Congress Extends Small-Business Loan Program for 5 Weeks

Congress Extends Small-Business Loan Program for 5 Weeks
Congress Extends Small Business Loan Program for 5 Weeks

WASHINGTON — The House agreed on Wednesday to extend for five weeks a popular pandemic relief loan program for small businesses, sending President Trump legislation to give companies more time to apply for federal help under an initiative created by the stimulus law.The move to extend the Paycheck Protection Program through Aug. 8, which allows small businesses to secure low-interest loans to help maintain their payrolls, came as Republicans and Democrats remained divided over how much additional federal assistance to provide to businesses and individuals affected by the coronavirus and the economic hardship it has caused.The program shuttered on Tuesday with more than $130 billion in unspent loan money, after allocating $520 billion in loans to nearly 5 million businesses nationwide. But just hours before, senators unexpectedly reached agreement for a five-week extension. The House cleared it on Wednesday afternoon without a formal vote.Representative Angie Craig, Democrat of Minnesota, who oversaw the measure’s passage on the floor, said lawmakers needed to set aside partisan politics and listen to small-business owners. “Our communities deserve our commitment that their best interests are what is driving our legislation,” she said in a statement. After the vote, Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California urged the Senate to take up House legislation that would extend the program through December and called on the administration to release information about who had benefited from the program.“The administration’s breathtaking lack of transparency continues to raise serious questions as to why the administration is failing to ensure this lifeline reaches the small businesses in our most impacted communities,” Ms. Pelosi said in a statement.But a much broader and more polarized clash between Republicans and Democrats over whether to extend an array of other assistance programs set to lapse this summer — such as enhanced unemployment benefits that expire at the end of July — will wait until later in the month, with both chambers slated to leave Washington for the Fourth of July and not fully return for two weeks.“It’s certainly something to celebrate,” said Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the minority leader. “But I would have hoped that our two parties could have worked this out before last night, as a small part of much broader legislation to address the many challenges posed by Covid-19.”With a number of provisions in the $2.2 trillion stimulus law set to expire at the end of July and new outbreaks forcing many states to slow efforts to reopen their economies, lawmakers have acknowledged that another relief package will be necessary when Congress returns. The Democratic-controlled House in May passed a $3 trillion measure that extended several of those provisions, including an extension of jobless benefits that provide an additional $600 per week. But Republicans have rejected it, calling it too expensive and broad in scope.Divisions remain over what should be included in future legislation, including how to address the Paycheck Protection Program, administered by the Small Business Administration, which allows companies to have their loans forgiven if they maintain payrolls at a certain level. The program enjoys bipartisan support, but it had a chaotic start and has drawn criticism both for criteria that were regarded as too broad — loans went to large, publicly traded firms — and rules that recipients said were too restrictive, barring them for using the money for their most pressing needs.

Updated June 30, 2020

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

Is it harder to exercise while wearing a mask?
A commentary published this month on the website of the British Journal of Sports Medicine points out that covering your face during exercise “comes with issues of potential breathing restriction and discomfort” and requires “balancing benefits versus possible adverse events.” Masks do alter exercise, says Cedric X. Bryant, the president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit organization that funds exercise research and certifies fitness professionals. “In my personal experience,” he says, “heart rates are higher at the same relative intensity when you wear a mask.” Some people also could experience lightheadedness during familiar workouts while masked, says Len Kravitz, a professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico.

I’ve heard about a treatment called dexamethasone. Does it work?
The steroid, dexamethasone, is the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in severely ill patients, according to scientists in Britain. The drug appears to reduce inflammation caused by the immune system, protecting the tissues. In the study, dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of patients on oxygen by one-fifth.

What is pandemic paid leave?
The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the virus. It gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. It gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid leave, and includes people who don’t typically get such benefits, like part-time and gig economy workers. But the measure excludes at least half of private-sector workers, including those at the country’s largest employers, and gives small employers significant leeway to deny leave.

Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?
So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.

What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?
Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

How does blood type influence coronavirus?
A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?
The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.

How can I protect myself while flying?
If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

What should I do if I feel sick?
If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.

Small businesses, desperate for relief after closing their doors to slow the spread of the coronavirus, flooded the administration with applications, prompting Congress to inject an additional $320 billion in April. Two months later, lawmakers cleared a series of modifications to relax the terms of the program, including giving small businesses more time to spend the loan money. But without Congress’s action on Wednesday, the window for applying for the loans would remain shut.Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, told lawmakers on Tuesday that he had been discussing the possibility of repurposing the funds left in the program for businesses whose revenues had dropped significantly, such as restaurants and hotels.Democrats have proposed extending the application window for the program through December and allowing certain small businesses to apply for a second loan, provided that they could show they had used all or most of their initial loan and that they had lost substantial revenue.Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, said on Tuesday that he preferred using some of the remaining funds in the program to provide a second round of assistance to small businesses.“Our hope is that we can use that as the sort of foundation for building a second round of assistance in a more targeted way,” he said.


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