Posted on

With Demand Soaring, Congress Weighs Adding $250 Billion in Small-Business Aid

WASHINGTON — Rushing to shore up a $2 trillion economic stimulus effort that is already under strain, Congress could move as early as this week to approve another $250 billion in aid for small businesses, after the Trump administration asked for additional funds to support an overwhelming demand for help.

The request for a quick infusion of more money, which Republican and Democratic leaders acknowledged was necessary, signaled a recognition among lawmakers and the administration that the historic economic stabilization package enacted only two weeks ago to help businesses survive the economic damage of the coronavirus pandemic did not go nearly far enough.

It came as Congress was already debating the contours of yet another sweeping relief measure to respond to the economic toll of the crisis. But before lawmakers can debate or act on that, they are now weighing urgent action this week to help businesses eager for immediate government help — and the employees who depend on them.

Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, reached out to top Democrats and Republicans on Tuesday to request the additional funds, which would go to a new program to help small businesses secure loans from banks. The program has had an exceedingly rocky start, but the rush to replenish it reflected the desperation among businesses to take advantage of it.

“I’ll be asking Congress to provide an additional $250 billion for the paycheck protection, which will help keep Americans employed, to facilitate a quick and full recovery,” President Trump said on Tuesday at the White House during a coronavirus task force briefing, referring to the new program intended to get money to small businesses. “We’re doing very well.”

Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, said in a statement on Tuesday that he hoped to approve the additional funding during a procedural session on Thursday, without the full chamber present.

It was unclear whether Democrats would agree to the speedy timetable. A spokesman for Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the minority leader, said Tuesday afternoon that Mr. McConnell had not yet reached out about arranging for quick action on the new funding.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested she would be open to what she called “an interim package” to provide more funding for the small-business program, but signaled that Democrats might insist on adding conditions, including ensuring that underserved populations, including veterans, people of color, women and newer businesses.

“We want to make sure the program is administered in a way that does not solidify inequality in how people have access to capital, but instead, benefit to everyone who qualifies,” Ms. Pelosi said in an interview on CNN.

The stimulus law provided $349 billion for the initiative, known as the paycheck protection program. Larry Kudlow, the top White House economic adviser, said Tuesday morning that the program had funded 178,000 loans at a value of $50 billion since it opened applications on Friday.

But the debut has been plagued with problems, with lenders and potential borrowers alike encountering difficulties navigating it. It has stretched the limits of the Small Business Administration, which typically backs $30 billion of small-business loans in a boom year — about the same amount banks are now seeking for their customers in a day. Small-business owners, bankers and other participants have said that very little of the billions disbursed have actually reached companies in need of the money, which are desperate for it.

Under the terms of the program, businesses that maintain their staffing levels and use the bulk of the money to cover payroll costs will not need to repay their loans.

Many economists warned lawmakers — before, during and after the debate on the $2 trillion law — that small businesses would need significantly more help from the government in the face of an outbreak that has brought entire sectors of the economy, including dining and hospitality, to a halt.

Any delay in availability of funds for business owners, or even the perception that there might not be enough money to go around, could cripple companies and potentially throw workers into unemployment. The typical small business cannot survive less than a month without incoming revenue, according to research by the JPMorgan Chase Institute.

“It is quickly becoming clear that Congress will need to provide more funding or this crucial program may run dry,” Mr. McConnell said. “That cannot happen. Nearly 10 million Americans filed for unemployment in just the last two weeks. This is already a record-shattering tragedy, and every day counts.”

With lawmakers scheduled to remain in their districts and home states until at least April 20, approval of such funding would require unanimous agreement between both parties in both chambers.

While Republicans appeared eager to act swiftly on Mr. Mnuchin’s request, Democrats said they could insist on caveats. Senate Democrats called on Mr. Mnuchin and Jovita Carranza, the administrator of the Small Business Administration, to direct a certain amount of funds to businesses that typically have more trouble obtaining loans, including those in rural and underserved areas.

But there was widespread agreement that the program would need at least one more round of funding from Congress. Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, and other proponents of the program have been working feverishly with the administration to ensure its continued operation. Mr. Rubio noted on Twitter that “we have days, NOT weeks to address this.”

“It is less money than we would end up spending if we go into a deep recession or depression and less money than our social services would end up spending,” said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine and one of the architects of the program, adding that she had been hearing a “deep sense of relief” from business owners and workers.

Economists who pushed for the creation of the program in the stimulus package that passed two weeks ago have consistently warned that small businesses would need three times as much money as Congress initially authorized — or more — to avoid a wave of bankruptcies.

“Demand for the program could easily exceed $1 trillion,” said Michael R. Strain, an economist at the American Enterprise Institute who was an early supporter of direct aid to small firms. “The more money small businesses request for payroll in the form of grants, the less the government has to spend at all levels on unemployment insurance.”

