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Pelosi and Schumer Want Billions More for Hospitals, States, Food Aid

Michael Rainey

With the Trump administration seeking another $250 billion for small businesses struggling during the coronavirus crisis, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer said Wednesday that they would like to include hundreds of billions more in a relief package that could pass as early as this week.

In a joint statement, the Democratic leaders called for more than $250 billion in additional funds, above and beyond the new money for small businesses, in the next round of relief:

  • $100 billion for hospitals, community health centers and health systems;
  • $150 billion for state and local governments struggling with increased demand for services even as revenues plummet;
  • a 15% increase in the maximum benefit in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Pelosi and Schumer also said they would seek new rules for the small business assistance program, including a requirement that half of the new small business funds, or $125 billion, be distributed “through community-based financial institutions that serve farmers, family, women, minority and veteran-owned small businesses and nonprofits in rural, tribal, suburban and urban communities across our country.”

The political calculus: The Democrats’ demands are something of a political gamble, says The Washington Post’s Erica Werner, as they look to make a deal with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: “It was unclear whether McConnell intended to accept any of the Democrats’ demands or would push forward with trying to pass the $250 billion increase for small businesses by unanimous consent on Thursday, daring Democrats to object.” Schumer has not indicated whether he would hold up the boost for small businesses, which comes on top of the $350 billion already allocated to them in the $2 trillion relief package, if McConnell fails to include the additional funds Democrats are seeking.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told Politico Wednesday that he thought the two sides could make a deal. "I don’t think we’re that far apart in some respects,” Hoyer said. “McConnell is apparently only doing what the administration asked him to do and I think he is also, to some degree, playing chicken."

More relief to come, at some point: However the small business package plays out, Pelosi and Schumer made it clear that are pursuing another large aid package: “After we pass this interim emergency legislation, Congress will move to pass a CARES 2 Act that will extend and expand the bipartisan CARES Act to meet the needs of the American people."

Republicans warned Tuesday, however, that the next round of comprehensive relief could take weeks to negotiate. “There’s not as much urgency to doing a 4.0 right now,” a Republican aide told The Hill, referring to a fourth relief bill. “[I]t’s not like the market is saying, ‘Oh my God, when is 4.0 coming?’”

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