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October 15, 2020 2:30 PM, EDT

COVID-19 Relief Bill on Senate Floor Week of Oct.19, McConnell Says

Mitch McConnell Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to reporters after casting his vote in Louisville, Ky., on Oct. 15. (Timothy D. Easley/AP)

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An emergency funding measure aimed at small businesses and sectors affected by the pandemic is expected to reach the floor of the U.S. Senate the week of Oct. 19, the chamber’s leader recently indicated.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) signaled the aid package would look to dedicate about $500 billion to primarily assist school districts, medical centers and small businesses.

As he explained Oct. 13, “When the full Senate returns on Oct. 19, our first order of business will be voting again on targeted relief for American workers, including new funding for the [Paycheck Protection Program].”

“Unless Democrats block this aid for workers, we will have time to pass it before we proceed as planned to the pending Supreme Court nomination as soon as it is reported by the Judiciary Committee. Republicans do not agree that nothing is better than something for working families,” added McConnell.

The Paycheck Protection Program under the U.S. Small Business Administration is designed to facilitate access to forgivable loans for businesses that meet certain criteria.

McConnell’s update on the floor schedule came as several transportation stakeholders continue to press congressional leaders for economic relief in the COVID-19-era. While the Senate plans to consider another round of COVID-19 relief aid, top House Democrats affirmed they are negotiating with the Trump administration’s lead negotiator on emergency funding for hard-hit sectors.

Neither Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) nor Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin have ruled out reaching an agreement on a massive relief package prior to the elections.

Mnuchin indicated in a letter to Congress Oct. 11: “We will continue to try to work with Speaker Pelosi and Sen. [Chuck] Schumer. It is not just about the top-line number but also about legislation that can be passed by both the House and the Senate and signed into law by President [Donald] Trump to help the American people.”

Congress Letter by Transport Topics

On Oct. 14, Pelosi emphasized her position: “We all want to have an agreement. My message is out there: ‘Help is on the way. We want it safer. We want it bigger, we want it better and it will be retroactive.’ We have to come to an agreement. In order to solve the problem, we have to crush the virus.”

Earlier this month, the House approved along party lines a $2.2 trillion COVID-19 aid package. The bill is a smaller version of the House-passed Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act.

Meanwhile, the president has called via social media for aid targeting small businesses, as well as about $25 billion to assist the airline industry, including cargo carriers. Top Republicans in the Senate recently proposed directing $30 billion for airlines, including cargo air carriers through the Air Carrier Worker Support Extension Act.

“The market has not turned around as much as we had hoped, and additional relief is needed,” observed Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) last month.

Airline industry executives who have announced furloughs continue to press for emergency aid. Additionally, the group representing state departments of transportation is calling for $37 billion in aid to avoid disruptions in operations.

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