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Special to The News-Courier—
WASHINGTON, DC—President Donald Trump signed a $484 billion bill last Friday aimed at providing aid to employers and hospitals under stress from the coronavirus pandemic that has devastated broad swaths of the economy and killed more than 50,000.
The bill is the latest effort by the federal government to help keep afloat businesses that have had to close or dramatically alter their operations as states try to slow the spread of the virus. Over the past five weeks, roughly 26 million people have, or about 1 in 6 U.S. workers, have filed for jobless aid.
Trump thanked Congress for “answering my call” to provide the critical assistance and said it was “a tremendous victory.” However, easy passage of this aid installment belies a potentially bumpier path ahead for future legislation to address the crisis.
The Trump administration’s request to replenish a fund to help small- and medium-size businesses with payroll, rent and other expenses will get $250 billion. This program provides forgivable loans so businesses can continue paying workers while forced to stay closed for social distancing and stay-at-home orders.
The legislation contains $100 billion demanded by Democrats for hospitals and a nationwide testing program, $60 billion for small banks and an alternative network of community development banks that focus on development in urban neighborhoods and rural areas ignored by many lenders and $60 billion for small-business loans and grants delivered through the Small Business Administration’s existing disaster aid program.
Supporters still are warning that the business-backed program will exhaust the $250 billion almost immediately. The program quickly reached its lending limit after approving nearly 1.7 million loans when launched earlier in the month. That left thousands of small businesses in limbo as they sought help.