The U.S. Senate on Tuesday passed a relief package that would increase funding for small businesses, hospitals and coronavirus testing as the pandemic started to take a big toll on the U.S. economy.
The swift passage by a voice vote came after congressional Democrats reached an agreement with the Trump administration on the 484-billion-U.S.-dollar relief package earlier in the day.
“Congressional Democrats are proud to have secured an agreement on an interim emergency funding package that has been transformed to provide real support for the lives and livelihoods of the American people,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said in a joint statement.
The package will provide more than 310 billion dollars in additional funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to boost small business lending, as well as 75 billion dollars for hospitals and 25 billion dollars for coronavirus testing, according to the Democratic leaders.
However, Democrats are disappointed that the administration “has not agreed to more funding for state, tribal, and local governments on the front lines of this crisis who desperately need an infusion of funds to pay the essential workers who keep us safe,” they noted.
The increased funding for small businesses came after the PPP, a key piece of the 2-trillion-dollar coronavirus relief package passed by Congress last month, ran out of money last week. The program is designed to provide loans for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll during the coronavirus outbreak.
About 80 percent of PPP applicants said they are still waiting, and many do not know where they are in the application process, according to a survey released by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) on Monday.
“Small businesses were prepared and ready to apply for these programs, the only financial support options for most, and it is very frustrating that the majority of these true small businesses haven’t received their loan yet,” said Holly Wade, NFIB Director of Research & Policy Analysis.
The NFIB survey also showed that most small business owners believe it will take beyond 2020 to recover from the economic impact of COVID-19, with only one-third of small business owners believing their community will get back to a normal level of economic activity by the end of the year.
The House of Representatives is expected to pass the new relief package on Thursday, with members returning to Washington for a recorded vote, according to local media.
“I urge the Senate and House to pass the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act with additional funding for PPP, Hospitals, and Testing,” U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday.
“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,” he said. Enditem