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Senate passes $484B coronavirus aid deal

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Senate passes $484B coronavirus aid deal
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell praised the bill's passage but criticized Democrats for seeking to add funding beyond the Paycheck Protection Program. Photo by Tasos Katopodis/UPI | License Photo

April 21 (UPI) -- The Senate on Tuesday passed a $484 billion coronavirus aid bill that President Donald Trump is expected to sign.

The bill passed by a unanimous vote that will send it to the House for a vote expected by Thursday.

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The measure includes another $310 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program. The PPP, initially set up to provide $350 billion in loans to small businesses to survive the coronavirus crisis, ran out of money last week. In this round, $60 billion of the funding is specifically set aside for underbanked businesses.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky wanted to provide $250 billion in additional general funding for PPP alone. Democrats sought to prioritize underbanked businesses, and fought for additional funding for hospitals and local governments to be included in the deal.

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The deal also includes $60 billion in economic disaster assistance loans and grants, $75 billion for hospitals and $25 billion for coronavirus testing. Out of the testing funds, $11 billion is set aside for states while the federal government will also get some of the funding.

"Congressional Democrats are proud to have secured an agreement on an interim emergency funding package that has been transformed to provide real support for the lives and livelihoods of the American people," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer of New York said in a joint statement.

The relief comes on top of the $2.3 trillion Coronavirus, Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act passed last month to help Americans and the U.S. economy recover from the coronavirus crisis.

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More than a dozen companies with hundreds of millions in annual revenues received loans under the PPP and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that the department would explain the certification and give companies the opportunity to pay back the loan, as Shake Shack did on Sunday night.

"We will give people the benefit of the doubt, we're going to put an FAQ out to explain the certification," Mnuchin said during a briefing by the White House Coronavirus Task Force. "If you pay back the loan right away, you won't have liability to the [Small Business Adminsitration] and to Treasury but there are severe consequences to people who don't test properly for this certification."

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McConnell issued a statement praising the additional funding for the PPP section of the CARES Act.

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"I am encouraged that Democratic leaders have finally agreed to reopen the Paycheck Protection Program and abandon a number of their unrelated demands," McConnell said.

"In a week-plus while our Democratic colleagues delayed the urgent PPP funds, additional federal help for hospitals and healthcare providers became urgent as well," McConnell added. "Republicans have always supported more medical funding as soon as necessary and I am proud this package will provide roughly $75 billion more to fund hospitals and healthcare providers in this crisis."

McConnell also thanked Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who both worked with Mnuchin on resolving issues in the bill's passage, for negotiating the additional $25 billion for COVID-19 testing.

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Trump is expected to sign the bill into law.

"I urged the House to pass the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act with additional funding for PPP, hospitals and testing," Trump tweeted. "After I sign this bill, we will begin discussions on the next legislative initiative with fiscal relief."

Mnuchin said he expects this bill will provide the last injection required to provide loans for small buissnesses.

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"We would expect this is the last traunch but obviously we can reconsider that but this is a lot of money going out," he said.

He added, however, a "phase four" coronavirus stimulus bill focused on infrastructure as well as incentives for restaurants, sports teams and other entertainment businesses, a payroll tax cut, and funding for states will "most likely" be required.

U.S. copes with COVID-19 pandemic

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

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