Coronavirus: Democrats want to double Trump's $250bn relief package

While Trump and Republicans want $250bn for small business relief, Democrats seek an additional $250bn to expand money to states and hospitals, bolster food stamp benefits

Griffin Connolly
Wednesday 08 April 2020 16:51 BST
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Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer want to infuse the government with an additional $500bn in another coronavirus relief package, doubling the $250bn request from the White House and Republicans on Capitol Hill.

“The heartbreaking acceleration of the coronavirus crisis demands bold, urgent and ongoing action from Congress to protect Americans’ lives and livelihoods," Ms Pelosi and Mr Schumer said in a joint statement on Wednesday. "As Democrats have said since Day One, Congress must provide additional relief for small businesses and families, building on the strong down-payment made in the bipartisan CARES Act," they said, referring to the roughly $2.2trn package passed last month to boost the economy and provide states and other medical agencies much-needed money for supplies.

Right now, Donald Trump and lawmakers from both parties agree on just one aspect of the next bill: providing $250bn to the Treasury Department's Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP) that has already loaned small businesses billions of dollars over the last two weeks.

But that's where the agreement ends.

In their statement Monday, Pelosi and Schumer said Democrats will negotiate for:

  • $125bn of that $250bn for small businesses to be channeled through "community-based financial institutions" that serve certain groups of American business owners, including farmers, women, minorities, and veterans.
  • $100bn for hospitals and community health centers and systems, which will go toward production and distribution of national rapid testing and personal protective equipment (PPE) such as face masks.
  • a $150bn package for state and local governments to help them manage the crisis at the local level and "mitigate lost revenue."
  • a 15 per cent increase in food stamps for the poorest recipients of the welfare benefit.​

“After we pass this interim emergency legislation, Congress will move to pass a CARES 2 Act" that builds more fully on the $2.2trn package from March, Pelosi and Schumer said.

Republicans have spent most of the last two weeks in relative silence on the contours of follow-up coronavirus relief legislation, and appeared to catch Democrats off-guard with their sudden proposal for $250bn more for the PPP program that facilitates loans to small businesses.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is trying to ram a bill that provides just that — and not anything else on the Democrats' priorities list —through the Senate on Thursday, though it's unclear whether Democrats will cooperate with the more limited version of the interim bill without Mr McConnell acceding to some of their demands.

Republican deficit hawks such as Senators Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky, as well as Congressman Thomas Massie of Kentucky, could threaten to delay quick passage of any legislative agreement the parties reach.

Mr Massie, who forced more than 100 House members to return to Washington in March to vote in person on the $2.2trn package, does not appear to be a fan of the structure of PPP, the small business relief program.

"If the expected default rate for a federal loan program is 100%, is it appropriate to call it a loan program?" the Kentucky Republican tweeted on Wednesday, referring to the fact that all PPP loans are forgiven up to 100 per cent as long as the small businesses who receive the loans retain certain payroll benchmarks.

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