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Senate Adjourns Without Agreeing to Add $250 Billion in Loans to Help Small Businesses

In this March 25, 2020 file photo, a closed sign hangs in the window of a shop in Portsmouth, N.H., due to caronavirus concerns. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

Lawmakers remain gridlocked over what the next steps will be to get economic help flowing to small businesses. Republicans and Democrats in the Senate recessed Thursday without reaching an agreement.

It was just a couple of weeks ago that Congress passed the CARES act with strong bipartisan support.  A good portion of that measure funded the Payroll Protection Program aimed at keeping workers of small businesses employed through this crisis.  Both sides say that's not enough, but for different reasons.   

Republicans pushed to pass a bill that would send $250 billion more to the payroll protection program.  Add that to the $350 billion approved about two weeks ago and it totals $600 billion.

"The country needs us to be nimble to be able to fix urgent problems as fast as we can, to be able to have focused discussions on urgent subjects," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

"Where is the urgency where small businesses are concerned," said Sen. Bill Cardin (D-MD).

Cardin and other Democrats objected, saying protecting payrolls are not enough to keep small businesses from going under. They want to split the requested $250 billion to put money toward grants that would keep businesses afloat and help hospitals that are also struggling.

"The urgent issues are not dealt with in this U-C, so that's why the process of negotiating, allowing us to come together to figure out what's the best way to move forward will result in us actually getting something done to help the small business community," Cardin said.

Republicans disagreed saying their measure is needed to keep the payroll protection plan from running out of money.

"Do not block emergency aid you don't even oppose just because you want something more," McConnell said.

Democrats don't buy that the Payroll Protection Program is running out of money because only a third of it has been spent so far, and some businesses say they're struggling to access the cash.  

Republicans argue the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve are already making changes to the small-business lending program to help businesses in underserved areas.

McConnell said lawmakers need to focus on urgent subjects without turning every conversation into a conversation about everything.

The Senate is in recess until April 13. 


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