WASHINGTON – Democrats pushed for a temporary extension of a popular small business subsidy program through the Republican-controlled Senate on Tuesday night, an unexpected development that spiked in coronavirus cases in many states that are causing new closings of bars and other companies.
Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin’s measure came hours before the application deadline, which was created in March and has been changed twice since then. Cardin, the top Democrat on the Small Business Committee, requested unanimous approval of the extension of the Check Protection Program until August 8.
Minority party lawmakers are almost never successful in such attempts, but the pressure swayed the Senate-controlled Republicans, who have delayed consideration of a fifth coronavirus relief bill and are preparing to return home for a two-week break.
About $ 130 billion remains of the $ 660 billion approved so far for the subsidy program, which provides direct subsidies to companies hurt by the coronavirus pandemic, which hit the economy as consumers and workers were forced to stay home for much of spring.
The subsidies come in the form of federal loans that can be forgiven if companies follow rules like using 60 percent of the money for payroll costs. The loans have been a lifeline for more than 4 million companies.
Senate Top Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York took a victory lap after the unexpectedly successful move, saying renewed economic problems are reviving interest in the program.
“There are a large number of companies that will need to apply now. If this program ended today, they would have had no luck,” said Schumer. “Now with this short-lived renewal on August 8, at least they have an opportunity to reapply.”