SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Mitt Romney says Congress will have to put more money into programs designed to keep small businesses afloat and tide over displaced workers.
The need for the $350 billion Paycheck Protection Program is a lot more than the federal government originally planned, the Utah Republican said Tuesday, fresh off a two-week self-quarantine after being exposed to COVID-19.
“I think we’re going to find that that program gets oversubscribed, and as a result, we’ll need to put more funding into it,” Romney said on KSL NewsRadio’s “Dave and Dujanovic.”
The Senate could consider as early as Thursday $250 billion in new relief to small businesses as Congress tries to keep up with the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, according to Politico.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on Tuesday that he is working with Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to deliver more money to the Paycheck Protection Program, which covers payroll and expenses during the coronavirus pandemic.
Small Business Committee Chairman Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., estimated the program needs $200 billion to $250 billion, and McConnell said he intends to pass new relief as soon as Thursday without a roll call vote.
“It is quickly becoming clear that Congress will need to provide more funding or this crucial program may run dry. That cannot happen,” McConnell said. “Congress needs to act with speed and total focus to provide more money for this uncontroversial bipartisan program.”
Gov. Gary Herbert called the prospect of additional money “good news” for the Utah business community and the economy at a press briefing Tuesday.
“They won’t run out and somebody gets left outside in the cold while others get the loan,” he said.
Romney said the demand for unemployment benefits also will drive the need for more money as millions of Americans have lost their jobs. The massive coronavirus relief package pays laid-off and furloughed workers an extra $600 a week for up to four months.
But he said he doesn’t want to see any “extraneous” programs going into the next round of funding.
“There’s always people who think that when money is going out of Congress’ control, they can get a pet project done, that’s the thing to do. Well, I think that’s wrong,” he said.
Romney said he and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and others are committed to making sure the money is focused on areas where it’s needed to keep the economy going and help American families.
Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, agreed that any new money should be targeted for those who need it most. He said he expects House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to try to put other things into a supplemental relief bill.
“If she uses this as an opportunity to push more New Green Deal stuff and more enhancements for unions and federalizing the voter process, etc., etc., then there’s just not going to be support for that,” he said on KSL NewsRadio’s “Live Mic.”
Stewart said the focus must be on lower-income workers who can’t do their jobs from home, those who live paycheck to paycheck and have been decimated by the crisis.