Will there be more Covid relief money for small businesses in 2022?
Congress has invested nearly $6 trillion in relief money to support struggling businesses, institutions, and individuals since March 2020, but as the pandemic shows little signs of slowing senators are still asking whether more money can be freed up. The most recent news from the Senate is about a potential relief bill designed to support business owners affected by the spread of Omicron.
What is the new financial relief proposal?
A bipartisan initiative from lawmakers is discussing the idea of a new stimulus package in the style of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF), The Washington Post reports. It is rumored to be a newer version of a similar bill for $48 billion, which Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), head of the Small Business Committee, and Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) tried (and failed) to pass in August 2021.
Why is it being proposed?
With the Omicron variant forcing businesses to close across the country, the same senators are leading discussions on a repackaged proposal, this time allocating even more funds to allow businesses to pay their workers and cover other essential costs.
How is it different from previous COVID relief programs?
The current proposal is based on refunding the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF), so it may be similar in how it allocates money and who the money is available to. However, as the bill intends to tackle the impact of the Omicron variant, it may end up borrowing ideas from the original CARES Act stimulus package, passed in March 2020.
How much money is available?
When the bipartisan proposal was repackaged in December 2021, it outlined providing between $60 and $68 billion, depending on varying reports. The money would be made up from a combination of new spending and reallocated spending from previous grants from the Small Business Administration. However, this figure is far from decided: the previous bill was shot down by Republicans worrying about adding to the deficit, so expect some negotiation on the bill’s final dollar value.
Who is eligible?
At the early stage discussions, it is hard to say for sure. If the proposal is a repackaged version of the August 2021 bill, the money would be directed at food and beverage providers, though The Washington Post speculates that, with the increased funds, the money may be opened up to performance venues, gyms, and even minor league sports teams.
Will it pass?
This is the big question. There is evidence of support in the House: according to the Wall Street Journal, in December 2021, nearly 100 senators from both parties signed a letter calling for more support to businesses. In the Senate, however, there is more disagreement. Sens. Cardin and Wicker are leading discussions, and have apparently found support across both sides of the aisle, including Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), and Susan Collins (R-Maine). WSJ claims the bill needs the support of 10 Republican Senators, but only six are on board so far. With the Senate so narrowly divided and with previous opposition to stimulus money from Republican senators, the bill faces an uphill battle.
If it does, when will it come into effect?
It’s not clear when the bill would come into effect, however, Bloomberg reports that the measure could be attached to legislation scheduled for February 18th.