Ag Policy Blog

Stimulus Talks Continue as Clock Keeps Ticking

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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Talks continue in Congress and with the Trump administration over another possible stimulus package that could include $20 billion for agriculture. But time is slipping away as lawmakers want to leave to campaign in their home states in the last weeks of the election. (DTN file photo)

As usual, complication reigns over talks and votes regarding a stimulus package in Congress, and time is slipping away in the run up to the Nov. 3 election.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, told reporters Tuesday that the Senate was preparing to vote this week on an aid package that would have money for individuals, families, businesses and farmers. There is $20 billion in that package for USDA aid funding, Grassley said.

"They can call it the Republican bill, the skinny bill, whatever they want to, but everything in it has bipartisan agreement," Grassley said.

The senator added the GOP Senate bill would have money for local school districts, as well as vaccine development and distribution for the coronavirus.

Talks on a broader aid package continue between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on an aid package in the $2 trillion range. But the Washington Post reported Tuesday that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is concerned those talks over a "big stimulus deal" could disrupt plans to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court next week.

Grassley said Republicans in the Senate want a second overall relief bill, but "at least among quite a few Republicans in the United States Senate, the size of it is a big factor." Reiterating what some other GOP senators have said, Republicans are not going to support a bill that provides significant aid dollars to states and local governments.

President Donald Trump, speaking on Fox News, said he wants a bigger stimulus package, and said he would get Republicans in Congress to go along with it. "I want to do it even bigger than the Democrats. Not every Republican agrees, but they will. I want to do it even bigger, because this is money going to people who did not deserve what happened to them," Trump said on Fox & Friends.

Grassley indicated the time pressure involved as Republicans in the Senate expect to adjourn after voting on Barrett's nomination so they can campaign.

UPDATE: The Senate on Tuesday held a separate vote on reauthorization of the Paycheck Protection Program. The bill would have provided $258 billion more for the small business loans, but it failed in a procedural vote as nearly every Democrat voted against the measure.

Republicans in the Senate will be unified in their votes for their skinny bill, Grassley said. As of Tuesday afternoon, though, no votes on any aid package had been scheduled in the Senate.

Farmers are among the businesses to tap PPP loans through their lenders and the Small Business Administration. The loans are set for businesses with fewer than 500 people. The loans can be forgiven if at least 60% of the loan goes towards meeting payroll.

Overall, as of August 8, the last SBA report on PPP data shows banks approved 5.2 million PPP loans for $525 billion. SBA states the overall average loan size is $101,000.

PPP loans can go up to $10 million, but just 4,734 businesses received loans of more than $5 million. More than 68% of loans -- 3.57 million of them -- were for $50,000 or under, accounting for $62.74 billion.

Fifty four Farm Credit lenders have issued 12,876 loans worth $1.39 billion.

Businesses under "agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting" categories combine have received 149,535 loans for $8.14 billion, or about 1.55% of loan volume.

Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

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