Coronavirus Rescue Bill Close to Agreement

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on his way to meet with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.Caroline Brehman/Congressional Quarterly via ZUMA

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The Washington Post reports on negotiations over the $500 billion Republican lending pool for large corporations in the coronavirus rescue bill:

Democratic concerns have focused on a $500 billion funding program Republicans want to create for loans and loan guarantees, with some Democrats calling it a “slush fund” that lacks any oversight because the Treasury Department would have broad discretion over who receives the money….Republicans have said the funding would be handled appropriately and that a cash infusion of this scale is necessary to address a major economic crisis. As a final step in talks Monday, Senate negotiators were working on putting an oversight mechanism in place.

There are other bits and pieces that need to be worked out, but the slush fund was the big one. If Schumer and Mnuchin can work out a deal on that, it should be possible to get a bill passed and the money flowing pretty shortly.

On the subject of money, the Senate bill isn’t bad: it includes both the “checks for everyone” and a substantial expansion of unemployment insurance. The UI expansion isn’t perfect, but it does increase payouts significantly and also includes provisions to help independent contractors and gig workers. I haven’t been a big fan of the “checks for everyone” proposal, but now that it’s married to UI expansion I like it a lot better. It provides a nice one-shot infusion to help with the bills until the UI checks arrive, while UI provides substantial ongoing income that’s guaranteed until at least the end of June—at which time we should finally see a lot of businesses re-opening and people getting back to work. Another few days of negotiations won’t hurt much, but at this point I feel pretty good about putting some oversight on the slush fund and getting this bill out the door.

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