Hawley says protecting ‘every job’ should be new focus in coronavirus response

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Sen. Josh Hawley said Tuesday that the new focus in the nation’s coronavirus response should be on protecting “every job” and rehiring those who have lost them due to the economic aftershocks of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We need to get the [Paycheck Protection Program] PPP funded now to take care of the small businesses who have been waiting in line for weeks,” Hawley, R-Mo., tweeted Tuesday. “But we should also recognize the limitations of this program. It’s just not adequate to [the] needs of the moment — we have 22 million Americans unemployed.”

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Hawley’s tweet comes as Congress and the White House are thought to be on the verge of announcing a final deal for a nearly $500 billion emergency interim coronavirus relief package for small businesses, hospitals and testing programs across the country.

While Hawley supports the increased funding of the Paycheck Protection Program created under the CARES Act, which helps businesses with under 500 employees obtain loans, he urged Congress to come up with a “simpler” plan to help people get back to work.

“We need something faster & simpler that can work on a bigger scale and get people their jobs back now,” Hawley continued. “We need to get our economy get back on its feet by getting workers on their feet. We need to rehire the unemployed & protect every job.”

“That should be our focus going forward,” he added.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Tuesday morning that congressional Republicans and Democrats had come to an agreement with the White House, and are expected to pass the measure later in the day. Other Capitol Hill sources, though, weren’t willing to go quite so far, telling Fox News that there is “no deal yet” but the goal is to finalize in the afternoon.

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The response is expected to include $310 billion for the critical PPP, which offers grants and loans to small businesses struggling to make payroll, sources tell Fox News. The $350 billion fund depleted last Thursday.

A separate provision worth $60 billion (including $50 billion in loans and $10 billion in grants) would be allocated to economic disaster loans. Also included: $75 billion for hospitals and $25 billion for coronavirus testing. The total of the package would be north of $470 billion.

The stimulus plan under consideration Monday night did not include money for state and local governments, as Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., had proposed, but both Republicans and Democrats were still negotiating state-driven approaches to coronavirus testing.

Meanwhile, President Trump is hoping to include a payroll tax cut for employees as part of an even-bigger Phase 4 stimulus relief package.

A senior administration official told Fox News Friday that the president would like a payroll tax cut for employees — an expansion of what was rolled out in the $2.2 trillion CARES Act last month.

Under the current Phase 3 stimulus relief package, employers received a payroll tax cut, but the president is working to ensure that employees are covered by that tax cut in Phase 4 — especially as individuals become eligible to return to work.

Last month, the president called for an additional $2 trillion for Phase 4 of the coronavirus stimulus relief plan and said it should focus on infrastructure.