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What’s holding up additional funding for U.S. small business

After federal aid for small businesses, called the Paycheck Protection Program, ran out of its allotted $350 billion, there were questions about if and when lawmakers could land on a deal to provide additional funding. As of late Friday, Republicans and Democrats seem to be making progress toward an agreement -- but they aren’t there yet. Lisa Desjardins joins Judy Woodruff to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    After the pandemic aid for small businesses, the so-called Paycheck Protection Program, ran out of the allotted $350 billion, there were questions about when and if lawmakers could make a deal to find more money for small business loans.

    It now appears that Republicans and Democrats may be headed into the weekend with an agreement.

    Lisa Desjardins is here now to explain the latest.

    Lisa, you have been working on this. I know you have been talking to members of Congress. What are you learning about how much progress they're making?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    There is progress, Judy, but there's not an agreement yet.

    I don't know if we can say that there will be an agreement this weekend or not. The progress is this, Judy. Republicans have conceded to Democrats that this next round of funding extensions should include money for hospitals.

    That's something Democrats said was necessary, and one reason they have not yet passed the increased money for small businesses. So, hospitals will get some increased money in this next deal. We don't know how much.

    There is a sign Republicans are now considering another thing that's important to Democrats, which is making some of the small business loan money specifically available to community lenders. Democrats said some minority banks and also smaller banks were not able to get enough of that money, if any of that money.

    Now, Republican Leader in the House Kevin McCarthy says he's on board with the idea of community lending money. We have to see if the White House also joins in.

    This all is to say that they're making some progress, Judy. This could be on track to a vote as soon as next week, but, first, we have to have a final deal. And we don't have that yet.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Lisa, we know the Democrats were also asking that some of this money be diverted or spent for — given to state and local governments, with an injection they could make into the economy. Where does up all that stand?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Republicans have a problem with that. They don't think that should be added at this time.

    There are a few reasons for that. One is that the formula, they believe, is not correct, and they also think that states need more flexibility than Democrats may be willing to agree to. So, that is still an issue that is unresolved.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Lisa, you have done some additional reporting on other ways that Congress is trying to respond to this crisis.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Well, there was an extraordinary phone call today, Judy, between Senate Democrats and Vice President Pence and his task force team.

    Judy, the Democrats had the same question you and William Brangham had: testing. Democrats in the Senate, senators, asked again and again about testing. And they say that they — that Vice President Pence didn't give them direct answers on the availability and timing going ahead.

    This led to an extraordinary moment, Judy, from Angus King, independent of Maine, a former governor.

    I want to read you a quote that he said to Vice President Pence on the phone today expressing kind of the rising fury in Washington.

    He said to the vice president: "The president is trying to off-load on the governors the responsibility of testing. And the governors are not in any position to take that on. To turn it over to the governors, as if they magically can conjure these things, is an abdication of federal duty," something a senator said directly to the president today, a sign of growing anger certainly about the testing situation.

    And we know the president is briefing right now talking about testing, but still a lot of questions, as you and William had, on this.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    No question this is something that is — continues to come up. And, as you said, Democrats, members of Congress are going to continue to raise it.

    We will see where it goes.

    Lisa Desjardins, thank you very much.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    You're welcome.

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