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A deserted downtown in Rockton, Illinois. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

The $349 billion cap for small business loans for the coronavirus stimulus was reached Thursday, taking less than two weeks to run out.

Why it matters: While it's a sign that more than 1.6 million small businesses (and some larger ones) will eventually get desperately needed cash, it's now officially a sign that more is needed.

  • Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans are forgivable if used for payroll and rent and similar expenses, and they're designed to keep otherwise healthy businesses afloat during this crisis.

The big picture: In roughly a month, coronavirus lockdowns have...

  1. Caused more than 1 in 10 working-age Americans to file for unemployment.
  2. Put historic pressure on businesses not initially affected by the lockdown, with a second wave of layoffs hitting nationwide. (WSJ)

The state of play, via Axios' Alayna Treene: Democrats and Republicans are still in a stalemate over how big an interim stimulus package should be — with both sides digging in deeper to their respective positions last night.

  • Republicans continue to argue that the most urgent need is to add money to the PPP, and that they can negotiate other funding measures once that’s passed.
  • Meanwhile, Democrats are insisting that the bill should include money for hospitals and state and local governments, citing mayors and governors who have pleaded for more federal aid.

What's next: House and Senate aides familiar with the talks say now that the fund is depleted, the pressure to come to a compromise is greater than ever to deliver emergency funding, and are confident they will reach an agreement soon. 

  • Some Trump administration officials say they’d be open to accepting more money for hospitals in order to get the $251 billion in small-business funding they've requested.
  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and members of his staff are scheduled to resume talks with Senate Democratic and House majority leadership today to try and hammer out an agreement.

Go deeper

Schumer calls for IG probe into alleged plan by Trump, DOJ lawyer to oust acting AG

Jeffrey Clark speaks next to Deputy US Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen at a news conference in October. Photo: Yuri Gripas/AFP via Getty Images.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Saturday called for the Justice Department inspector general to investigate an alleged plan by former President Trump and a DOJ lawyer to remove the acting attorney general and replace him with someone more willing to investigate unfounded claims of election fraud.

Driving the news: The New York Times first reported Friday that the lawyer, Jeffrey Clark, allegedly devised "ways to cast doubt on the election results and to bolster Mr. Trump’s continuing legal battles and the pressure on Georgia politicians. Because Mr. [Jeffrey] Rosen had refused the president’s entreaties to carry out those plans, Mr. Trump was about to decide whether to fire Mr. Rosen and replace him with Mr. Clark."

3 hours ago - World

Brazil begins distributing AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine

Containers carrying doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine arrive in Brazil. Photo: Maurio Pimentel/AFP via Getty Images

Brazil on Saturday began distributing the 2 million doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine that arrived from India Friday, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: Brazil has the third highest COVID-19 case-count in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The 2 million doses "only scratch the surface of the shortfall," Brazilian public health experts told the AP.

Sullivan speaks with Israel's national security adviser for the first time

Israeli national security adviser Meir Ben Shabbat U.S. Photo: Mazen Mahdi/Getty Images. U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan. Photo: Chandan Khanna/Getty Images

U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke on the phone Saturday with his Israeli counterpart Meir Ben Shabbat, Israeli officials tell Axios.

Why it matters: This is the first contact between the Biden White House and Israeli prime minister's office. During the transition, the Biden team refrained from speaking to foreign governments.

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