Pressure is growing among congressional Democrats within their own ranks to pass critical funding to save small businesses after the $350 billion loan program set up to provide federal assistance was officially exhausted on Thursday.
Former President Barack Obama’s small-business chief during his first term, Karen Mills, even began urging Democrats to pass new funding immediately.
“Congress has to act as soon as possible,” Mills said in an interview with Roll Call Thursday, “Number one, get the money replenished.”
Funding ran out for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) established in the $2.3 trillion dollar Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act for small businesses struggling to stay afloat amid the coronavirus crisis after just two weeks when loans became available.
Congressional Republicans have been trying for more than a week to pass a clean funding bill allocating $250 billion to replenish the program as it became increasingly apparent that funds would soon run out. Democrats, however, blocked the legislation to offer a counter-proposal of their own consisting of a progressive wish-list of long sought-for items while calling for stricter guidelines on how the loans are administered.
Mills however, pleaded with Democrats on Capitol Hill to pass funding now as there’s no time to delay additional resources to suffering businesses preparing to go under.
“Complexity is not our friend here,” Mills told Roll Call. “Things that have to be implemented quickly can’t have a lot of bells and whistles, or else there will be too many unintended consequences – one of which is delay. And we don’t have time to delay.”
Several Senate Democrats are now breaking with party leadership to demand immediate replenishment of the fund now, while unemployment continues to skyrocket and small businesses report facing permanent closure. According to new data released from the Department of Labor Thursday, 22 million Americans have now filed for unemployment in just four weeks.
“Arizona businesses are counting on us to help them during this emergency,” Arizona Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema wrote on Twitter Thursday. “I’m calling on leadership in both parties to get thru this stalemate ASAP – we can’t wait any longer.”
Arizona businesses are counting on us to help them during this emergency. I’m calling on leadership in both parties to get thru this stalemate ASAP – we can’t wait longer. https://t.co/FkzvfixOQg
— Kyrsten Sinema (@kyrstensinema) April 16, 2020
Sinema was joined by fellow Democratic Sens. Tina Smith of Minnesota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
“Minnesota small businesses need relief now,” wrote Smith. “I fought hard for this program and am not pressing for additional funds, faster delivery and implementation improvements to help more Minnesotans get assistance ASAP.”
Minnesota small businesses need relief now. I fought hard for this program and am now pressing for additional funds, faster delivery and implementation improvements to help more Minnesotans get assistance ASAP. https://t.co/POKKYaL8OS
— Senator Tina Smith (@SenTinaSmith) April 16, 2020
“West Virginia small businesses are hurting,” Manchin wrote in a press release Thursday. “It’s time to stop the partisan bickering and come together to fix this. Congress must act in a bipartisan way to quickly invest more funding into the PPP and we need to do so in a way that protects small businesses and healthcare providers like those across rural West Virginia.”
As signs became clear small business funds were nearing exhaustion, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi brushed off concerns of their depletion calling such predictions and proposed Republican funding for replenishment a “stunt.”
There’s “no data as to why we need it,” Pelosi said on C-SPAN. Within 24 hours of the fund drying out, Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York entered negotiations with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. When pressed on why she was holding small business funding hostage during a Thursday press conference, Pelosi tried to equate the small business program to funds allocated for hospitals and local governments condemning Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for rejecting Democrats’ counter-proposal to direct more money to such institutions.
“When we talk to McConnell, he says, ‘Well, I think we should do some of that, but let’s see how the money that is out there is working for state and local and for hospitals before we do more,” Pelosi said. Only small business funds however, have run out.
Meanwhile, Pelosi continued her media tour this week holding up small business life-support from her kitchen in front of a $24,000 refrigerator.