the massive $2.2 trillion stimulus passed by Congress in response to the economic crisis spawned by the coronavirus pandemic.

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