Apr 12, 2020 - Politics & Policy

What's next: A high-stakes clash over coronavirus funding

Nancy Pelosi speaking with Chuck Schumer behind her

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

The $350 billion small business Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) — launched just over a week ago — will run dry in a matter of days, giving Democrats leverage to push more support for hospitals, local government and businesses in underserved communities.

Driving the news: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer spoke with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin on Friday about their demands for the interim bill, sources familiar with their conversations tell Axios.

  • Talks will resume on Monday.

The state of play: Mnuchin indicated the administration is open to working with Democrats on some of their proposals, sources said, despite growing frustration among Republicans who argue Democrats are holding small business funding hostage for programs that still have money in their accounts.

  • Democrats have stayed firm in their position that the measure should include more money for hospitals, states and SNAP benefits, as well improvements to the PPP program ensuring all eligible businesses can access the money and "not just those with longer-term relationships to banks," one person said.
  • Republicans say the talks are now largely in the Trump administration's court, and it'll be up to the president to determine what he's willing to compromise on.

What we're hearing: "For as much as we hate it, it's very clear that Democrats are not just going to let PPP funding through on its own," a senior Senate Republican aide told Axios. "The administration is going to have to decide what the president will sign into law."

  • "Their bill is a nonstarter. Pelosi already said it won't pass the House," a senior Democratic aide told Axios of McConnell's initial $250 billion proposal for PPP that failed a Senate vote on Thursday.
  • "They're refusing to negotiate, saying only small business money is urgent. But bipartisan governors say they need more money immediately and the same percentage of hospital money is out the door," the Democratic aide added.

The bottom line: Sources familiar with the negotiations say a few scenarios could play out over the coming days.

  • Mnuchin could agree to increased funding for hospitals and local governments, likely less than the full $250 billion Democrats are seeking.
  • There could be an agreement on technical changes in the bill, such as adding a formal commitment that some of the $250 billion for PPP will create broader access to capital for small businesses in underserved areas.
  • Sources also expect a commitment to including some of Democrats' demands in the next stimulus package, which could be much broader and address some of the longer-term priorities that both parties see as necessary for economic recovery.
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