HomeUS lawmakers close to deal on new coronavirus funding for small business: Officials , United States News & Top StoriesBusinessUS lawmakers close to deal on new coronavirus funding for small business: Officials , United States News & Top Stories

US lawmakers close to deal on new coronavirus funding for small business: Officials , United States News & Top Stories

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – US lawmakers are very close to an agreement on approving extra money to help small businesses hurt by the coronavirus pandemic and could seal a deal as early as Sunday (April 19), congressional and Trump administration officials said. 

“I think we’re very close to a deal today and I’m hopeful we can get that done,” US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said in an interview with CNN. 

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer also said he hoped an agreement with Republicans could be sealed as early as Sunday evening.

Mr Schumer cautioned, however, that both sides had a few more issues to deal with. 

Mr Mnuchin said he believes another US$300 billion (S$426.54 billion) should be sufficient to reach everyone seeking a small business loan. 

He told CNN’s “State of the Union” that funding for states would not be included in the interim funding Bill.

He said he spoke to Mr Schumer on Sunday morning and that the Democrat was on board with the new small business loan programme. 

An agreement would end a stalemate that has lasted more than a week over President Donald Trump’s request to add US$250 billion to a small-business loan programme.

Congress set up the programme last month as part of a US$2.3 trillion coronavirus economic relief plan, but it has already run out of money.

Over two frantic weeks, the US government pledged US$350 billion to Main Street businesses across America desperate for cash after coronavirus lockdowns. 

Now a picture is emerging of who got the money.

More than 25 per cent of the total pot went to fewer than 2 per cent of the firms that got relief. They include a number of publicly traded companies with thousands of employees and hundreds of millions of dollars in annual sales.

“I think we’re very close to an agreement,” Ms Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, said in an interview with ABC’s “This Week” broadcast on Sunday.

Vice-president Mike Pence also said on “Fox News Sunday” that negotiations are going on and “we’re very close.”

Ms Pelosi and Mr Schumer wanted more money for small businesses but also want more coronavirus response funds for state and local governments and hospitals, as well as food assistance for the poor.

“We want to make sure that it’s reaching all of America’s small businesses. And we also want to make sure that it’s operating in a community where our police and fire, our health care workers, our doctors, nurses, our teachers, are being compensated for and not fired,” Ms Pelosi said.

“That’s why we’re asking for the additional funds in the package, as well as for hospitals so that we can do testing, testing, testing.”

Governors of hard hit states such as New York and New Jersey have said they need more federal funding to significantly ramp up testing capacity.

Democratic lawmakers from battleground districts are already under attack by Republican campaign operatives because the emergency loans for small businesses have dried up. Last week some of these Democrats said their congressional leaders should prioritize the small business funding and get it flowing again.

Ms Pelosi, however, said there was an opportunity to get money for the hospitals, teachers and firefighters in the interim funding bill. Congress plans to take up another major coronavirus relief legislation after the small business fund is replenished.

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