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House Plans To Vote This Week On Senate's New Relief Measure


The Senate passed a new coronavirus relief bill. Almost half a trillion dollars is set to go to small businesses to hospitals and to testing. Here's Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.


MITCH MCCONNELL: After one of these bipartisan agreements, there are always a lot of claims about who won and who lost. But I think the American people are the ones who won.

KING: NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales has been following this story. Good morning, Claudia.


KING: Let's talk about the specific numbers here - $300 billion for small businesses. That really was the priority, huh?

GRISALES: Yes, that's what they were focused on. This is connected to the last coronavirus response bill that was passed last month. That was about $2 trillion. And a big chunk of that went toward small business loans, and it was a very popular program, so popular it ran out of money recently. So the administration has called for new funds. They started asking for $250 billion to replenish it. But over the last couple of weeks, negotiations between Republicans and Democrats grew that plan.

And we should note, however, the House still needs to pass it. They're going to be poised to do that tomorrow. But both parties are on board. And that all said, even as lawmakers are rushing to make this new infusion for small businesses, there's projections that the funds could run out again days after they approve it.

KING: I mean, one of the twists here so far is that some big companies have been getting small-business loans. That had a lot of people upset. Shake Shack gave back $10 million.


KING: Is the administration or Congress saying, like, we have a system in place now so this will not happen again?

GRISALES: They're not quite there. They're saying they're addressing it. Republicans and Democrats alike have conceded there was an error in how this program was installed, allowing these larger businesses to pull these loans. Now President Trump is even urging some of these larger businesses to give the money back, and now Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is looking for ways to address this. He issued a warning to larger businesses who take advantage of these small business loans. Let's take a listen.


STEVEN MNUCHIN: There are severe consequences for people who don't test properly to this certification. And, again, we want to make sure this money is available to small businesses that need it, people who have invested their entire life savings.

GRISALES: Now, lawmakers say, with this new round of money for small business loans, they have included new provisions in this bill. And they say they'll be better prepared to insure these smaller businesses will get to take better advantage this time.

KING: OK. So let's take that $300 billion for small businesses, put that to the side for a second. What else is getting money in this bill?

GRISALES: Yeah, so going back to the administration's calls to replenish the small business loan fund, the Democrats responded that that wasn't enough; they needed to do more. And so that's what prolonged these negotiations over several weeks. They said they needed to include funding for hospitals and testing, and they got that. Republicans agreed to $75 billion in new funds for hospitals and a $25 billion program for a new national testing program.

KING: And then on top of all this, I know you've been reporting that lawmakers are talking about another phase, another wave of money. What do we know about that at this point?

GRISALES: Yes, there's a lot of wish lists out there. President Trump has his own. He wants to see infrastructure and payroll cuts. And Democrats, they want to see state and local governments addressed. They're having these budget shortfalls they're forecasting at this time. They're really worried about that.

Now, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, he raised some concerns about all this rush to spending. He was asked about this after the vote yesterday that - when the Senate approved this last bill. And he said there's concerns about debt and they need to tap the brakes. They say, perhaps, maybe they should consider this next bill when they get together in regular session. That could come as early as next month. So lots of moving parts here.

KING: OK. NPR's Claudia Grisales. Claudia, thanks so much.

GRISALES: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Claudia Grisales
Claudia Grisales is a congressional reporter assigned to NPR's Washington Desk.
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