Schumer says deal reached on small business funding includes national testing plan


(WASHINGTON) — The Senate is expected to approve a bipartisan deal Tuesday afternoon that would pump another $310 billion into the Paycheck Protection Program, a federal program designed to extend loans to small business owners to help retain their employees for two months and keep their companies afloat amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“There are still some more i’s to dot and t’s to cross, but we have a deal,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer announced in an interview on CNN’s “New Day.”

Nearly a million small businesses were trapped in the application pipeline as PPP ran out of money last Thursday, according to the Senate Small Business Committee, as Democrats and Republicans fought over whether or not to include additional funding for other pandemic emergencies, like hospitals and testing.

Schumer, a New York Democrat, said that the Trump administration had agreed to a national strategy to test Americans for the novel coronavirus, something for which Democrats have fought for weeks. Some $25 billion will be put toward testing in the deal that is expected to be approved when the Senate is scheduled to meet briefly at 4 p.m., as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Monday.

“You need a significant federal involvement. You need a national strategy, and Mnuchin and the President and Meadows agreed to that, to their credit,” Sen. Schumer said, referring to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment about the alleged testing deal from ABC News. President Trump has, heretofore, said testing plans should be left to states.

The final details of the roughly $460 billion agreement were hammered out “well past midnight” in a conference call between Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Mnuchin, and Meadows, Schumer said. Staff worked through the night to craft that agreement in principle into legislative text.

Of the $310 billion for PPP, $125 billion will be set aside for smaller banks, called Community Development Financial Institutions, who tend to service the smallest of small businesses, many minority- and woman-owned.

But with that sectioning off of funds comes with it some delay, warned Senate Small Business Committee Chairman Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who asked the Small Business Administration (SBA) over the weekend to get working on the changes immediately.

“What I want to caution everybody about right now is even if that money is approved on Wednesday, it’s going to take some time now to have to redo the entire SBA website to meet these new parameters of the money set aside for banks under 10 billion in assets and one billion in assets, and what I’m asking them to do is to start doing that now, not to wait until Thursday or Wednesday when this passes, because we’re going to have on Thursday, whenever this opens up, you will have 800-900,000 applications hit the system all at once,” Rubio said in a CNBC interview.

The deal, which would also provide $60 billion for SBA’s emergency disaster injury loans for small businesses, and another $75 billion for hospitals battling the pandemic, is expected to be considered by the House on Thursday, after which — if approved — it would head to President Trump for his expected signature.

And while Republicans succeeded in staving off another federal infusion of funds for cash-strapped states and local governments, fearing a mismanagement of funds, Schumer said Democrats secured a commitment from the administration that these entities can use federal money from the $2 trillion stimulus plan for “lost revenues,” something he said was desperately needed.

The fight over additional funding would now move to the fourth stimulus bill which is already being negotiated behind the scenes.

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