Coronavirus Relief Package: Officials Urge Congress to Repurpose Unused Small Business Funds

Secretary of the Department of the Treasury, Steven T. Mnuchin, during a hearing in Washington, D.C., September 24, 2020 (Toni L. Sandys/Reuters)

Trump administration officials are urging lawmakers to pass a bill that would repurpose unused funding from the Paycheck Protection Program, which was established to boost struggling businesses during the coronavirus pandemic, as negotiations on another stimulus package continue.

“Now is the time for us to come together and immediately vote on a bill to allow us to spend the unused Paycheck Protection Program funds while we continue to work toward a comprehensive package,” read a Sunday letter to members of Congress from White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. “The all-or-nothing approach is an unacceptable response to the American people.”

On Sunday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected the administration’s latest offer of $1.8 trillion coronavirus relief bill, which included $300 billion in relief for state and local governments, a priority for Democrats. The latest offer from Democrats totaled $2.2 trillion, which was panned by Republicans as too expensive.

President Trump last week initially said he had told his representatives to “stop negotiating until after the election.” accusing Pelosi of “not negotiating in good faith.”

Later in the day, however, Trump called on Congress to another pass coronavirus relief package that included financial relief for airlines and more aid for small businesses. The president also said he would sign a stand-alone bill for a second round of direct $1200 stimulus payments to Americans.

Pelosi responded by saying the administration’s strategy shows that, “clearly, the White House is in complete disarray,” and “walking away from coronavirus talks demonstrates that President Trump is unwilling to crush the virus.”

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said passing another coronavirus package is “unlikely in the next three weeks” leading up to the election as the Senate concentrates on confirming a new justice to the Supreme Court, but the administration remains hopeful.

“We will continue to try to work with Speaker Pelosi and Senator [Chuck] Schumer,” Meadows and Mnuchin wrote. “It is not just about the top-line number but also about legislation that can be passed by both the House and the Senate and signed into law by President Trump to help the American people.”

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