US Congress strikes $484bn deal to fund small business

The White House and congressional leaders have reached a deal on a $484bn stimulus package that includes more than $300bn to replenish the depleted small-business rescue fund.

The bill was passed by the Republican-controlled Senate on Tuesday afternoon and heads to the Democrat-controlled House for approval, following more than a week of intense negotiations between Republican and Democratic lawmakers, and the White House. 

Republicans had initially asked for a bill that would provide $250bn to replenish the PPP. Democrats had demanded that the bill include funding for hospitals and states and local governments.

In addition to $320bn for replenishing the Paycheck Protection Program — the loan programme to help US small businesses during the crisis — the bill will also include $75bn for hospitals and $25bn for expanded coronavirus testing.

Of the new funds to replenish PPP, $60bn will be allocated to small lenders and community-based financial institutions — a key demand from Democrats.

The legislation also provides another $60bn in grants and loans for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan programme, which provides disaster loans to communities and small-businesses, that are funded directly by the Small Business Administration. 

While Democrats failed to secure extra funding for the states, and an expanded food stamps programme, to help feed underprivileged Americans, they cheered the resulting legislation, arguing that they had managed to extract key concessions from Republicans.

“Because of our work, this agreement will include an additional $100 billion in healthcare funding,” Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, said on Tuesday.

“These added provisions will give crucial support for the understaffed and overwhelmed hospitals and healthcare providers around the country, many of which have yet to see the worst of this pandemic.”

Mr Schumer called the agreement “the result of bipartisan negotiations” with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the Trump administration, and Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also portrayed the legislation as a win.

“Republicans have always supported more medical funding as soon as necessary.” McConnell said in a statement.

“I welcome this bipartisan agreement and hope the Senate will quickly pass it once members have reviewed the final text. I am just sorry that it took my colleagues in Democratic leadership 12 days to accept the inevitable, and that they shut down emergency support for Main Street in a search for partisan ‘leverage’ that never materialised.”

On Tuesday afternoon, President Donald Trump tweeted that he “urge[d]” Congress to pass the legislation, adding: “After I sign this Bill, we will begin discussions on the next Legislative Initiative with fiscal relief to State/Local Governments for lost revenues from COVID 19, much needed Infrastructure Investments for Bridges, Tunnels, Broadband, Tax Incentives for Restaurants, Entertainment, Sports, and Payroll Tax Cuts to increase Economic Growth.”

A House vote on the bill is expected later this week, with Mr Trump expected to sign the bill soon after. 

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