Tuesday, 21 April 2020 22:58

What's in the Nearly $500 Billion Deal to Protect Small Business from Coronavirus Fallout

Written by Ben Werschkul, Yahoo! Finance


A deal to provide additional pandemic relief for small businesses, hospitals and others appears set to get through Capitol Hill in the coming days and then become law later this week.

On April 21, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in an interview “we have a deal with just a few outstanding I’s to dot and T's to cross.”


Later in the day, President Donald Trump urged Congress to pass the deal and said he would sign it even as lawmakers scrambled to put the final bill together.


By that afternoon, multiple outlets reported that the deal has been completed and the text of the legislation began to circulate.


The centerpiece of the deal is additional funding for the Trump administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) aimed at small businesses. The $349 billion initially allotted for the program ran out of money last week after just 13 days because of outsized demand.


Over $150 billion is included for other priorities like testing, another business loan program and hospitals.


The money is intended to be a bridge between the CARES Act, signed into law on March 27, and a Phase 4 deal that could be weeks away and might include a range of controversial issues like vote-by-mail and infrastructure spending.


Here’s a rundown of where lawmakers ended up after weeks of negotiations.


More than $300 billion for the ‘Paycheck Protection Program’


The core part of the deal is additional money for the PPP which, despite myriad difficulties, has become a lifeline for small businesses.


The program, which disbursed $349 billion already, offers forgivable loans managed by the Treasury Department and the Small Business Administration. They are designed to cover U.S. businesses with 500 or fewer employees negatively impacted by the coronavirus and the broader economic shutdown. The loans can be made for up to 2.5 times the average monthly payroll of a business but can’t exceed $10 million per business.


An additional $320 billion has been appropriated for the program, with $60 billion of that earmarked for small banks. “This is even more money than Senate Republicans first requested,” Leader Mitch McConnell noted in a statement.

On April 19, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the new funding “should be sufficient to reach almost everybody,” but many are wondering how quickly this next round of funding will run out as thousands of small businesses still wait for approval.


Early in the negotiations, Republicans wanted additional money for the PPP only, without any changes to the program or funding for other things. Democrats supported the money for the PPP but held up the deal so they could secure additional provisions.


In interviews, Schumer noted Democrats got changes in how the PPP actually works.


On April 21, he said on CNN that Democrats insisted a chunk of the additional PPP money “be separate from the competition with the bigger companies." He said, in contrast to how the PPP operated previously, money will be set aside to "go 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."


The program has come under criticism after large restaurant chains like Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Shake Shack and Potbelly Sandwich Shop all received loans while others missed out.


Billions for testing and a possible ‘national testing strategy’


The most contentious part of negotiations were the provisions over testing.


The Trump administration has been at odds with Democrats and governors as the president has often insisted that testing is each individual state’s responsibility. Governors have often instead called for more involvement from the federal government.


In an interview April 20, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for the the president to “stop misrepresenting about the testing.”


Schumer, on the Senate floor on April 21 announcing the deal, said the bill is a “down payment on a national testing regime,” and it’s now “up to the administration to implement a national testing strategy” as part of the process of disbursing the funds.


The plan includes $25 billion that will, according to the bill text, help “research, develop, validate, manufacture, purchase, administer and expand capacity for COVID-19 tests.” The money will be divided between states and federal agencies.


New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo visited Trump at the White House on April 21 and said testing was the focus of his trip.

The White House had already made an “an unprecedented investment in testing,” Mnuchin said April 19. He also signaled that testing will likely be a big feature of the Phase 4 deal, with provisions to be considered around technology and testing, but said Trump “wants to get this over the finish line.”


$60 billion for the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program


The deal includes money for another Small Business Administration lending program, called Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL).


This program is designed to provide loans as well as up to $10,000 in immediate cash advances to businesses. The SBA reported that, as of April 20, it had given out nearly $3.3 billion in EIDL grants and $5.5 billion in loans.


The SBA currently has a message on its website saying it can’t accept new applications due to a lack of funding.


One hundred U.S. Representatives---50 Republicans and 50 Democrats---recently sent a letter to push for this funding, noting that many businesses are especially in need of EIDL funds because they are “not good candidates for the PPP due to its requirements or are not eligible for that program at all.”


$75 billion for hospitals


Democrats initially asked for $100 billion for hospitals and health care systems; the final deal includes $75 billion, according to Schumer. This comes on top of $100 billion already allocated for hospital and public health funding in the CARES Act.


The bill specifies that the funds can be used both to respond to coronavirus and also help make up for “lost revenues that are attributable to coronavirus.”


Mnuchin described the deal as focused both on hospitals overwhelmed with coronavirus cases, as well as hospitals that have been impacted because of the ban on elective surgery.


Trump suggested hospitals may soon get new guidance from Washington about opening up, where appropriate, to a wider range of procedures. “A lot of hospitals were closed, they couldn't do any elective surgeries,” he said April 19, adding “they'll be able to start doing that.”


Democrats also sought to provide funding for cities and states in this legislation. That was not included in the end; however, Trump has repeatedly said he is in favor of more money for states, and tweeted it would be part of the next negotiation alongside issues like infrastructure spending and tax cuts.


Cuomo said he thought it was a "terrible mistake" not to provide the funding for states in this deal.


Lawmakers hope the current deal will pass both chambers of Congress by April 23 and be signed into law by Trump by the end of the week.


We thank Yahoo! Finance for reprint permission.