House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Wednesday called for half a trillion dollars in additional financial aid to boost local and state governments, small businesses, food stamp recipients and hospitals struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Their request comes in response to the Trump administration’s call for more than $250 billion to help ailing small businesses.
“The heartbreaking acceleration of the coronavirus crisis demands bold, urgent and ongoing action from Congress to protect Americans’ lives and livelihoods,” Pelosi and Schumer said in a joint statement Wednesday.
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Pelosi and Schumer’s request tops $500 billion, with $250 billion going to small businesses with half of the funds going to those businesses owned and operated by women, minorities, and veterans; $100 billion for hospitals, community health centers and health systems; $150 billion for state and local governments; and a 15 percent increase in food stamp benefits.
The Democrats’ list of demands comes one day after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin notified congressional leaders of its request to approve $250 billion in additional funds for the small business loan program that has been swamped by overwhelming demand.
The Paycheck Protection Program, created under the stimulus package, offers small business owners federally-backed loans that will be forgiven if the money is used to keep employees on payroll.
But the program hasn’t worked as planned. Small business owners reported quick rejections from banks if they didn’t already have an existing relationship. Banks, for their part, were unprepared for the massive onslaught of small businesses seeking loans.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he plans to pass the administration’s request for $250 billion on Thursday with a quick voice vote, which would not require all senators to return to Washington as the health crisis looms. It will require unanimous approval.
Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, chairman of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, said Wednesday that McConnell put forward a unanimous consent agreement that expedites passage of the request.
“Any Senator objecting is asked to do so by noon today. Hope for the best,” he wrote in a tweet.
A spokesman for McConnell did not indicate whether the Republican leader plans to consider Pelosi and Schumer’s proposal.
But GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas released a statement Wednesday making his thoughts known.
“Senate Democrats should drop their shameful threat to block this funding immediately. Our small businesses desperately need help – now,” Cornyn said in a statement.
A spokesman for Schumer said the Democratic Leader had spoken with Mnuchin on Wednesday about the “Small Business Plus” proposal.
“We hope our Republican colleagues will support this “Small Business Plus” proposal tomorrow in the Senate,” the aide said in a statement.
It’s also unclear what House Democrats will do should the Senate approve the $250 billion request on Thursday.
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An aide to House Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told ABC News that the House could pass a bill as early as Friday, “assuming the Senate passes something Thursday that there is unanimous consent for.”
The White House wants both chambers of Congress to pass the legislation by Friday.
Mnuchin did not address the Democrats’ demands during a televised interview on Wednesday.
“The president has asked us to go back to Congress we hope they pass this tomorrow and Friday,” Mnuchin said in an interview with CNBC. “We want to assure everybody, if you don’t get a loan this week, you’ll get a loan next week or the following week, the money will be there.”
Mnuchin said there are 3,500 lenders available via the Small Business Administration system to start doling out loans.
Pelosi and Schumer’s emergency stopgap coronavirus relief bill is separate from a bill they hope to pass in the coming weeks that expands on the $2 trillion stimulus package Congress passed last month.
“After we pass this interim emergency legislation, Congress will move to pass a CARES 2 Act that will extend and expand the bipartisan CARES Act to meet the needs of the American people,” Pelosi and Schumer said in their statement. “CARES 2 must provide transformational relief as the American people weather this assault on their lives and livelihoods.”
Pelosi has said she wants the next stimulus package to include extended unemployment insurance benefits, more aid for hospitals and local and state governments, and another round of direct payments to Americans.
Schumer and Senate Democrats introduced their own proposal Tuesday that would create a so-called “Heroes Fund,” a two-pronged federal program that would give all essential, frontline workers a pay increase of $25,000 through the end of this year, and a $15,000 recruitment incentive specifically designed to attract and secure the medical workforce needed to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s a premium pay increase for essential workers, not just health care workers,” Schumer told reporters on a conference call Tuesday. “It includes truck drivers who deliver supplies, grocery store workers who keep food on the shelves. Transit workers who keep the trains running.”
The Democrats’ plan, which they hope will be included in the fourth stimulus package, would give about a $13 per hour raise to those essential workers earning less than $200,000 per year and $5,000 for each essential worker earning $200,000 or more per year.
It was not immediately clear how much the proposal would cost, according to Democratic aides.
“This is a heroes fund,” Schumer said. “They deserve it.”
ABC News’ Trish Turner and Matthew Vann contributed to this report.
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