With Congress and the administration still at an impasse on the next phase of COVID-19 relief, ASAE and its grassroots advocates blanketed Capitol Hill again this week with calls for emergency assistance for Section 501(c)(6) associations that were left out of most provisions of the CARES Act.

ASAE’s sign-on letter, updated this week and re-sent to Capitol Hill with more than 4,300 signatories, specifically asks Congress to expand access to the popular Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for 501(c)(6) associations in critical need of aid due to the pandemic. These groups were deliberately left out of the PPP when Congress drafted the CARES Act three weeks ago and many are now struggling for their survival.

Lawmakers are mired in a standoff over how and when to replenish the PPP, which exhausted its $350 billion funding capacity this week. Without additional funding, banks and the Small Business Administration (SBA) will be unable to process any more PPP loans designed to avert layoffs during the ongoing crisis. These loans have proven extremely popular because they can be forgiven if businesses maintain their payrolls.

ASAE’s ongoing conversations with congressional offices suggest the 501(c)(6) community’s pleas for help are being heard, but it remains to be seen whether and when Congress will act on the next phase of COVID-19 legislation. Last week, Senate Democrats blocked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s bid to add $250 billion to the small business rescue fund, and Republicans rejected Democrats’ counter-offer to add an additional $250 billion for hospitals and local governments in addition to replenishing the PPP. Both sides have now dug in on those positions, even with the PPP funding depleted this week. With hundreds of thousands of PPP applications still pending, banks have said they will need much more than another $250 billion to keep up with the demand for loans.

“We urge Congress to appropriate additional funds for the Paycheck Protection Program – a critical and overwhelmingly bipartisan program – at which point we will once again be able to process loan applications, issue loan numbers, and protect millions more paychecks,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza said in a joint statement last night.

Both the House and Senate have announced they will not return for regular legislative business until May 4 at the earliest, so any agreement on COVID-related legislation would have to be passed by unanimous consent with lawmakers remaining home in their districts. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said House Democrats support the PPP but there are other critical needs that must be addressed in any interim legislation to mitigate the effects of the pandemic while Congress is out of session.

“Democrats know that in order for the Paycheck Protection Program to succeed, it must work for everyone,” Pelosi said. “That is why we have been asking for the administration to work with us to help the underbanked small businesses and others who are struggling to access the PPP; desperate state and local governments; and hospitals on the front lines of the epidemic. As has been clear since last week, Republicans’ bill which fails to address these critical issues cannot get unanimous consent in the House.”

ASAE will continue to make the case that any action to expand and replenish the PPP should take struggling associations into account. To read more about ASAE’s COVID-related advocacy work, visit thepowerofa.org/coronavirusadvocacy/.