US Senate Races To Reach A Deal On New Coronavirus Relief Package For Small Businesses

The Senate is set to vote on a new coronavirus relief package for small businesses Tuesday afternoon, but disagreements about a provision for coronavirus testing are holding up negotiations.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell headed to the Senate Floor.
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The Senate is set to vote on a new coronavirus relief package for small businesses Tuesday afternoon, but disagreements about a provision for coronavirus testing are holding up negotiations.

A Senate vote to pass a new coronavirus relief package for small businesses is scheduled to take place at 4 p.m. EST Tuesday, but CNN reports that a deal has not yet been reached, mere hours before the vote. Republican Senators told CNN late Tuesday morning that — although the concepts in the bill have been agreed on — the legislative language has yet to be finalized. The Senate has been negotiating the new coronavirus relief package for several days, but disagreements over provisions to allocate funds for coronavirus testing — and precisely how the money will be distributed to small businesses — have held up negotiations.

Late last week, the Small Business Administration’s coronavirus relief loan program, known as the Paycheck Protection Program, ran out of money. The program, which was designed to help small businesses cover expenses and employee paychecks while they’re closed during the coronavirus pandemic, hit its spending limit of $349 billion less than two weeks after it began accepting applications.

On Monday, CNBC reported that senators on both sides of the aisle were unable to reach a deal in time to pass the bill during that day’s session.

“At this hour, our Democratic colleagues are still prolonging their discussions with the administration, so the Senate regretfully will not be able to pass more funding for Americans’ paychecks today,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stated, per CNBC. He went on to say he had scheduled a vote for Tuesday afternoon and he hoped an agreement could be reached by then.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks at a press conference
  Scott Heins / Getty Images News

Early on Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer seemed optimistic about the prospects of passing the bill that afternoon. According to The Washington Post, Schumer indicated the Senate had reached an agreement about what will be included in the bill, but he and his colleagues still needed to work out the details.

“I believe we’ll pass it today,” Schumer went on to say.

The bill has been held up multiple times over the past several days. Democrats insisted money for coronavirus testing needed to be included in the bill and wanted those funds to be directly allocated to states and hospitals. Republicans wanted the money to be allocated towards national testing efforts instead. The version of the bill currently being negotiated will provide $300 billion in funding for national testing and $75 billion directly to hospitals.

Democrats also pushed for provisions to ensure small businesses in rural areas would have better access to the Paycheck Protection Program funds. One of the major criticisms of the program has been that large businesses received more funds than small, local businesses.

The Senate is currently racing to figure out all the details in time for Tuesday afternoon’s vote.