COVID-19 and Funding Update
- Senate To Vote To Extend Small Business Aid An architect of the small-business Paycheck Protection Program is pushing for a quick Senate vote on extending the program today before the chamber leaves for a Memorial Day recess. Senate Small Business Chairman Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said today he is “increasingly optimistic” there will be bipartisan support to lengthen the current eight-week time period during which businesses have to use the loan money to pay workers and for other expenses to have the loan forgiven. Senators may vote later today on such a change by unanimous consent, which allows expedited consideration of legislation, according to a person familiar with the plans. The length of the extension hasn’t yet been determined, the person said. Rubio said in a video posted on Twitter yesterday that he had expected an effort in the Senate this week to pass a measure extending the loan-forgiveness period to as many as 16 weeks. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said he believes the measure, which he is co-sponsoring alongside Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and others from both parties, could pass by unanimous consent. Manchin said the goal of the extension (S. 3714) is to allow companies to keep people on the payroll. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the House will vote next week on a separate PPP measure. Lawmakers are discussing lengthening the period to 24 weeks and making other changes such as relaxing a requirement that at least 75% of proceeds must be spent on payroll. Some companies want to spend more on rent and other expenses. Rubio has said he hoped for a bill just extending the loan-forgiveness period. Republicans and Democrats alike have heard from business owners worried about running out of money to pay their employees. Any individual lawmaker may object to the measure, though, which would prevent it from being passed this week. Read more from Daniel Flatley and Mark Niquette.
- Grassley Says Next Relief Talks to Begin in June: Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said today that real negotiations on a new round of coronavirus relief legislation will begin in the third or fourth week of June, Axios reports. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who is part of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) leadership team, told CNN passing another stimulus bill by the Fourth of July recess was optimistic, but he expects legislation to be approved before August recess.
- Separately, Grassley unveiled a bipartsian bill that would block banks from garnishing stimulus payments deposited into consumer accounts if they have past debts. “We established these recovery rebates to help individuals and families through the tough times of this pandemic,” Grassley said today in a statement. “We did not establish them just so debt collectors could swoop in and undermine that purpose.” Read more from Laura Davison.
- Mnuchin Sees 'Strong Likelihood' Of Needing Another COVID-19 Relief Bill Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday said there is a "strong likelihood" that another coronavirus relief bill will be needed as more states start to reopen and the economy struggles to stabilize. "We're going to carefully review the next few weeks," Mnuchin said in an interview with The Hill's Bob Cusack during a virtual event. "I think there is a strong likelihood we will need another bill, but we just have $3 trillion we're pumping into the economy." "We're going to step back for a few weeks and think very clearly how we need to spend more money and if we need to do that," he added. Read More at The Hill
- Mnuchin Eyes Changes to Relief Loan Program Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is talking with lawmakers about tweaking the Paycheck Protection Program, even with the administration in no rush to push forward on another coronavirus relief package. The third virus response law (Public Law 116-136), known as the CARES Act, created the PPP to offer government-backed, forgivable loans to help small businesses from going under during the coronavirus pandemic. Mnuchin, speaking before the Senate Banking Committee yesterday, reiterated that the Trump administration wants to work with Congress to extend the time frame businesses have to use PPP funds. The restaurant industry has asked for 24 weeks to spend the funds instead of eight, citing concerns about not being able to reopen in time. Read More at Bloomberg
- Trump Pressed for National Virus Vaccine Plan: A bipartisan group of House lawmakers called on the White House to “develop and publicize to the greatest extent possible a national Covid-19 vaccine plan.” House Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), ranking Republican Greg Walden (Ore.), and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairwoman Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) sent a letter to the White House Coronavirus Task Force today saying “a comprehensive Covid-19 vaccine plan must also take into account the decisions that will be necessary related to the allocation of a vaccine.” They requested a briefing on the White House’s vaccine development efforts by June 4, Greg Sullivan reports.
- Millions more US jobless claims expected in next Labor Department report Between 2.3 million and 2.8 million Americans filed initial applications for unemployment insurance last week, economists estimate. That's down from the 3 million who filed claims the week before and the record 6.9 million who sought assistance in late March. But if the latest tally, which the Labor Department reports Thursday, matches estimates, it will mean roughly 39 million Americans will have applied for unemployment in just nine weeks, a staggering number that reflects the highest jobless rate since the Great Depression. Read the full article at USA Today
- Senators Propose Job-Training Tax Credit For Those Left Unemployed By Pandemic A bipartisan Senate bill would create a refundable tax credit to help those unemployed because of the coronavirus pay for needed training as the economy recovers. According to a summary provided ahead of release to CQ Roll Call, the refundable credit of up to $4,000 would be available for a wide range of job training programs, including apprenticeships and technical training, as well as tuition toward two- and four-year college degrees. Democrats Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Cory Booker of New Jersey are sponsoring the bill with Republicans Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Tim Scott of South Carolina. Read More at Roll Call