The Paycheck Protection Program is getting ready to run out of money and lawmakers still haven’t come to an agreement to replenish it. Even though both parties want to add money to the program, lawmakers have been deadlocked on how to do it.
“It's beyond me why we can't come together,” said Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) in an interview with Yahoo Finance. “I don't know why the Republicans are opposed to helping hospitals and why they're opposed to helping state and local governments that are struggling right now.”
Republicans solely want to put an additional $250 billion toward the small business loan program, while Democratic lawmakers want to put some restrictions on the money. Democrats want to give more money to hospitals, state and local governments, rapid testing and SNAP benefits — and Republicans want to address those issues later.
Republicans make the case that other programs aren’t in urgent need of cash yet, but the Paycheck Protection Program is already running dry.
“There is no time to insist on sweeping renegotiations or ultimatums about other policies that passed both houses unanimously,” said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday.
“The lifeblood of our economy, our small businesses — that's where most of the job creation occurs. As we get through and have to move towards reopening the economy, that doesn't happen as efficiently if you don't have small businesses that can really drive it. So it's critical. We all get that,” Peters said. “But we want to make sure the money is definitely going to those businesses that need it the most. And those small businesses that are literally just hanging on by a thread.”
He added: “As important as that is, we also have to make sure our hospitals have the resources that they need in order to continue to deal with what is first and foremost a public health crisis.”
In the next coronavirus response package, Peters and other Democratic senators are pushing for hazard pay for frontline workers. The proposal would give grocery store employees, transit workers, janitorial staff and other essential workers an extra $13 an hour up to $25,000 during the pandemic.
“We always talk about doctors and nurses and techs as heroes — and they are, but it's also the custodial staff, the janitors that are cleaning. If you don't have a sterilized hospital and a clean hospital, particularly during a pandemic, you can't operate,” said Peters. “We certainly all owe them a debt of gratitude and thanks, but they deserve more than just our thanks—they deserve to have additional compensation.”
Jessica Smith is a reporter for Yahoo Finance based in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter at @JessicaASmith8.