Senate passes a $484 billion relief package for small businesses and hospitals.

NYT – April 21, 2020



‘A Stunning Amount Of Money’: Senate Passes Additional Relief Fund

The U.S. Senate on Tuesday unanimously passed legislation providing $484 billion in additional federal aid to help small businesses hurt by the coronavirus pandemic.

We reached a final agreement earlier today. Now there are plenty of disagreements between our parties these days. But once again, we are coming together to pass this legislation by unanimous consent, not a single senator objecting. We negotiated a bill that not only provided support, but made it more effective, more inclusive and addressed other urgent national priorities as well. The legislation before us contains $220 billion more, including funding for small businesses through community financial institutions. New funding for our hospitals and health care system. And a substantial down payment on a national testing regime so desperately needed. My view was that we needed obviously to work together on a bipartisan basis as close as we could to try to develop a rescue package that would make sense for the country. We did that with a $2.2 trillion bill. I would remind everybody there had been two additional coronavirus pandemic related bills before that. And we’ve allocated a stunning amount of money.

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The U.S. Senate on Tuesday unanimously passed legislation providing $484 billion in additional federal aid to help small businesses hurt by the coronavirus pandemic.CreditCredit…Desiree Rios for The New York Times

The Senate on Tuesday passed a $484 billion coronavirus relief package that would replenish a depleted loan program for distressed small businesses and provide funds for hospitals and coronavirus testing, approving yet another huge infusion of federal money to address the public health and economic crisis brought on by the pandemic.

The measure was the product of an intense round of bipartisan negotiations between Democrats and the Trump administration that unfolded as the small business loan program created by the stimulus law quickly ran out of its initial $349 billion in funding. The program ran dry before many companies were able to have their applications approved, collapsing under a glut of appeals from desperate businesses struggling to stay afloat.

The money is just a fraction of the amount that Congress will consider in the weeks to come, as lawmakers contemplate spending another $1 trillion or more on a sweeping government response.

The House is expected to pass the bill on Thursday, and President Trump has indicated he will sign it.

The Senate passed Tuesday’s measure by voice vote — a necessity since most senators were not present because the chamber had been in a prolonged recess — though two Republican senators, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah, spoke against it beforehand.

Mr. Paul, a libertarian, said he had returned to Washington “so that history will record that not everyone gave in to the massive debt Congress is creating” with the multiple rounds of coronavirus relief it had enacted over the past six weeks.

The agreement would provide $320 billion to replenish the Paycheck Protection Program, which offers guarantees for forgivable loans to small businesses if a majority of the money is used to retain employees.

About a fifth of the funding for the small-business loan program, $60 billion, would be set aside for smaller lenders, in line with Democrats’ request to steer resources to businesses that typically have trouble accessing loans.

The bill would also add $60 billion for the Small Business Administration’s disaster relief fund — divided into $50 billion in loans and $10 billion in grants — and farms and other agriculture enterprises would be made eligible. There would also be $75 billion for hospitals and $25 billion for coronavirus testing.

The federal aid has not been sufficient to keep more than 22 million Americans from filing for unemployment. And the first round of loans issued through the small business program bypassed many smaller businesses, who watched their larger competitors get help.

Small restaurants have been particularly hard hit. Now in the second month of compulsory closings, many owners of independent restaurants and bars across the country are starting to despair of getting the help they need to come back.

Shake Shack, a national chain, came under fire this week for taking millions of dollars of stimulus money that was meant to help small businesses. “The intent of this was for businesses that needed the money,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said. “The intent of this money was not for big public companies that have access to capital.”

ACADEMIC SUPPORT – Harvard received federal funds distributed by the Education Department, not those intended for small businesses.

 Mr. Trump lashed out at another recipient of federal aid: Harvard University. The president joined mounting criticism of Harvard’s receipt of $8.6 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act he signed into law on March 27.

“Harvard’s going to pay back the money,” Mr. Trump said at his news briefing. “And they shouldn’t be taking it.”

But Harvard said on Tuesday that Mr. Trump appeared to misunderstand the source of the funds.

Harvard was one of hundreds of American universities to receive stimulus money through a $14 billion allocation distributed by the Education Department to help offset the financial hit of the coronavirus and support low-income students. Harvard’s share was calculated according to a formula that depends heavily on a college’s number of students and share of poor students.

“It was purely mechanical,” Terry Hartle, a senior vice president at the American Council on Education, a trade group, said on Tuesday. “Harvard got that money because that’s the way the formula allocated it.”