Mitch McConnell calls big firms getting small-business loans an ‘interesting debate’

April 21, 2020 | 7:46pm | Updated April 22, 2020 | 9:14am

WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says it’s “an interesting debate” whether large firms should get small-business coronavirus relief loans.

“The main purpose obviously of this small-business program was small businesses,” McConnell said Tuesday.

“On the other hand, you could make an argument that if my job was lost, the size of my employer doesn’t make any difference to me. I’m out of work. So it’s an interesting debate. We’re feeling our way along here, we’re trying to do the best we can to get money to our people and to our small businesses.”

The Republican leader was answering a question from The Post about whether enough was done in half-trillion-dollar legislation that passed the Senate Tuesday to ensure large firms don’t continue to receive small-business funds.

An investigation by the Associated Press found that at least $365 million went to publicly traded companies from a $350 billion small-business program that ran out of money last week.

“In terms of how the money’s spent, that’s a good question to ask the administration,” McConnell (R-Ky.) said. “I think we’re bound to learn as we move along here.”

The Paycheck Protection Program offers loans to companies with up to 500 workers, and in some cases more. The loans are forgiven if workers aren’t laid off. The program was set up by the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill passed last month.

Large companies that took small-business loans included Ruth’s Chris, which received a $20 million loan, and the Potbelly sandwich chain, which received $10 million. Another large chain, Shake Shack, said it will return the $10 million it received.

Democrats fired back at McConnell on Tuesday night, saying he should have done more to ensure small businesses benefited.

Of an additional $310 billion in small-business loans approved by the Senate on Thursday, $60 billion was set aside for small banks, credit unions and other community lenders to expand the PPP to more businesses, including those without bank accounts.

Another $50 billion was approved for the Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program and $10 billion to the SBA’s Emergency Economic Injury Grant program.

“That’s a good question for Sen. McConnell. He resisted the changes,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

“We’ve taken a giant step forward,” Schumer said. “Have we done everything we need to do for small businesses, rural businesses, minority businesses? No. Have we taken a huge step forward so today they’re going to be in much better shape than they were before this bill passed? Absolutely. And Leader McConnell did not propose a thing. He wanted to propose $250 [billion] for the PPP program, when in fact the EIDL program and the grant program better serve small businesses.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) added about the community banking change in the new bill, “there is a set-aside — $60 billion set aside for this particular purpose, it would not have been there without the Democratic proposal.”

At the daily White House press conference Monday, President Trump said large companies would have to return loans “if we think it’s inappropriate.” The House is expected to pass the supplemental funds Thursday.

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