Congress reaches deal on $450 billion package to help small businesses, sources say


By Manu Raju and Clare Foran, CNN

Updated 12:53 PM ET, Tue April 21, 2020

Congressional negotiations have reached a deal on a bill that includes hundreds of billions of dollars in new funding for small businesses hurt by the coronavirus outbreak, three sources familiar tell CNN.

The text of the bill should be unveiled as soon as Tuesday afternoon as the two sides give the deal a final read. Lawmakers will try to pass it in the Senate at 4 p.m. ET when the chamber convenes for a pro forma session.

Negotiators had been racing to reach a deal to secure small business relief before the Senate convenes Tuesday afternoon, but a dispute over how to handle Covid-19 testing had earlier held up an agreement.

Despite optimistic comments from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer that he believed there was a deal, apart from finalizing some details, one major issue that had not yet been resolved earlier in the day had been whether to create a national testing strategy.

In the deal, there’s $25 billion for testing, with $11 billion given to the states. The rest of the money will be given to other entities, including federal agencies, to invest in promising new technologies and to distribute to labs.

Democrats have been pushing for additional language to bolster the federal role in overseeing and coordinating testing and to create a specific national strategy, but Republicans have pushed back as President Donald Trump has said that the states need to take a lead.

The Senate comes back into a pro forma session at 4 p.m., which will give lawmakers an opportunity to pass a deal by unanimous consent, meaning most senators would not need to return to DC during the pandemic.

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Schumer said earlier on Tuesday that he believes the roughly $450 billion relief package could be passed in the Senate as soon as Tuesday afternoon.

“There is still a few more i’s to dot and t’s to cross, but we have a deal. And I believe we’ll pass it today,” he told CNN’s John Berman.

Outstanding concepts may have been agreed to late Monday night, but the actual legislative language had not yet been finalized.

Schumer told CNN that he, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin negotiated over the phone “well past midnight” Monday and “came to an agreement on just about every issue.”

Of the $310 billion for the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, $125 billion will be sent “exclusively to the unbanked, to the minorities, to the rural areas, and to all of those little mom and pop stores that don’t have a good banking connection and need the help,” Schumer said.

According to Schumer, the deal also includes $30 billion for national coronavirus testing and another $75 billion for hospitals.

What won’t be in the bill, he acknowledged, is more money for states and localities, which Democrats pushed hard for.

“But we did get a commitment from the White House that they would be able to use those funds for lost revenues,” Schumer told CNN.

Schumer said Democrats will fight for more state and localities funding in a separate relief package in the future.

The Trump administration and lawmakers have been under pressure to replenish the Paycheck Protection Program after it ran out of funds last week. The SBA said it had approved over 1.66 million loans for more than $342 billion.

But a main gripe with the program has been that banks prioritized their existing customers and large restaurants, which received millions in loans from the PPP, leaving many small businesses without access to the funds intended to keep their operations afloat.

This story has been updated with additional developments Tuesday.

CNN’s Veronica Stracqualursi, Ted Barrett, Lauren Fox, Phil Mattingly and Alicia Wallace contributed to this report.