- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Sens. Marco Rubio, chairman of the Senate Small Business Committee, and Susan Collins proposed a $300 billion relief package Wednesday to aid small businesses.

“The goal is to keep employees connected to their employers,” Mr. Rubio, Florida Republican, said.

The plan, which is still being written out, would provide federally guaranteed loans through approved banks for about six to eight weeks for employers to use for payroll and other typical expenses to stay afloat.

The loans could potentially be forgiven at the end of the period, Ms. Collins, Maine Republican, said, if the funds were used to sustain employees.

“We want to make sure that businesses that would otherwise be thriving and doing well make it through this pandemic that we are enduring,” she said. “When this crisis is over we want those employees to be able to go back to work at those small businesses.”

Many small businesses across the nation are being shuttered to help enforce the social distancing practices urged by health professionals.

This proposal would be part of the “phase three” coronavirus economic stimulus package, which lawmakers across Capitol Hill are still working to put together.

The second bill just cleared the Senate Wednesday afternoon, with many Republicans unhappy with the pressure the worker benefits put on small businesses.

Republicans are simultaneously working on drafting proposals to get more cash to the American public and shore up health care resources.

The White House is also pushing for aid to hard-hit sectors like the airline and cruise industries.

Democrats, however, are calling for Republicans to include them in the talks now, rather than waiting for negotiations further in the process.

“Secretary Mnuchin says he wants legislation passed by the end of the week. The McConnell process will not get us there,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said.

Mr. Schumer called for at least $750 billion that would go towards shoring up hospital resources, affordability of coronavirus treatment, fund public transportation and emergency child care and pause payments on loans immediately.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants the third bill to expand on benefits for workers, including ensuring first responders and health workers have paid leave if they need it. She also wants refundable tax credits for self-employed and gig economy workers.

Mr. Rubio and Ms. Collins, however, said they’re trying to bring in Democrats on this proposal in the early stages. They’re aiming to circulate a draft of the bill by Thursday.

“There’s no reason this should be a partisan exercise,” Ms. Collins said. “In fact, I would say if we cannot come together in a bipartisan way to form a response to such a serious threat to our public health and our economy than shame on us.”

The Senate has vowed not to leave Washington until the next package is constructed and passed.

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