The Senate adjourned today after competing proposals to add funding for COVID-19 relief failed to win support. Senate Democrats blocked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s bid to add $250 billion to the Paycheck Protection Program designed to assist small businesses, and Republicans rejected Democrats’ counter-offer to add an additional $250 billion for hospitals and local governments.
Both Republicans and Democrats accused each other of political maneuvering during a pandemic crisis, though both sides acknowledged that they would have to come to agreement soon on a larger package of COVID relief. The need for additional economic aid was underscored by news that another 6.6 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, joining 10 million Americans who applied the previous two weeks.
McConnell tried to make the case to Senate Democrats this week that the Paycheck Protection Program was in dire need of additional funds and that other priorities related to COVID-19 relief could be addressed later. The $2.2 trillion CARES Act that Congress passed two weeks ago included $350 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program to keep small businesses and 501(c)(3) nonprofit groups afloat during the pandemic, but McConnell said the program is already overwhelmed.
“I am literally talking about deleting the number 350 and writing 600 in its place,” McConnell said to Democrats on the Senate floor today. “Please do not block emergency aid you do not even oppose just because you want something more.”
Maryland Democratic Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin said McConnell’s take-it-or-leave-it proposal this week was a “political stunt” that ignores other imperative relief measures for hospitals, cities and states and food stamp recipients that must be addressed.
The Paycheck Protection Program is “a good program,” Cardin said. “We strongly support it. It’s bipartisan. But this unanimous consent request was not negotiated. There was no effort made to follow the process so that we could get this done. So it won’t get done. The Majority Leader knows that.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said McConnell’s bid to just inject more funds into the Paycheck Protection Program, while ignoring other priorities, would have been roundly rejected in the House.
“The bill that they put forth…will not get unanimous support in the caucus in the House,” Pelosi said. “It just won’t.”
ASAE and thousands of its members’ organizations have been pushing hard for Congress to include associations in the Paycheck Protection Program and are focusing now on the fourth COVID-19 relief package that is taking shape in the House. ASAE’s latest letter to House and Senate leaders has been signed by close to 4,000 associations. Read more about ASAE’s COVID-19 advocacy efforts on our COVID-19 Advocacy Resources page.