President Trump on Friday signed a $484 billion bill to provide additional funding to a small business lending program and to aid hospitals reeling under the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and expansion of coronavirus testing as the death toll from the disease in the United States has crossed 50,000.
The legislation sets aside $310 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program, which ensures that small businesses can continue to pay employees and cover costs during this global health crisis, and $75 billion for healthcare providers and $25 billion for coronavirus testing.
“I want to thank Congress for answering my call to pass this critical funding,” Trump said after signing the bill in the Oval Office, according to The Hill. The funding to replenish the PPP would help “keep millions of Americans on the payroll,” he said. “Great for small businesses, great for the workers.”
Out of the $310 billion provided for the PPP, $60 billion is for smaller businesses without existing banking relationships. And $25 billion for testing includes $11 billion for states.
The relief package comes after nearly weeklong negotiations between Republicans and Democrats.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, backed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Republicans, had asked for an additional $250 billion for the PPP. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wanted an expansion of funding to hospitals, nutrition programs, and state and local governments.
The PPP program, launched earlier this month, reached its lending limit within two weeks after approving nearly $1.7 million loans. The new funding will now ensure that millions of Americans will stay on the payroll.
Over the past five weeks, about 26 million people have filed for jobless aid, or about one in six U.S. workers, according to The Associated Press.
Pelosi blamed McConnell for delaying the bill, for which Fox News anchor Bret Baier criticized her.
“Let’s just set the record straight here. There was a clean bill that once they found out that the small business pot was going to be dry, there was a clean bill to put more money in it,” Baier said, according to Daily Wire. “Nancy Pelosi did not go forward with that, period, the end, stop there,” Baier added.
“So yes, they wanted to do other things, Democrats did,” the anchor continued. “But to have an answer that says that it was Mitch McConnell who delayed is really political jujitsu. And you have to have somebody that pushes back and says, wait a second, in that time that there was a delay, there are X number of small businesses around the country that had to make the decision, ‘I have not gotten the money, so I have to let these people go.’”
Baier concluded, “So when the number goes up 4.4 million on unemployment, there is a reason that it goes up that way. And that delay is part of it.”
On Monday, the leaders of nine evangelical and Catholic organizations signed on to a letter sent to Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., chair of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, calling on him and other lawmakers working to pass the second relief package to correct a Small Business Administration interim rule that disqualifies people with certain criminal records from accessing the emergency, low-interest, and in some cases forgivable loans made available by the CARES Act.
“Each year, more than 600,000 state and federal prisoners are released and face significant barriers to successful re-entry — including occupational licensing and meaningful employment,” the letter stated. “Small businesses provide a vital opportunity for those with a criminal record to contribute to society, to earn an honest profit, and to give back to others.”
Under the interim SBA rule, business owners with certain criminal records or those who are subject to judicial proceedings are denied access to the benefits that the program provides. Faith leaders warned that denying loans to business owners because of their criminal history not only hurts them but also hurts their employees.
“An estimated one in three Americans has a criminal record,” the letter read. “Because so many employment barriers exist for people with a criminal record, many start their own business to support themselves and their families. The exclusions listed in the aforementioned rule are far too broad and endanger the economic welfare of people with a criminal record — and the Americans they employ.”