WASHINGTON — Virginia Sen. Mark Warner and a bipartisan group of seven other senators presented a framework for $908 billion in new COVID-19 relief funding, meant to be a bridge from Dec.1 through March 31.
As proposed, the framework allocates:
- $160 billion for state, local and tribal governments
- $180 billion for unemployment insurance programs, including those set to expire at the end of the month
- $288 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program that helps small businesses, including restaurants and performing arts venues
- $15 billion for mass transit which can address the drastic service and staffing cuts recently proposed by WMATA
- $12 billion in support for small businesses
Warner said the push for small business funding was spearheaded by Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, but could have a tremendous impact on the DMV community.
"We have literally hundreds of thousands of small businesses across Virginia that are struggling," Warner said. "Disproportionately, we've seen those businesses that have been affected have been minority businesses. We've lost 440,000, Black-owned businesses across America, literally destroying generations of wealth creation."
One thing notably missing from the bill are the $1,200 direct payments for individuals that were part of the CARES Act. Ralph Sonenshine, an assistant professor of economics and program director at American University, said that doesn’t mean this is a bad proposal.
"The hope is that a relief bill of any sort...hopefully helps shorten the economic malaise, economic decline, and that's good for everybody," Sonenshine said. "So maybe you don't have an extra $600 or $1,200 to spend. But the economic growth that will hopefully be around the corner, may be around the corner quicker."
So who does Sonenshine believe should see most of the relief funding?
"I think whatever you give small businesses is the most critical thing, because small businesses need to reduce their capacity and need to reduce their output, and their services during the winter while COVID is going on," he said. "And we also want them to keep employees. So the easiest way to do that is to get funding via PPP."
States and local governments were also high on his list.
"States have to balance their budgets and [right now] their finances are in deep disarray," he said.
The COVID-19 relief funding plan created by the bipartisan team is just a framework, as legislation still needs to be drafted before it can be sent to the Senate floor for a vote. As of Tuesday afternoon, Sen. Warner’s team isn’t sure when that legislation will be written.