By Lindsay Dunsmuir and Doina Chiacu
WASHINGTON, Apr 19 (Reuters) – US lawmakers are very close to a deal to approve extraordinary funds to help small businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic and could seal it on Sunday, officials from Congress and the administration of the president said Donald Trump.
“I think we are very close to an agreement today and I hope we can do it,” said US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin in an interview with CNN.
Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer also said he hoped a deal with Republicans could be sealed on Sunday night. Schumer cautioned, however, that both sides had a few more problems to deal with.
A deal would end more than a week of deadlock over President Trump’s request to add $ 250 billion to a small business loan program.
Congress established the program last month as part of a $ 2.3 trillion economic relief plan for the coronavirus crisis, which has already run out of funds.
Democratic leaders seek more money for small businesses, but with additional guarantees to ensure that credit reaches businesses in underserved communities. They are also trying to raise more coronavirus response funds for state and local governments and hospitals, as well as food assistance for the poorest.
Mnuchin said that the current measure being negotiated contained no new funds for state and local governments.
“The president has heard that from the governors and is prepared to discuss it in the next bill,” said Mnuchin. Congress plans to address other important legislation to alleviate the coronavirus crisis after the small business fund is replenished.
Governors of heavily affected states such as New York and New Jersey have said they need more federal funds to increase evidence for the presence of the coronavirus and to cope with the effect of the pandemic on their budgets.
If the federal government wants to reopen and stimulate the United States economy, it must support states’ efforts to finance its operations, said Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker of the Republican Party.
(Report by Lindsay Dunsmuir and Doina Chiacu; Edited by Daniel Wallis and Grant McCool, edited in Spanish by Gabriela Donoso)