Schumer, Mnuchin still discussing ‘interim’ coronavirus relief bill in wake of impasse

Schumer, Mnuchin still discussing ‘interim’ coronavirus relief bill in wake of impasse

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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are still engaging in discussions about an emergency “interim” coronavirus relief bill after Senate Democrats last week blocked a measure that would provide an additional $250 billion in aid to small businesses amid the crisis.

“Sen. Schumer and Sec. Mnuchin had another conversation this morning,” a Schumer spokesman said in a statement Wednesday. “Democratic staff from both chambers will be meeting with Treasury today.”

SCHUMER, PELOSI DOUBLE DOWN ON CALLS FOR ‘INTERIM’ CORONAVIRUS RELIEF PACKAGE

Schumer and Senate Democrats have been working directly with Mnuchin and the administration on their proposals for more funding — instead of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. — with some hoping that with the president’s support of an agreement, McConnell and Senate Republicans will be forced to approve a measure.

The Senate is on recess and not slated to return to Washington until the end of April, with the House returning days later in early May. Congress could return, though, if necessary, to approve any type of “emergency” package.

The ongoing talks between congressional Democrats and the Trump administration comes as Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., doubled down on their calls for an “interim emergency” relief package which would include more than $500 billion in additional funding for Americans, businesses and hospitals amid the coronavirus crisis.

Schumer and Pelosi, earlier this week, said it was “clear” that the more than $2 trillion allocated as part of the already-passed CARES Act stimulus “will not be enough to cover the tremendous need.”

Schumer and Pelosi have called for changes to the Small Business Administration’s assistance initiatives, saying that “many eligible small businesses continue to be excluded from the Paycheck Protection Program by big banks with significant lending capacity.”

The Paycheck Protection Program helps businesses with under 500 employees obtain loans that can cover eight weeks of their payroll, benefits, rent and other expenses. The loans will be converted to grants and fully forgiven if 75 percent of the loan is used to keep employees on the payroll. The program was created as part of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act that passed last month.

Yet McConnell sought to pass a $250 billion cash infusion for the PPP — pushed by the White House — last week, but Democrats blocked the effort because they want add-ons to help businesses in disadvantaged communities and an additional $250 billion in funds for other priorities.

The extra funding is being sought amid concerns that the original $350 billion program to help businesses stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic could run dry in the near future in the face of an enormous demand.

PELOSI, SCHUMER CALL FOR ANOTHER $500 BILLION-PLUS AS PART OF ‘INTERIM’ CORONAVIRUS BILL 

Democrats argued that they had a better plan. Their proposal would cost roughly double the Republicans’ and include an additional $100 billion for hospitals and $150 billion more for state and local governments as well as increases to food assistance benefits.

As part of that plan, Pelosi and Schumer called for additional support for food stamps — or SNAP — by increasing the maximum SNAP benefit by 15 percent.

President Trump, as well as lawmakers from both parties, have also called for a “Phase 4” stimulus package. Both sides of the aisle have a wishlist, with the president calling on Congress to seize the opportunity “to do our decades long awaited Infrastructure Bill,” calling for a $2 trillion package.

Pelosi has already called for additional SNAP funding, direct payments to American families and emissions restrictions on airlines, as well as pension protections.

Fox News’ Mike Emanuel contributed to this report. 

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