Sen. Ron Wyden, the Finance Committee’s top Democrat, wants the next round of new coronavirus relief legislation to expand direct government payments to small businesses and dependents over 17, and increase block grant funding to states.
The Oregonian was a lead negotiator on the tax, healthcare, and unemployment benefit provisions in the CARES Act, the $2 trillion relief bill many in Congress expect to follow with another package later this month.
It was unclear if Tuesday’s announcement by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that congressional leaders would expand the existing small business lending program by $250 billion before the end of the week might affect talks around the next round of legislation.
“The administration didn’t support direct cash assistance” to small business similar to what’s being paid to individuals and families, Wyden said in an interview with Bloomberg Tax. He suggested a similar tax rebate of up to 30% of gross receipts for small businesses that earned $1 million or less in gross receipts last year, or have 50 or fewer employees. Such a measure could “supplement the loans and the retention credit to help the small businesses stay afloat and it could pay for some of the things that small business owners need to continue their operations,” he said.
Wyden, who was part of talks that led to the trade-off of a $600 per week temporary increase in unemployment benefits for tax rebates, left the door open for more individual and family tax rebates, but said his focus on the individual front would be to expand eligibility for those rebates to dependents over 17. Currently only dependents 17 and under are due to receive a $500 one-time rebate from the IRS.
Wyden said he will push for a federal block grant program for states to supplement existing Temporary Assistance for Needy Families programs.
“I’m looking at the possibility of creating a new grant program that will allow states to be able to help these vulnerable families, ones that have traditionally gotten access to TANF, to get some help,” Wyden said.