Government affairs

Legislative Updates

Congress sends $483 billion interim package to White House for signature

Following Senate passage on Tuesday, the House of Representatives cleared the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act (H.R. 266) today to be signed into law by the President. The bipartisan interim package, meant to replenish funds to programs previously funded in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (H.R. 748), is the result of long talks between Congressional leadership and the White House with both Republican and Democratic priorities being funded.

Following passage of the CARES Act, at the end of last month, funds began to be distributed out from the appropriate federal agencies and departments including the Small Business Administration (SBA), which received $349 billion in pandemic relief for the PPP. After an initial hurdle, the SBA was able to approve all the applications and guarantee all the loans to the small businesses who applied for them in just two weeks. However, the funding quickly ran dry, leaving many small businesses out of potential relief.

This prompted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to push for an additional $250 billion for the PPP as a standalone bill with no other provisions, despite requests from Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) that changes be made to the program in order to direct more funds to needy communities and that he also include $100 billion more for hospitals and $150 billion to shore up state and local budgets.

After negotiations concluded, the final package contained $321.3 billion in additional appropriations to support the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP); $60 billion for separate disaster loans to small businesses; $75 billion for hospitals; and $25 billion for further testing for the Coronavirus. The measure would not change the eligibility rules for businesses to receive loans under the PPP and it does not include the funding sought by Democrats to support states and cities. Leader McConnell blocked the state and local aid from being included and instead supports the idea that local governments who are struggling to fund pension costs and respond to the pandemic, among other problems, should declare bankruptcy.

Rep. Pete King (R-NY) opposed Leader McConnell’s position against assisting struggling local governments by stating, “McConnell’s dismissive remark that States devastated by Coronavirus should go bankrupt rather than get the federal assistance they need and deserve is shameful and indefensible. To say that it is ‘free money’ to provide funds for cops, firefighters and healthcare workers makes McConnell the Marie Antoinette of the Senate.”

Such funding is expected to be negotiated in the next emergency package, which is being discussed between Congressional leadership and could be introduced in the coming week. What else will be included in that package is unclear, though Leader Schumer has cited it may include funds for infrastructure, housing, election security, hazard pay for essential workers (including doctors, nurses, and grocery store clerks), and most important to letter carriers, emergency funding for the U.S. Postal Service (USPS).

If USPS is to survive, it will need direct funding from the federal government. NALC is urging letter carriers to reach out to Representatives and Senators and ask them to ensure the Postal Service is included in the next round of relief funding. Use this link to head over to our Legislative Action Center to contact your lawmakers.

NALC will continue to monitor all activity on the pandemic and Congress’s response to keep letter carriers up to date on any action.

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