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President Trump on Friday signed the nearly $500 billion “Phase 3.5” emergency interim coronavirus relief package into law after Congress passed legislation this week replenishing the fund for small businesses and adding billions of dollars in aid to hospitals across the country amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an Oval Office ceremony, the president touted the bill as being “great for small businesses” and “great for the workers,” adding that the bill will “extend relief to thousands of African-American and Hispanic American business owners."
The new interim emergency relief package, which provides $484 billion in additional funding, passed the House on Thursday and the Senate earlier this week.
The bill delivers a $310 billion infusion to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which helps businesses with fewer than 500 employees obtain loans that can cover eight weeks of their payroll, benefits and other expenses. Thirty billion of that is reserved for community-based lenders, small banks and credit unions, and $30 billion is for mid-sized banks and credit unions.
The bill also provided an additional $50 billion for the Small Business Administration’s emergency disaster lending and $10 billion in SBA disaster grants.
The PPP was created as part of the more than $2.2 trillion “Phase 3” stimulus package, known as the CARES Act, which 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.
The PPP ran out of funding earlier this month, spurring Congress to pass the “Phase 3.5” relief package to replenish the PPP funds and fund other programs.
Democrats had been pushing for additional help for state and local governments that are running dry on revenue during the pandemic, but Republicans refused. Democrats, instead, secured $75 billion for health care providers to support COVID-19 expenses and lost revenue due to the canceling of many elected procedures. And the package includes $25 billion to develop mass testing, with $11 billion earmarked for states and localities.
Meanwhile, a Trump administration official told Fox News on Friday that the Small Business Administration could begin taking loan applications again next week through the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses slammed by the coronavirus-related economic freeze. The SBA could begin taking these applications as early as Monday, Fox News has learned.
The interim emergency spending bill comes as the U.S. continues to grapple with the coronavirus crisis, and as state governors begin considering when to reopen their economies.
As of Friday, the U.S. reported more than 869,000 positive cases of COVID-19 across the country and more than 50,000 deaths.
During the signing ceremony at the White House, the president went on to applaud the task force work on the coronavirus response, saying the U.S. is making “thousands and thousands of ventilators,” creating an excess which will allow the U.S. to make donations to other countries.
Vice President Pence, who leads the coronavirus task force, said the U.S. has conducted more than 5 million tests, which the president touted as being more than any other country.
The president went on to note the importance of “borders” and work on the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“A country has to have borders,” Trump said. “And you don’t have borders if you have people pouring in by the tens of thousands.”