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21 Apr, 2020 21:07

Small businesses relief unlocked as Senate agrees on $250bn PPP Covid-19 expansion held up by Democrats

Small businesses relief unlocked as Senate agrees on $250bn PPP Covid-19 expansion held up by Democrats

The program to help small businesses impacted by coronavirus lockdowns will be replenished a week after running out of cash, after Democrats agreed to unblock it in exchange for $200 billion extra for hospitals and testing.

The Senate voted to approve the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) on Tuesday afternoon, pouring another $250 billion into the $350 billion fund that ran out of money last week due to high demand. The House of Representatives is now expected to convene for a vote on the package sometime this week.

In addition to replenishing the PPP funding, the $484 billion bill includes $60 billion in additional Economic Injury Disaster Loans for small businesses, $75 billion for hospitals and healthcare providers, and $25 billion for coronavirus testing, among other things. 

Republicans had asked for a clean reauthorization of the original PPP, but Democrats refused, demanding additional funding for their own policy priorities. The GOP leadership made it clear they were not against increasing aid to hospitals or state and local governments, but wanted it passed separately, as the PPP was running out of money.

Similar concerns also caused the delay of the original $2 trillion CARES Act, delaying aid to both businesses and citizens who found themselves without income due to lockdowns the opposition party has insisted on maintaining in the name of public health.

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These tactics have caused some Republican lawmakers to denounce the Democrats as holding American small businesses hostage. The “PPP wasn’t designed to be a Hunger Games battle for limited [money],“tweeted Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) on Tuesday. When the CARES Act was passed, everyone agreed it would be replenished – only for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to turn that into political leverage.

Meanwhile, Democrat pundits were saying the bill didn’t go far enough in funding the party’s laundry list of priorities, but “got a lot better and was worth the week or so,” as Obamacare czar Andy Slavitt put it.

The most recent unemployment figures showed more than 22 million Americans out of work as a result of Covid-19 lockdowns across the country. The economic impact of the shutdown has sparked protests in several states, putting pressure on governors to reopen for business as soon as possible.

More than 814,000 cases of Covid-19 have been registered in the US, with almost 44,000 fatalities – though New York City alone accounted for 14,000 of them. 

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