Congress rushes to seal deal to replenish small-business relief program

click to enlarge Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and President Donald Trump during an update on the coronavirus small business relief plan at the White House in Washington, April 7, 2020. The White House and congressional Democrats on April 19 closed in on an agreement for a $450 billion economic relief package to replenish a depleted emergency fund for small businesses and to expand coronavirus testing around the country, with votes on the measure possible early this week. - DOUG MILLS/THE NEW YORK TIMES
Doug Mills/The New York Times
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and President Donald Trump during an update on the coronavirus small business relief plan at the White House in Washington, April 7, 2020. The White House and congressional Democrats on April 19 closed in on an agreement for a $450 billion economic relief package to replenish a depleted emergency fund for small businesses and to expand coronavirus testing around the country, with votes on the measure possible early this week.
By Emily Cochrane
c.2020 The New York Times Company


WASHINGTON — Lawmakers and Trump administration officials raced Tuesday to finalize an agreement on a nearly $500 billion coronavirus relief package that would revive a depleted loan program for distressed small businesses and provide funds for hospitals and coronavirus testing, hoping to speed it through the Senate by late afternoon.

With the Senate set to convene at 4 p.m. Tuesday, leaders in both parties scrambled to seal a compromise that could pass muster with all 100 senators, a requirement since the chamber is in recess and able to act only on consensus bills. Without the final details settled, it was unclear whether that would be possible, but lawmakers and aides in both parties exuded confidence that it could pass by day’s end.


President Donald Trump urged both chambers to quickly approve the agreement, writing on Twitter that once he signed the legislation into law, discussions would begin over providing relief for state and local governments, infrastructure investments, tax incentives for restaurants, entertainment and sports, and payroll tax cuts, the latter of which has repeatedly been rejected by lawmakers in both parties.

Negotiators were coalescing around a deal that would provide at least $310 billion to replenish the Paycheck Protection Program, which offers guarantees for forgivable loans to small businesses if the majority of the money is used to retain employees, according to multiple people familiar with the negotiations. While $250 billion of that funding would be unrestricted, $60 billion would be set aside for smaller lending institutions: $30 billion for lenders with less than $10 billion in assets and $30 billion for lenders with $10 billion to $50 billion in assets.

The emerging agreement would also add $60 billion for the Small Business Administration’s disaster relief fund — divided into $50 billion in loans and $10 billion in grants — and farms and other agriculture enterprises would now be considered eligible.

There would also be $75 billion for hospitals and $25 billion for coronavirus testing.


Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the minority leader, indicated on CNN on Tuesday morning that the White House had agreed to some concessions that members of his party had sought, including a proposal to establish a national coronavirus testing system.

The agreement would likely divide the $25 billion for testing between states and the federal government, according to two officials familiar with the pending agreement.

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