Panel Approves $50 Billion for Small Businesses: Stimulus Update
(Bloomberg) -- The House Small Business Committee has approved $50 billion in emergency pandemic aid for small businesses. A senior Senate Democrat highlighted comments by Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell on the weak state of the job market in his push for a longer period of enhanced unemployment benefits.
Five House committees are acting Wednesday on their parts of the stimulus bill, with three more planning to move on their pieces in the coming days. A further three with jurisdiction over elements of the package have chosen not to have public votes and hearings, spurring criticism from Republicans.
The Senate Finance Committee and other panels in that chamber are planning to skip formal hearings and votes, given time taken up by the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has pledged to secure congressional passage of the overall bill by the mid-March expiration of enhanced jobless benefits.
Bill Would Provide $50 Billion for Small Businesses
The House Small Business Committee on Wednesday approved $50 billion in emergency pandemic aid for small businesses, according to a statement.
“Surveys show that one in three small business owners will not survive the next few months without additional financial support,” the committee’s chairwoman, Nydia Velázquez, a New York Democrat, said in the statement.
The legislation, according to the statement, would provide $25 billion for restaurants and bars under a new Small Business Administration program, and $15 billion for “economic injury disaster” loans. -- John Harney
Senate Finance Chief Invokes Powell in Pushing Jobless Aid (5:07 p.m.)
Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden invoked comments from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell Wednesday on the weak state of the U.S. job market in calling for a lengthier period of enhanced unemployment benefits.
“We are still very far from a strong labor market whose benefits are broadly shared,” Powell said. He also said it could take “many years” to overcome scars from long-term unemployment, and played down the danger of any inflationary spiral from stimulus measures.
The comments provide ammunition for Democrats seeking to combat remarks by former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers who has warned a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill could overheat the economy.
“Chair Powell’s assessment reiterates the need for the strongest possible benefits package in our Covid relief bill, which is why I’m going to continue to push for at least a $400 weekly boost and six months of enhanced benefits,” Wyden said in a statement. Draft legislation in the House only provides the enhanced benefits for five months.
Republicans Bash Democrats for Their Go-It-Alone Bill (11:14 a.m.)
Top House Republicans are criticizing Democrats for advancing a partisan bill that they say will kill jobs and balloon the deficit.
“Despite pledges of ‘unity’ in his inaugural address, President Biden is only working with Democrats to push a $2 trillion stimulus package,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said in a statement Wednesday. Democrats are moving the bill using a fast-track procedure known as budget reconciliation that will allow them to pass it without Republican votes.
Representative Kevin Brady, the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, said that the plan isn’t targeted to individuals who need help. He cited Congressional Budget Office estimates that showed that a $15-an-hour minimum wage proposal could eliminate more than 1 million jobs and said that the Democrats’ proposal to expand supplementary federal unemployment benefits to $400 a week would create incentives for jobless people to stay home. -- Laura Davison
House Committee Advances Minimum-Wage Increase (6:56 a.m.)
The House Education and Labor Committee approved increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, part of the first piece of legislation to advance out of committee in President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief plan.
The panel voted 27-21 along party lines early Wednesday for legislation that also includes billions of dollars to reopen schools, bolster childcare centers and expand access to health insurance.
“This will lift nearly 1 million people out of poverty and put money into the pockets of 27 million workers, who will accelerate our economic recovery by spending that money in local businesses,” said Chairman Bobby Scott of Virginia.
Democrats defeated dozens of Republican amendments, including those aimed at reopening schools more quickly or stopping the wage increase, during an all-night hearing that ran for more than 13 hours.
Republicans cited a Congressional Budget Office report from Monday that estimated more than doubling the minimum wage by 2025 would result in 1.4 million fewer jobs.
“Why in the world would we vote to reduce employment when so many people are struggling in the pandemic and desperate to get back to work?” said Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, the committee’s top Republican.
It remains unclear if the minimum wage will be permitted to stay in the fast-track budget process that Democrats are using to pass the bill in the Senate with just a simple majority, rather than the usual 60 votes needed to end a filibuster. -- Erik Wasson
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