April 24, 2020 By Christian Murray
The House of Representatives passed the $484 billion relief package yesterday that was supported by every House Democrat except for Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Ocasio-Cortez, who represents New York’s 14th Congressional district–the hardest hit district by COVID-19 in the nation, took exception to the bill arguing that it did little for mom and pop businesses and for working families. She noted that there was also a real need for greater funding for hospitals and testing.
The bill, which was signed into law by President Donald Trump Friday, includes $310 billion in new funding for the Payment Protection Program, a program designed to help small businesses keep their employees on their payroll; $60 billion for a separate small-business emergency loan and grant program; $75 billion for hospitals and health-care providers, and $25 billion for a new coronavirus testing program.
Republicans criticized Democrats for not moving fast enough to pass the legislation, arguing that small businesses were in immediate need of the funds. The passage of the legislation was slowed– as Democrats sought funding for hospitals, testing as well as state and local governments.
Ocasio-Cortez voiced her displeasure with the bill on the House floor prior to yesterday’s vote.
“On behalf of my constituents in the Bronx and Queens, New York’s 14th congressional district, the most impacted district in America…it is a joke when Republicans say that they have urgency around this bill,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “The only folks they have urgency around are folks like Ruth’s Chris Steak House and Shake Shack. Those are the people getting assistance in this bill. You are not trying to fix this bill for mom and pops.”
“We have to fight to fund hospitals, fighting to fund testing. That is what we’re fighting for in this bill,” she said. “It is unconscionable. If you had urgency, you would legislate like rent was due on May 1 and make sure we include rent and mortgage relief for our constituents.”
.@RepAOC @AOC: “It is a joke when Republicans say that they have urgency around this bill…you are not trying fix this bill for mom & pops. We have to fight to fund hospitals. Fighting to fund testing…It is unconscionable.”
Full video here: https://t.co/IBennHJzF3 pic.twitter.com/1rx1e16Unr
— CSPAN (@cspan) April 23, 2020
The Payment Protection Program, which is available for businesses and non-profits with fewer than 500 employees, was established through the CARES Act last month and ran out of funds within two weeks– despite $349 billion being allocated for it.
The program has been criticized by Queens business leaders since the moms and pops have been less able to take advantage of it—beaten to the punch by the bigger firms with banking relationships.
Tom Grech, the president of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, told the Queens Post this week that he was not aware of one Queens business that was funded by the program. He also noted that businesses with 50 or fewer businesses did not fare well.
“To date, I have not spoken to a single small business that has gotten a single cent from the Payment Protection Program,” Grech said, although he was an advocate for the bill since it would add $310 billion.
The program, which essentially provides a grant equating to 2.5 months of a company’s payroll, has been criticized for favoring large companies. Businesses have to file their application through a bank, and banks have been criticized for prioritizing their larger clients.
The New York Times reported this week that nearly all of JP Morgan Chase’s commercial and private banking clients got the PPP loan, while only 18,000 of its 300,000 small business banking customers who applied through its retail bank got one.
Meanwhile, CNN reported than 175 publicly traded companies received PPP loans as of yesterday. Many are returning the money following the backlash.
The legislation signed by Trump into law today has allocated $60 billion of the $310 billion PPP money for community-based lenders, smaller banks and credit unions. These institutions are more focused on helping the smaller businesses.
Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, who is one of the candidates trying to topple Ocasio-Cortez in the upcoming Democratic primary, criticized the incumbent for not working with Democrats in passing the bill. She said that the most immediate issue is getting the funds into the hands of small businesses and that this was not the time for grandstanding.
Typical @AOC. Grandstanding again. The only “Democrat” to vote NO. A socialist exploiting us for her radical anti-Democratic Party agenda. She opposes @SpeakerPelosi and opposes aid to us.
Divisive @AOC is using us. Send her back to ritzy Westchester. cc: @RaquelMartinTV https://t.co/O4Vy7OCkz7
— Michelle Caruso-Cabrera (@MCaruso_Cabrera) April 23, 2020