(Washington, D.C.)—U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship and a senior member of the Senate Committee on Finance, spoke on the Senate floor today to call for comprehensive funding for COVID-19 economic relief programs.
While Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and the Trump Administration proposed additional appropriations solely for the Paycheck Protection Program created by the CARES Act, Cardin and Senate Democrats are proposing an interim relief package that will address the immediate issues facing local and state governments, hospitals, and small businesses, especially those in underserved communities.
Click here to download a PDF of the proposal.
Click here to watch Cardin’s floor speech; excerpts from the senator’s remarks follow:
“I’m afraid that this unanimous consent is basically a political stunt because it will not address the immediate need of small businesses…”
“The Majority Leader indicated that the Paycheck Protection Program has run out of money; it hasn’t. Thirty percent has been committed, but the funds have not been released. There are, however, programs under the CARES Act that have run out of money. The EIDL Program, which provides funds for businesses that have been affected by the coronavirus, has run out of money…”
“The emergency EIDL grant program that was included in the CARES Act to provide small businesses up to $10,000 is out of funds…
“The Small Business Administration needs money today in order to process EIDL applications; the SBA doesn’t need money today to process applications for the Paycheck Protection Program...
“The Paycheck Protection Program was negotiated in good faith by Senator Rubio, Senator Collins, Senator Shaheen and myself, and we’re very proud of the program…But this unanimous consent request was not negotiated, and there was no effort made to follow the process so that we could get this done, so it won’t get done; it’s not going to be enacted and the Majority Leader knows that…
“As the majority leader pointed out, we've got to get this right. Today we learned that another 6.6 million Americans lost their jobs last week. We have got to help small businesses protect their payroll, and that’s what our plans do.
“Yesterday we were informed by SBA that while $100 billion in Paycheck Protection loans had been processed, due to documentation problems and ‘know your customer’ rules, the majority of these funds have not been released. So today Paycheck Protection loans are being processed; tomorrow they will be processed; and the day after that they will be processed, because we provided $350 billion. At this moment, we are only at about $100 billion. We’re probably going to have to provide more money, and we’re all for that. But where is the urgency for the other relief programs that have run out of funds?
“Economic Injury Disaster Loans, which are offered directly by SBA—so borrowers don’t have to have a relationship with a commercial bank to access them—is very popular, with 3.8 million requests for loans for a total of $372 billion. But here’s the problem: we have only authorized $7.3 billion for that program. That is why we are suggesting to provide SBA with another $50 billion to authorize an additional $300 billion Economic Injury Disaster Loans. Because today, the average amount being requested from EIDL is $200,000, but SBA is only able to provide $15,000. That is an urgent need that should be dealt with today, and we are prepared to deal with it.
“There's a second program, the emergency economic injury grant program, which provides small businesses a grant worth up to $10,000, because our bipartisan working group recognized that there are some businesses that are in desperate need of immediate cash. These grants are supposed to be processed in three days, and so far, 3.5 million small businesses have requested these funds totaling $11 billion on a sliding scale. It doesn’t give every small business $10,000. How much money did we appropriate? $10 billion. SBA cannot release these funds in three days because they don’t have the money to do it…
“I've heard from small businesses that they went to their bank in order to secure a Paycheck Protection loan, but they were told by the bank that they need a credit card or previous loan with the bank to apply. I’ve heard from some community banks that they only can handle existing customers and cannot serve additional customers at this point. I’ve heard from rural small business that can’t find lenders making Paycheck Protection loans. We’ve got to do a better job. What did we find out yesterday? Of the total 7(a) lenders that are out there today, about 90% were certified before the CARES Act. We've only increased the numbers by about 10%. That's not enough. We can't reach these underserved communities. We've got to do a better job in reaching these underserved communities so that a small business that doesn't have that type of relationship with a bank can still participate in the Paycheck Protection Plan. This U.C. does nothing at all about that issue. Nothing at all about that. The urgent issues are not dealt with in this U.C. so that's why the process of negotiating, allowing us to come together and figure out what's the best way to move forward will result in us actually getting something done to help small businesses…”