‘The American people need to know that their government is there for them in their time of great need…’
(Associated Press) Congressional Democratic leaders proposed Wednesday adding hundreds of billions of dollars for health care, state and local governments, and food stamps to $250 billion in fresh emergency aid President Donald Trump wants to help small businesses weather the coronavirus epidemic.
Trump requested an additional $250 billion for a just-launched small businesses payroll program and is looking to secure congressional passage this week. For that he will need Democratic support.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer outlined their own priorities in a Wednesday statement.
They say they will approve the $250 billion in assistance to small businesses, but want $125 billion of that channeled through community-based financial institutions that serve farmers, families, women, minorities and veterans.
They’re also calling for an additional $100 billion for hospitals and community health centers to provide testing supplies and protective equipment like masks and gowns. They are seeking another $150 billion for state and local governments to manage the coronavirus crisis.
They also want a 15 percent increase to the maximum Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program food stamp benefits, a proposal that could draw GOP opposition.
“The heartbreaking acceleration of the coronavirus crisis demands bold, urgent and ongoing action from Congress to protect Americans’ lives and livelihoods,” the leaders said in a joint statement. “The American people need to know that their government is there for them in their time of great need.”
In March, Congress passed a sweeping $2.2 trillion economic rescue package that’s now law.
But one of the programs in that package — the $350 billion Paycheck Protection Program — has been swamped as businesses rush to apply for up to $10 million in forgivable loans to keep paychecks flowing amid the stay-home shutdown.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin requested the additional $250 billion in a private calls to Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Democrats largely support it as a component of a broader new aid package.
McConnell wants to swiftly pass it through Congress this week.
The House and Senate are all but shuttered, and it’s unclear how the Democrats’ new request will affect the prospect of holding a vote with just 48 hours notice.
Congress is also racing to craft the next coronavirus rescue package.