April 19 (UPI) — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Sunday that Congress was nearing a deal to add more funds for small businesses to the Paycheck Protection Program.
Mnuchin told CNN’s State of the Union that the agreement could include an additional $300 billion for the program designed to provide small businesses with funds to keep employees on the payroll amid shutdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic, $50 billion more than the administration originally proposed.
The Small Business Administration said Thursday that the initial $350 billion rescue fund set up in March was fully depleted.
“We’re incredibly pleased with the participation rate and because of that, we want Congress to approve more funds right away,” said Mnuchin. “We think that another $300 billion — that’s what we’re talking about — should be sufficient to reach almost everybody.”
Mnuchin added he hoped the Senate would be able to reach an agreement to pass the deal on Monday, allowing the House to take up the measure as early as Tuesday to make the funds available by Wednesday.
“I’m hopeful. I think we’re very close to a deal today and I’m hopeful that we can get that done,” he said.
Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer also said the upper chamber has made “very good progress” in discussions with the House and the Treasury but added the bill must include provisions to make the funds more accessible.
“We Democrats, yes, we want to put some more money in, but let’s set aside some money to make sure it goes to the rural areas, to the minority areas, to the unbanked,” Schumer told CNN. “And the $60 billion for the disaster loan was in our proposal and now the administration is going along with that. Setting aside a good chunk of the money, about half of it, so it goes to these unbanked people who don’t have a connection with a bank or the smaller ones was our proposal and it looks like it’s going.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi offered a similar picture of the discussions while appearing on ABC News’ This Week saying businesses would have the money “in a timely fashion.”
“I will say, overwhelmingly my caucus … we’re working closely with Senate Democrats — know that we have an opportunity and urgency to do something for our hospitals, our teachers and firefighters and the rest right now and then we are preparing for our next bill,” she said.