Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) makes a statement after meetings to wrap up work on coronavirus economic aid legislation, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Washington, U.S., March 22, 2020.
Mary F. Calvert | Reuters
Congressional Democrats and the Trump administration will talk through the weekend to try to strike a deal on an emergency bill to replenish a program to buoy small businesses pummeled by the coronavirus, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Friday.
The New York Democrat sounded optimistic about reaching an agreement a day after the Small Business Administration said the $349 billion loan program approved last month had reached its cap of commitments. Senate Republicans tried to pass a plan last week to inject $250 billion more into it, but Democrats blocked it as they pushed for tweaks to the program along with funding for hospitals and state and local governments.
It is unclear how many small businesses have received money from the program.
Staff from Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s offices have held discussions with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin this week on an interim rescue bill — which Senate Republicans may or may not choose to support.
“We’ve had constructive talks. They’re going to continue through the weekend, and I don’t see any reason why we can’t come to an agreement soon,” Schumer told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
Schumer has faced criticism for delaying more funding to the program, which is designed to keep workers on small business payrolls. On Friday, he said “it’s vital we help small business, but if we don’t deal with the testing and health care problems, if we don’t deal with local government problems, small business may have enough money to get back, although we’ve got to fix that program, but people won’t go out on the streets.”
The senator noted that President Donald Trump sounded more hopeful about talks on Thursday night. At a White House coronavirus briefing, the president said he expected “something’s going to be happening.”
Democrats pushed for at least another $250 billion for hospitals, states and municipalities fighting the pandemic and food assistance programs. They also wanted to put only $125 billion directly into the existing small business loan program, and direct another $125 billion to community-based lenders and SBA disaster assistance loans and grants.
The party’s leaders have said the structure of the relief in the $2 trillion package passed last month left out businesses who do not already have a banking relationship.