The House on Tuesday overwhelming passed legislation on Thursday that will inject hundreds of billions more into a small business loan program.
The vote was 388 to 5 on the legislation, with a total price tag of $484 billion. The Senate passed the bill earlier this week, and President Donald Trump is expected to sign the bill soon.
The biggest chunk of the money — $310 billion — will be devoted to replenishing the Paycheck Protection Program, in which small businesses can access loans that can be converted into grants if they maintain payrolls. The small business program that was included as part of the last relief package, the CARES Act, quickly ran through its initial $349 billion round of funding.
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A number of entertainment and media businesses already have received the PPP loans, including Cinedigm Corp., which received a $2.15 million loan, and Emmis Communications, which received a $4.75 million loan.
Th legislation does not include a provision to specifically provide relief to a larger number of local media outlets including newspapers, radio and TV stations that have been hit hard from a plunge in advertising revenue. They would like a waiver from rules that prohibit local outlets from receiving small-business loans because they are part of larger chains that have more than 500 employees. Restaurant and hospitality chains got such a provision in the CARES Act, which passed late last month, although it has created some controversy when such brands as Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and Shake Shake received the relief money.
Last week, four lawmakers — Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) and Sen. John Boozman (R-AR) — sent a letter to Senate leaders in which they wrote that the last relief package “waived the affiliation rule for hotels and restaurants allowing them to benefit from small business assistance, and the same consideration should extend to local news outlets in light of their vital role in maintaining public health.”
“Even though these news outlets may be owned by larger groups, they operate independently,” they wrote.
The latest relief legislation includes provisions to direct money to mom-and-pop small businesses, as $30 billion is reserved for community-based lenders, small banks and credit unions, and $30 billion for mid-sized banks and credit unions. It also includes an additional $50 billion for SBA emergency disaster lending, and $10 billion in disaster grants.
Because of coronavirus restrictions, members were brought in groups to vote on the floor. Some members wore masks, others took them off to make remarks during the floor debate.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, holding her mask, said that her district was the most impacted in the country by the coronavirus, and that it was a “joke when Republicans say they have urgency around this bill. The only folks they have urgency around are folks like Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and Shake Shack. Those are the folks getting assistance in this bill. You are not trying to fix the bill for mom and pop.”
She was the only Democrat to vote against the package. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO), Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) and Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) also voted no. Rep. Justin Amash (I-MI) voted present.
Senate Republicans originally sought a bill that would simply replenish the money for small-business relief, and they have been hammering Democrats for delaying it. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, however, pushed for legislation that provided greater assistance to health workers and for testing.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) blamed the Democrats for further job losses, after reports that an additional 4.4 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits.
“How many of those 4.4 million would not have gotten a pink slip last week?” he said.