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Capito: Stimulus negotiations underway

PARKERSBURG — Another stimulus package to keep people working and help small businesses remain afloat during the economic slowdown was stalled because of politics by the Democrats, according to Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.

The intent was to appropriate another $250 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program loan program for businesses employing less than 500 people that was originally in the third stimulus package passed by Congress, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, of which everyone agreed to, Capito said on Thursday.

The original amount in the program was $350 billion, which is administered through the Small Business Administration.

“And the Democrats blocked it because they wanted to put a bunch of other things in,” she said. “I’m not saying the things they wanted were not valuable. But it’s time sensitive. I don’t want the door slammed in the face of my small businesses which we’re in danger of because we don’t have the money in there.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel, R-Ky., intended to ask for unanimous consent on the package, allowing passage of the additional appropriation while senators were away from Washington, D.C., Capito said. However, two senators objected, she said.

Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, in objecting, said other programs including for hospital funding are needed.

Negotiations were underway Thursday to resolve the issues, Capito said.

More than 412,000 loans representing more than $100 billion have been made through the program in less than a week, Capito said. In West Virginia, 240 businesses took advantage of the program, generating $47 million in loans, she said.

The intent is to keep the companies in business and employing people, Capito said.

“It’s been going like hotcakes,” Capito said.

The need exists for the program, demonstrated by the number of loans and the number of people who have applied for unemployment, she said.

“I just think this shows you the urgency,” Capito said.

Congress has passed three stimulus packages so far because of the massive economic slowdown caused by the nation’s response to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 contagion. About 16 million people so far are out of work because of the shutdown, about 10 percent of the nation’s workforce.

The next stimulus package will more than likely address health care issues, among other problems missed in the first packages, Capito said. Capito would like to see programs addressing the domestic manufacture of personal protective equipment to prevent shortages.

“We’re still in the ideas phase, I would say,” she said.

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