Anchoring the bill is the Trump administration’s $250 billion funding request to replenish a fund to help small- and medium-size businesses with payroll, rent and other expenses. The payroll program provides forgivable loans so businesses can continue paying workers while forced to stay closed for social distancing and stay-at-home orders.
It also contains $100 billion demanded by Democrats for hospitals and a nationwide testing program, along with a $60 billion set-aside for small banks and an alternative network of community development banks that focus on development in urban neighborhoods and rural areas ignored by many lenders.
There’s also $60 billion for small-business loans and grants delivered through the Small Business Administration’s existing disaster aid program.
Trump celebrated the bill’s passage at his daily White House briefing Thursday. “At a time when many Americans are enduring significant economic challenges, this bill will help small businesses to keep millions of workers on the payroll,” he said.
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Republicans had been seeking immediate action on Trump’s “clean” request for the small business money, but Democrats demanded equal funding for their priorities, frustrating Republicans who accused them of seeking leverage during the crisis. Republicans said delays in replenishing the paycheck subsidy program probably pushed some struggling businesses over the edge into closure.
Supporters are already warning that the business-backed Payroll Protection Program will exhaust the new $250 billion almost immediately. Launched just weeks ago, the program quickly reached its lending limit after approving nearly 1.7 million loans. That left thousands of small businesses in limbo as they sought help.
Democrats tried to win another round of funding for state and local governments in Thursday's bill but were rebuffed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who says he's going to try pump the brakes on runaway deficit spending. McConnell says he doesn't want to bail out Democratic-governed states for fiscal problems that predated the pandemic, but there's plenty of demand for state fiscal relief among Republicans, too.
After the Senate passed the latest bill Tuesday, McConnell declared that Republicans would entertain no more coronavirus rescue legislation until the Senate returns to Washington, promising rank-and-file Republicans greater say in the future legislation, rather than leaving it in the hands of top bipartisan leaders.
Pelosi attacked McConnell for at first opposing adding any money to his original $250 billion package and saying cash-strapped states should be allowed to declare bankruptcy, a move that they currently cannot do and that would threaten a broad range of state services. McConnell's comments provoked an outcry — including from GOP governors — and he later tempered his remarks.
»MORE: McConnell says states should consider bankruptcy rebuffing calls for aid
Thursday's measure brings total rescue funding over the four measures, as measured by the cumulative deficit impact of spending proposals and tax cuts, to $2.4 trillion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
All told, the four coronavirus relief bills crafted by Congress would deliver at least $2.4 trillion for business relief, testing and treatment, and direct payments to individuals and the unemployed, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The deficit is virtually certain to breach $3 trillion this year and is likely to go well above that when CBO issues new data as early as Friday.
— ArLuther Lee contributed to this report.