In its first vote in nearly a month, the House on Thursday sent President Donald Trump a fourth coronavirus relief measure, which included $321 billion for the Small Business Administration's recently-depleted Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
The House passed the bill on a 388 to 5 vote. The state’s entire House delegation voted for the $484 billion package, which also included $60 billion for the SBA’s economic injury disaster loan and grant program, $75 billion for hospitals and $25 billion to increase testing of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, as well as contact tracing capabilities.
The House also approved a resolution on a party-line 212 to 181 vote creating a 12-member panel that will investigate and write a report on the coronavirus response, including the effectiveness of the aid and executive branch policies.
Despite unity in support of virus response, the Nevada delegation remains frustrated over small businesses receiving so little aid under the initial $350 billion provided to the PPP. That funding was provided in the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, which was enacted late last month.
Rep. Steven Horsford said in an interview before the vote said he would consider voting against future coronavirus relief unless Congress passes a legislative fix or the administration removes a provision in the PPP rules preventing businesses from benefiting that make more than half of their revenue from gaming.
“I am willing to give more support for business, including small business, but only if we don’t discriminate,” Horsford said. “If they keep discriminating against Nevada small businesses because they get a [revenue] share from gaming, then don’t look for me to support any more of these packages in the future.”
Horsford, Rep. Mark Amodei, a Republican, and Rep Susie Lee appeared before the House Small Business Committee Thursday to make the case that the SBA regulations give some small businesses short shrift.
At the hearing, Amodei said that the SBA used regulations to draft its PPP rule that were put in place during the Bill Clinton administration that should not be applicable during a pandemic.
“It’s a Clinton-era regulation that SBA promulgated to process SBA loans during regular times,” Amodei said. “Nothing wrong with it, in and of itself, until, in applying the CARES Act, the SBA issues guidance to financial institutions that says ‘our internal regulations say you cannot apply for a loan.’”
“We need to basically make a differentiation between economic disaster, in terms of when we pass something that says ‘we want to reach as many people as possible,’ and internal regulations, which are 25 plus years that, quite frankly, bear no resemblance to the time we are at today,” Amodei said.
Nevada ranked last in PPP relief among seven states with similar populations in the number of loans approved and in the total amount of aid. It ranked 43rd in the number of loans approved compared to all other states.
Despite the frustration, Nevada lawmakers, including Horsford, said the House should remain in Washington and work on the next package rather than returning on May 4 as scheduled.
“We’ve only started what is going to be needed for our country to recover from this pandemic,” Horsford added.
Lee said the measure “wasn’t perfect” citing the small casino issue and the need to provide funds to state and local governments, which Democrats have said they intend to push for in the next measure.
The measure lacked “aid for our small towns and cities like Henderson and Boulder City, which are in dire need of funds to help keep us safe, was also left out of this package,” Lee said in a release.
“We still have much work to do,” she said in a release.
Rep. Dina Titus echoed Lee’s comment on doing more and praised the funds for testing and hospitals.
“We have much more work to do,” Titus said on Twitter. “But I'm glad that we were able to negotiate and pass an emergency relief package that will help more small businesses, provide new resources to hospitals, and increase our testing capacity."
Disclosure: The Nevada Independent was approved for a PPP loan.