WASHINGTON -- A small-business loan program at the center of a standoff between congressional Democrats and Republicans aligned with the White House is expected to run out of money later Wednesday, according to a person familiar with the fund.
Negotiations between Congress and the White House resumed Wednesday over replenishing the small-business loan program designed to support businesses hit by the coronavirus pandemic. The program was expected to exhaust its initial allocation of $350 billion later in the day. As of Wednesday morning, the Small Business Administration said it had approved about 1.3 million applications, totaling more than $289 billion in loans.
Both Democrats and Republicans want to add $250 billion to the small-business aid program, but have been sparring for days over whether to add restrictions to the funds. Democrats want to expand access to the loans as well as include more money for hospitals, food assistance and state and local governments. Republicans, meanwhile, said they want to keep the bill focused on increasing small-business aid and defer other funding debates until the next, broader legislation is crafted.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) told reporters he had spoken with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin Wednesday morning and that both House and Senate Democratic staff were expected to meet with officials from Mr. Mnuchin's office later in the day.
"We see no reason why we can't come to an agreement," Mr. Schumer said. "We Democrats believe we need more money for small businesses, but we need it to go to the people who are under banked and underserved."
The discussions were the first signs of progress this week, but it remains uncertain whether congressional leaders and President Trump will be able to reach an agreement by week's end. Both chambers are scheduled to hold brief sessions later this week.