Apr 7, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Senate looks to increase coronavirus relief for small businesses this week

Photo: Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Tuesday he will be working with Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to increase funding for the Payroll Protection Program, the federal backstop to help small businesses maintain operations and keep workers employed amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Why it matters: The $350 billion lending program — which opened for business last Friday — has had a highly problematic rollout, with banks and small businesses alike expressing frustration about system crashes and a lack of direction from the federal government. As the program proceeds, it's become clear that the initial funding wouldn't be nearly enough.

Our thought bubble, via Axios' Felix Salmon: The Payroll Protection Program looks set to be one of the most popular and effective ways of getting stimulus money into Americans' hands. The rollout has been predictably rocky, but this move should at least lengthen the amount of time before cash runs out.

What they're saying: In a statement, McConnell said he is aiming to get funding approved this week, and hopes to pass the measure through unanimous consent or a voice vote, the Wall Street Journal reports.

  • “It is quickly becoming clear that Congress will need to provide more funding or this crucial program may run dry," McConnell said. "That cannot happen.”
  • Small Business Committee Chairman Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted: "We will need at least another $200-$250 billion for #PPPloan."

Go deeper: America's small business bailout is off to a bad start

Go deeper

Senate passes bill to ease PPP loan restrictions

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Senate unanimously passed a bill on Wednesday to loosen some of the rules that small businesses must follow when applying for Paycheck Protection Program loans.

By the numbers: Businesses now have 24 weeks to use loans obtained through the program, instead of eight weeks. Only 60% of a PPP loan now has to be used for payroll, instead of 75% — a requirement that "tens of thousands of borrowers" weren't expected to meet, per a recent inspector general report.

Trump's week of viral quicksand

Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Stories about President Trump's photo op at St. John's church after peaceful protesters were forcefully cleared from the area averaged the most online attention of any issue about the president this week.

Why it matters: Trump's force-over-compassion approach to the demonstrators protesting the murder of George Floyd had Republican allies backpedaling to keep a distance — and led to a wave of condemnations that got plenty of online traction on their own.

Biden formally secures Democratic presidential nomination

Joe Biden speaks at Delaware State University's student cente on June 5. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden became the formal Democratic presidential nominee on Friday evening, per AP.

The big picture: Biden has been the presumptive frontrunner to take on President Trump since Sen. Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign in early April.