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Lawmakers, Small Businesses Question Whether Lockdown Aid Money Is Making It to Those in Need

05-20-2020
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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)

What's happening to all that aid money that's supposed to help small businesses survive the pandemic lockdowns? That's just one of several tough questions the nation's top two financial officers faced Tuesday on Capitol Hill.

Lawmakers grilled Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, and they presented very different pictures of the economic outlook.

Mnuchin warned that unless states reopen, the economy will be permanently damaged, while Powell suggested more congressional action is needed. 

"We are continuing to see large unemployment and other negative indicators. It is important to realize that the large number represents real people," Mnuchin told the Senate Banking Committee. 

"This is the biggest response by Congress ever, and the fastest, and the biggest from us, and still this is the biggest shock we have ever seen in living memory. The question looms in the air of, is it enough?" Powell said. 

Some lawmakers questioned if it's time to begin sending people back to work before a vaccine is in place, while others are raising questions about whether bailout money is actually making it to the small businesses who need it most.

A congressional oversight group revealed this week that the Treasury Department has only allocated $37.5 billion of the $500 billion relief fund. 

CBN News spoke with small business owners who say they've had difficulty or found it impossible to access the money the government's already allocated for them.

"By the time I got the funds, they actually hit last week, you're given eight weeks to disperse and allocate them to be forgivable, but because my gym is not able to open yet, I had to return the funds because I wouldn't be able to do all the standards they requested," said Amanda Crow, owner of Elev8 Fitness in Virginia Beach, VA.

"I knew the day it was going to be available, I had all of my stuff ready, I had all of my ducks in a row, this is major, this is really important to us," Savior Martial Arts owner, Scott Gilbert, told CBN News.

"It's all electronic, I'm prepared, the morning of, I go on, I put my stuff in and I get an automated response back that says 'I'm sorry you don't qualify.' Ugh that was a massive, massive problem. I know we qualify, I read the law," Gilbert continued.

In the end, he says he received only 60 percent of what he should have been eligible for, leaving many expenses still unpaid.

Democrats hoped Tuesday's hearing would pressure Republicans into another relief bill, but Congress is deadlocked. GOP leaders say lawmakers should evaluate what's working and what's not before spending more money.

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