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Progress reported in talks on interim coronavirus stimulus bill

WASHINGTON — Democrats and Republicans said they’re making progress in negotiations that continued Saturday for an interim coronavirus bill to replenish funds for a small business program and add money for health care providers and states and local governments.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Democrats on Saturday sent an updated compromise to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and the White House as part of the negotiations, a senior Democratic aide said Saturday.

The Democratic proposal includes changes in the small business paycheck protection program to include firms excluded in the first round, additional funding for economic disaster small business loans, money for national coronavirus testing, and $150 billion for states and local governments — including $17 billion for New York.

Funding for state and local governments, however, remains a sticking point, as some key Republicans have resisted it.

Pressure is growing on Congress to come to a deal and act. Republicans accuse Democrats of holding small businesses hostage, while Democrats charge that Republicans are snubbing health providers and local governments.

“Lawmakers must stop blocking these funds and replenish the program without delay,” President Donald Trump said in his Saturday evening briefing. “The Democrats have to come on board.”

The Democrats’ revised proposal came a day before Schumer and Mnuchin are to appear in separate segments on CNN on Sunday in which they will be questioned on the status of the interim bill.

Meanwhile, Republicans have softened their hard-line position that the interim include only $250 billion more for the popular SBA paycheck protection program, which offers forgivable loans to small businesses that retain employees – and nothing else.

As of Thursday, the SBA said the program had used all $350 billion of its funding from the unprecedented $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill passed at the end of March 26 to address the effects of the pandemic and economic shutdown to slow the spread of the virus.

Republicans also have drawn the line against sending more money to state and local governments, which received $150 billion in the coronavirus relief bill.

“You could possibly get some hospital (funding). I don’t think you’d get any state money,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told Politico after meeting in the Oval Office Thursday night with Mnuchin and Trump.

But Schumer and Democrats insist Congress should send more money to states and local governments — including many municipalities that were too small to share in the funding included in the last massive spending bill.

That money would be distributed by need in the Democrats’ updated proposal.

The proposal would send $12.2 billion to New York State, which is facing a $10 billion to $15 billion deficit; $1.5 billion to New York City, and $4.8 billion to New York counties, including $125.8 million for Nassau and $131 million for Suffolk, according to figures obtained by Newsday.

The interim spending bill has been caught in a deadlock since April 9, when Democrats blocked the bid by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to win unanimous approval for Mnuchin’s request for $250 billion more for the paycheck protection program.