Democrats block $250 billion in federal aid for small businesses

WASHINGTON D.C. – The one pot of money that has been almost completely depleted from the massive $2.2 trillion CAREs Act legislation passed to mitigate damage to the American economy is the $350 billion Paycheck Protection Program authored by Maine’s senior Senator Susan Collins. But an effort to quickly bolster those funds was shot down by Senate Democrats on Thursday.

Designed to ensure small businesses can continue paying their workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, the funds are provided in the form of a loan that is forgiven, or turned into a grant, so long as the small business uses the funds to provide paychecks to their employees and cover rent and utilities.

The effort to quickly bolster those funds with an additional $250 billion as unemployment claims rise across the nation was smashed on the rocky shore of partisanship in the U.S. Senate Thursday. Intent on pursuing a larger spending package, Democrats blocked the attempt to add the $250 billion through a unanimous consent proposal by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Instead, Democrats want to attach additional strings to the small business money, requiring a certain percentage of the money to be distributed to specific sectors of the economy and non-profits, as well as tying the funding to an additional spending package for state and local governments and health care providers to the package.

Seeing that the program was immediately embraced by American small businesses, earlier this week Senator Susan Collins asked the Trump Administration to support the additional $250 billion in funding to try and meet the need of small businesses. The Trump Administration quickly agreed and Sen. Collins said she was immediately working with her colleagues in the Senate to get the funding passed.

As of Thursday afternoon, more than 5,300 Maine small businesses had qualified for more than $1 billion in funds from the program.

The Senate is not scheduled to convene again until April 20th, although a move to once again try and approve the additional PPP funding could happen sooner if Democrats signal they will support passage.

President Trump’s Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia was saying Friday morning that his focus is now on supporting blue collar American workers. Scalia said that before the pandemic, America was experiencing a “blue collar boom” and the administration was now focusing on a “blue collar bounce back” as the COVID-19 pandemic abated.

In a Fox News interview Friday morning, Scalia cited the Paycheck Protection Program as an important piece of that bounce back, saying it would allow American small businesses to keep paying their employees and maintain an employer-employee connection so the small businesses can quickly restart when restrictions are lifted.

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