Schumer claims 'we have a deal' on interim coronavirus relief package for small businesses

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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer claimed Tuesday that Congress has reached an agreement with the White House on “every major issue” of a nearly $500 billion emergency interim coronavirus relief package for small businesses, hospitals and testing programs across the country amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I think we will be able to pass this today," Schumer, D-N.Y., said on CNN Tuesday morning. "Last night, well past midnight, Speaker Pelosi, myself, Chief of Staff Meadows, and Secretary of [Treasury] Mnuchin were on the phone and we came to an agreement on almost every issue, staff was up all night writing, there are a still few more I-s to dot and T-s to cross, but we have a deal and I believe we will pass it today."

AGREEMENT ON $470B STIMULUS PACKAGE IMMINENT, SOURCES SAY

Other Capitol Hill sources weren't willing to go quite so far, telling Fox News there is "no deal yet"  but the “goal is to get it cleared this afternoon.”

All sides appear to be working toward a final product soon, however.

Schumer added that part of the plan will be funding for coronavirus testing, noting that was "one of the last things that we had to hold out for."

White House sources also told Fox News they expect the Senate could vote on the new bill sometime later Tuesday. Sources echoed Schumer in saying the snag had been over testing, but it has largely been resolved.

Schumer said Tuesday that states need money and federal involvement to implement widespread testing.

"You need a national strategy, and the president and Mnuchin and Meadows agreed to that, to their credit, and that will be in the proposal," he said.

The agreement comes after congressional Democrats and Republicans from both chambers and representatives from the White House finalized the so-called “phase 3.5” response to the coronavirus pandemic.

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

The Payment Protection Program, which helps businesses with under 500 employees obtain loans that can cover eight weeks of their payroll, benefits, rent and other expenses, was created as part of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act that passed last month. The program converts the small business loans to grants and would be fully forgiven if 75 percent of the loan is used to keep employees on the payroll.

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.

WHITE HOUSE SAYS PAYROLL TAX CUT FOR EMPLOYEES COULD COME IN PHASE 4 CORONAVIRUS STIMULUS PACKAGE

The Senate could move the package on Tuesday when it convenes at 4 p.m. EST – with a skeleton crew on hand – likely by unanimous consent, meaning no other senator present in the chamber objects. Then, the bill would move to the House, possibly Wednesday or Thursday.

“We won’t know if we are able to clear it by unanimous consent until we have a product," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told Fox News on Monday afternoon. "The talks are continuing. ... And we're getting closer, and hopefully we'll have an agreement of some kind later today.”

Speaking on the Senate floor, McConnell criticized Democrats for delaying action on replenishing the PPP.

“It’s now been four days since the Paycheck Protection Program ran out of money. Republicans have been trying to secure more funding for this critical program for a week and a half now," McConnell said during Monday's brief session. “Our Democratic colleagues are still prolonging their discussions with the administration, so the Senate regretfully will not be able to pass more funding for Americans’ paychecks today."

Pelosi had justified the delay on Sunday by saying she wanted more funding for testing and hospitals — uncontroversial demands that even left-of-center commentators have pointed out that Republicans never opposed.

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.

Fox News’ Gregg Re, John Roberts, Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.