WASHINGTON — 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 centres 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 per cent 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.”
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said more money is needed to fund the popular new $350 billion Paycheck Protection Program, which took off last Friday but was quickly overrun as companies jumped at the chance to tap up to $10 million in forgivable loans to keep paychecks flowing amid the stay-home shutdown.
Mnuchin requested the funds 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.
© 2020 The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.
This content is published through a licensing agreement with Acquire Media using its NewsEdge technology.