Shaheen tapped to help negotiate small business portion of third COVID-19 response bill
By John DiStaso
March 20, 2020
MANCHESTER, N.H. — U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen has been tapped to help negotiate the small business portion of the $1 trillion third coronavirus response package being readied on Capitol Hill.
Shaheen, a member of the Senate Small Business Committee, is one of four senators on the small business negotiating team, along with fellow Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland and Republicans Marco Rubio of Florida and Susan Collins of Maine. Talks got underway Friday morning, according to Shaheen’s office.
According to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, the Republican Senate proposal contains “hundreds of billions” of dollars in loans to help “address the immediate cash-flow problems.”
Rubio tweeted on Thursday that the goal is to “get cash to small business fast and easy as possible so they don’t have to lay people off … If they use it for that purpose, (it) doesn’t have to be paid back.”
According to an outline provided by Shaheen’s office, committee Democrats are proposing recovery grants of up to $50,000 for some businesses, several forms of debt relief, changes to major loan programs and changes to the requirements of federal contracting with small businesses.
“Negotiations are very much in flux,” said Shaheen spokesperson Ryan Nickel.
“On the small business front, Senator Shaheen has a number of priorities, most importantly making sure that there’s substantial assistance in the form of grants to small businesses, in addition to providing loans, waiving lending fees and other urgently needed help.”
President Donald Trump emphasized the importance of including significant help for small businesses in the package during Friday’s White House briefing on the virus.
He said that in conversations with McConnell and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, “A big focus of that conversation is small businesses. They are the engine behind our country.”
“Right now, millions of small business owners in New Hampshire and nationwide are lying awake at night wondering how they’ll stay afloat,” said Shaheen in a statement.
“I’ve had extensive conversations with New Hampshire businesses and community leaders as this crisis has unfolded. These invaluable conversations have informed my priorities for these negotiations.
“This moment in history requires bold leadership from Congress and unprecedented steps to support small businesses through grants, enhanced government-guaranteed loans and direct federal lending.”
Shaheen spokesperson Nickel said that regarding the overall bill, Shaheen has concerns about the Republican leadership proposal.
“She’s concerned that the payments proposed by Republican leadership don’t do enough to help low income and hourly workers,” he said. “Senator Shaheen also wants to make sure that any economic relief for large corporations has protections in place to guard against fraud and abuse.”