WASHINGTON – Congressional leaders and the Trump administration were on the verge of reaching an agreement Monday on a draft coronavirus aid bill to further help small businesses and hospitals across the country.
The deal is expected to include an additional $ 310 billion for the federal government’s new paycheck protection program, which was created as part of the last major rescue program to help small businesses survive the coronavirus epidemic and ran out of funding last week. The interim measure is also expected to provide hospitals with an additional $ 75 billion and, according to three sources familiar with the talks, $ 25 billion for testing.
Despite calls from governors, including New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, for funding to directly assist state and local governments, legislation would exclude that money as well as the funding of food stamps – Democratic priorities which, according to Republicans can be negotiated in the next relief bill expected in the coming weeks.
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Negotiators were putting the finishing touches on the legislation, with aides and lawmakers working early Monday morning on some testing issues, according to a source involved in the process. The Democrats in the House are expected to hold four o’clock. Conference call AND Monday.
Some of the final negotiations relate to the policy for managing hospital and test funding. There are questions, for example, whether the tests will be geared towards the public or private sector.
Trump said on Sunday evening at the White House Coronavirus task force that a resolution to the negotiations looks promising and that they may have “a good answer tomorrow.” The president confirmed that hospitals, including those in rural areas, would be part of the deal.
Last week, the paycheck protection program, which offers repayable small business loans, was exhausted, and Democrats and Republicans were stuck on how to put money back. The Democrats demanded that part of the funding be set aside for minority and underserved communities.
The measure is expected to include $ 250 billion for the regular program and an exclusion of $ 60 billion for small businesses owned by minorities, women and those in rural areas. And $ 60 billion for a separate small business disaster program, known as the disaster relief loan program, should be incorporated; $ 50 billion to finance the disaster would be in the form of loans and the remaining $ 10 billion in the form of grants, multiple sources familiar with the negotiations said.
To vote on the bill once the agreement is reached, the Senate could potentially adopt it by unanimous consent, which could only happen if no senator objects. On the other hand, the House is almost certainly unable to adopt it by unanimous consent. Majority House Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., Issued instructions to lawmakers on Sunday saying the House could meet as early as 10 am Wednesday to consider the legislation.
Spokesperson for Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Tweeted Monday to minority leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., Accusing the GOP of delaying the vote by insisting on a recorded vote at the House which will bring all the members to DC as of Wednesday morning.
Lawmakers were at home in their districts during the coronavirus outbreak and are expected to return to Washington for voting as there is no remote voting capacity in place. Some Democrats have come up with the idea of voting by proxy, in which a current member could vote on Capitol Hill on behalf of another member, which would force members to agree to changing the rules.
Democrats may also need to win some Republican votes after some progressive lawmakers, including Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., Have expressed opposition to the developing legislation.
“If it matches what has been reported, I will not support this bill,” she said.