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Facing ‘extinction-level event,’ small businesses urge Congress to replace disastrous loan program with direct payroll grants

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“Without a substantial, immediate response that addresses the magnitude of this problem, our small business sector will be devastated.”

With millions of small businesses on the brink of collapse and struggling to obtain coronavirus relief after the Trump administration’s disastrous rollout of a $350 billion rescue fund, progressives are calling on Congress to authorize direct payroll grants to companies in need instead of dumping hundreds of billions more into a deeply flawed program.

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The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)—authorized by the massive coronavirus stimulus package President Donald Trump signed into law last month—had a chaotic launch last Friday amid mass confusion among small businesses and banks tasked with distributing relief loans backed by taxpayer money.

“Focusing on direct payroll and healthcare subsidies for small employers is an approach that will mitigate potentially severe impacts for employers and workers.”
—Main Street Alliance

Amanda Ballantyne, executive director of Main Street Alliance (MSA), a progressive coalition that includes 30,000 small-business owners, told the Washington Post on Tuesday that the program’s rollout was a “train wreck” that will not be remedied by simply pouring more money into its coffers.

On Twitter, MSA said the loan program “suffers from design flaws—money should be distributed by the Treasury Department, perhaps in partnership with local or state governments, instead of banks.”

“Small business should be given #GrantsNotLoans,” the group tweeted.

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MSA is calling on Congress to pass legislation that includes “direct federal subsidies to employers impacted by COVID-19 to cover payroll, health insurance premiums, and rent” as well as “5-10 year no interest loans with streamlined application process to cover other fixed expenses.”

“Focusing on direct payroll and healthcare subsidies for small employers is an approach that will mitigate potentially severe impacts for employers and workers,” MSA said on its website. “This is an extinction-level event for small businesses in the U.S. Without a substantial, immediate response that addresses the magnitude of this problem, our small business sector will be devastated.”

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In a series of tweets on Wednesday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) echoed MSA’s call for direct grants to struggling small businesses instead of loans distributed through big banks.

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“Everyone except Trump knows the launch of the small business program—PPP—was a fiasco,” Warren said. “Regulations were late, systems crashed, and people couldn’t do loan applications. [The Small Business Administration] and Treasury need to fix it.”

“Everyone except Trump knows the launch of the small business program—PPP—was a fiasco. Regulations were late, systems crashed, and people couldn’t do loan applications. SBA and Treasury need to fix it.”
—Sen. Elizabeth Warren

“Congress also needs to dramatically simplify PPP so it actually works,” Warren added. “Replace loans with grants to keep people on payroll, ensure that banks provide equal access to all borrowers—and do it NOW.”

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With PPP rapidly running out of money even as many small businesses say they have not received any funds, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin on Tuesday asked Congress to authorize an additional $250 billion to replenish the program, which is open to businesses and non-profits with fewer than 500 employees.

In a joint statement Tuesday night, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) signaled that they would approve the additional small business funding if the legislation also includes more money for hospitals, state and local governments, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Trump said Tuesday that the SBA has processed more than $70 billion in loans from more than 225,000 business that have applied for relief. But as Bloomberg reported, “that amount hasn’t been given to firms yet, but rather is the value of loans SBA has registered and guaranteed for lenders to complete the process and disburse funds.”

In a tweet last week, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) accused the Trump administration of providing “concierge service” for big businesses seeking bailouts while forcing small business owners to jump through unnecessary hoops.

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Since PPP’s launch on Friday, social media and news reports have been brimming with anecdotes from small business owners who say they have struggled to navigate the program as they desperately seek assistance to cover payroll costs amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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“Right now, it’s just a waiting game,” Adam Rammel, co-owner of the Brewfontaine restaurant in Bellefontaine, Ohio, told the Wall Street Journal.

“We don’t know when that money is going to hit,” said Rammel.

Warren on Wednesday urged Congress and the Trump administration to listen to the concerns of the small business community and take immediate action.

“If anyone has any doubts about what needs to be done, just ask some small business owners,” Warren tweeted. “Millions of them have been put through hell over the past two weeks as they scrambled to try to get access to the money they desperately need.”

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CNN’s Cuomo slams Trump advisers for attacking Fauci: ‘Why doesn’t Captain Carnage tell his sycophants to shut up?’

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On CNN Tuesday, Chris Cuomo slammed President Donald Trump's aides for attacking Dr. Anthony Fauci — and their boss for allowing it to continue despite knowing Fauci is correct.

"Trump knows Fauci is a trusted source," said Cuomo. "Given what just came out of his mouth, we have to ask why is he trying to destroy Fauci? And the answer is because Fauci keeps telling you the truth about COVID-19."

"If the president isn't behind it, why is his campaign pushing out a staffer like Stephen Moore, who is openly trying to smear Fauci's decades-long service?" said Cuomo. "The guy is supposed to be an economic analyst. What about this from Peter Navarro, another Trumper? Now he's a Fauci critic? These guys want to talk about being trustworthy and records of getting things wrong, and they work for Trump and never admit his legendary lies? And Dan Scavino, deputy chief of staff for communications, he posted this cartoon, mocking the top infectious disease specialist on his Facebook page as he calls him his colleague."

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Senior Trump advisor says a senior White House advisor ‘has been wrong about everything’

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On Tuesday, in an op-ed for USA TODAY, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro attacked the nation's foremost infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, claiming that he "has been wrong about everything I have interacted with him on."

"In late January, when I was making the case on behalf of the president to take down the flights from China, Fauci fought against the president’s courageous decision — which might well have saved hundreds of thousands of American lives," wrote Navarro. "When I warned in late January in a memo of a possibly deadly pandemic, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases was telling the news media not to worry."

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CNN

Anderson Cooper tears into Trump for lying about coronavirus death rate: ‘This is just ludicrous’

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On CNN Tuesday, anchor Anderson Cooper led his show with a searing indictment of President Donald Trump for his ongoing lies about his management of the coronavirus pandemic.

Cooper particularly took umbrage at Trump's claim, at the day's Rose Garden press conference, that "we have just about the lowest mortality rate" and only seem to have more cases because "we do tremendous testing. We have the best testing in the world."

"This is just ludicrous," said Cooper. "This is the president of the United States. More than 130,000 people dead in this country and he's continuing this ridiculous lie, it's nonsensical. It defies any belief. We shouldn't be surprised because this is what he does. This is one of president's favorite lies. The United States is not the best or close to it in deaths — it's the seventh-worst in the world. The testing doesn't discover them. According to Redfield and others, the cases we know about are probably far underestimating the actual spread of this virus."

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