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Senate fails to pass competing measures to expand coronavirus aid

Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell's plan involved increasing the amount of funds available for the Paycheck Protection Program. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell's plan involved increasing the amount of funds available for the Paycheck Protection Program. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

April 9 (UPI) -- The Senate on Thursday failed to pass competing coronavirus aid funding that would primarily expand a program to provide loans to small businesses.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky sought to add another $250 billion to the Paycheck Protection Program.

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The program was passed as part of the $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill last month. It provides loans to small businesses with fewer than 500 employees so they can keep paying bills and payroll.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Tuesday said he spoke to congressional leaders about injecting an extra $250 billion into the $350 billion program. President Donald Trump said the Small Business Administration has processed about 250,000 loans worth about $70 billion since the launch of the program on Friday.

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Speaking from the Senate floor Thursday, McConnell proposed a measure that would only involving changing the amount of the PPP. He sought to approve it by unanimous consent so that not all senators would have to return to Washington, D.C., for the vote.

"I'm literally talking about deleting the number '350' and writing '600' in its place," he said. "Do not block emergency aid you do not oppose just because you want something more."

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Bass Pro Shops marketing manager David Smith (R) carries a box of donated face masks into Mercy Health in Chesterfield, Mo., on May 13. The company is donating 1 million FDA-approved ASTM Level 1 Procedure Face Masks to healthcare workers and first responders working on the front lines of the pandemic. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

But Democrats opposed McConnell's proposal, saying he was trying to push through the measure without negotiating. They also sought to add more funding for other sectors.

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"The majority leader knew full well there was not agreement and consensus," Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said. "This was in fact designed to fail, designed as a political stunt."

In addition to the $250 billion for the PPP, Democrats sought $100 billion for hospitals and $150 billion for state and local jurisdictions to provide food assistance.

Republicans blocked that proposal.

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California called for Congress to review data to determine which businesses are being most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The political jockeying came as the Labor Department announced an additional 6.6 million people filed for unemployment benefits last week.

Thursday's report continued a surge of unemployment following lockdown conditions for workers in 43 states under stay-at-home orders.

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Non-essential businesses -- especially in retail -- were either closed or sharply curtailed in areas affecting 95 percent of the U.S. population.

Thursday's figures came on top of the nearly 10 million claims made during the final two weeks of March, including a record 6.6 million the last week.

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