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White House Proposes Appropriation of Unspent PPP Funds as Stopgap While Stimulus Talks Grind On

  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Chief of Staff Mark Meadows call for unused funds from the Paycheck Protection Program to be appropriated in standalone bill
  • $134 billion was left unspent after the PPP expired on Aug. 8
  • Funding would offer stopgap relief for small businesses as deliberations on new COVID-19 relief continue

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Chief of Staff Mark Meadows are urging Congress to revive the Paycheck Protection Program with funds left over from previous appropriations to the program, saying they can provide stopgap assistance to small businesses while congressional leaders and the White House attempt to find a workable compromise on new COVID-19 relief.

The PPP was one of the more popular elements of the bipartisan CARES Act passed this spring, and subsequent proposals for new economic stimulus have all called for renewed funding for the program. The $350 billion initially allocated for PPP quickly ran out, necessitating a follow-up appropriation of $310 billion.

However, uncertainties about PPP loan forgiveness requirements and other issues made business owners more wary of pursuing funding during the second round, and $134 billion remained unspent when the program ended on Aug. 8. Forgiveness terms are still in flux, with the Treasury and Small Business Association recently announcing a simplified forgiveness process for loans of $50,000 or less.

Mnuchin and Meadows said in a letter to Congress on Sunday that withholding relief until a comprehensive package is approved is “an unacceptable response to the American people.” Mnuchin made a similar proposal last month, suggesting that unspent PPP funding could be directed to hard-hit industries such as restaurants and hotels.

Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have been spearheading talks seeking to craft compromise relief bill, though the outcome remains uncertain. Democrats have largely favored a comprehensive bill rather than a piecemeal approach, while Republicans have been reluctant to approve greater spending or offer support to state and local governments.

The White House position on COVID-19 relief has been contradictory in recent weeks. President Donald Trump cut off talks after Pelosi rejected a White House offer of a $1.6 trillion package, but negotiations resumed later in the week and produced a $1.8 trillion offer. Trump and White House advisor Larry Kudlow have recently said they may back stimulus funding greater than the $2.2 trillion HEROES Act already passed in the House, Kudlow’s previous comments that a second stimulus could be unnecessary and Senate Republicans’ preference for smaller bills. Republicans largely unified around a “skinny” relief bill in September, though this only amounted to about $300 billion in spending.

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