Last month, Congress passed three separate measures to respond to the novel coronavirus and its effect on the economy, and the government has scrambled to carry out the changes to new and existing programs. The administration has also clashed with lawmakers over how to interpret new mandates. And on Tuesday, Mr. Trump moved to effectively oust the leader of a new oversight panel charged with overseeing how the administration spends the more than $2 trillion in taxpayer dollars Congress has approved.

Some of the funding deficits and oversight provisions are also likely to be revisited as lawmakers begin outlining the contours of a fourth aid package to stave off further economic fallout.

Lawmakers in both parties appear to be moving toward agreement that quick action will be needed on such a bill. Democrats have dropped the idea of insisting on including a sweeping infrastructure proposal that could have taken weeks or longer to fashion. Republicans including Mr. McConnell, who had initially voiced skepticism about the immediate need for another package, reversed course on Friday after the release of staggering new unemployment figures.

Senate Democrats unveiled their newest proposal on Tuesday to provide hazard pay to essential workers like health care workers, grocery store employees, truck drivers, drugstore workers and pharmacists, with Mr. Schumer declaring it “one of our very highest priorities” for a fourth relief measure.

The proposal would provide up to $25,000 annually for employees forced to continue working on the front lines during the pandemic, with retroactive pay possible for employees since a public health emergency was declared in late January. It would also provide a $15,000 recruitment incentive for emergency medical workers, health care employees and home care workers in part to help guard against staffing shortages during the pandemic.

Democrats on the House Financial Services Committee have also proposed a number of policy provisions to address housing concerns and assist small businesses and families, according to a memo obtained by The New York Times. They include providing $60 billion to forgive $10,000 in private student loan debt, imposing an eviction ban, establishing a $100 billion rental assistance fund, and suspending work and other requirements for public housing.

Carl Hulse and Alan Rappeport contributed reporting.

Posted on

Fox News’ Ellison Barber Makes The Move To NBC News

General assignment reporter Ellison Barber is leaving Fox News for NBC News, according to a memo sent to NBC staffers Tuesday.

Barber will be covering international and domestic breaking news, according to the memo sent by NBC’s senior VP of editorial Janelle Rodriguez. Barber reported on the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela and was one of the first Americans to report from the UNHCR refugee center in Colombia during her three years at Fox, Variety reported.

“She has been at the heart of investigative stories around the globe, from the District of Columbia to Colombia,” Rodriguez wrote in the memo. (RELATED: NBC News Staffer Dead After Contracting Coronavirus)

Barber is expected to begin at NBC News on April 15 and will eventually be based out of New York after the novel coronavirus pandemic subsides. Barber is currently based out of Washington, D.C. according to Variety.

Her breaking news will cover various areas at NBC News. Barber’s coverage will include MSNBC, NBC News Now, “Today” and “NBC Nightly News,” among others.

Posted on

House Panel Asks Trump’s Acting Spy Chief to Explain Spate of Firings

The House Intelligence Committee chairman on Tuesday called on President Donald Trump’s acting spy chief to explain the removals and resignations of top intelligence officials and whether he ever tried to block probes by the intelligence community’s recently fired internal watchdog.

Democrat Adam Schiff also wrote in a letter that the panel will examine whether any of acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell’s staff interfered “with the production and dissemination” of intelligence for a March 10 congressional briefing on election interference.

The letter to Grenell, a fierce Trump loyalist who also serves as U.S. ambassador to Germany, set the stage for a fresh confrontation with a president still fuming over his December impeachment by the Democratic-led House of Representatives on charges of abuse of office and obstruction of Congress. Schiff was the lead manager in that effort.

The Republican-majority Senate in January acquitted Trump of the charges stemming from his attempt to pressure Ukraine to probe former Vice President Joe Biden, the leading Democratic challenger to Trump’s re-election in November, and his son, Hunter.

Grenell said on Twitter that Schiff’s letter went to the media before he received it, adding “These press leaks politicizing the intelligence community must stop.”

Trump in January named Grenell, who has no intelligence experience, acting director of national intelligence, the overseer of all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies.

Grenell ordered a hiring freeze and a review that officials said is aimed at improving resource and personnel uses. But some lawmakers and former intelligence officials expressed concerns that Grenell was targeting officers whose analyzes differed with the views of Trump, who has clashed with U.S. intelligence agencies.

The intelligence committee, Schiff wrote, is concerned that Grenell is pursuing changes without seeking congressional authorization.

“This effort appears to be proceeding despite the Coronavirus pandemic and amid indications… of political interference in the production and dissemination of intelligence,” he wrote.

The committee also is concerned, he said, by the removals or departures of all Senate-confirmed ODNI officials.

Schiff asked Grenell to explain those actions in writing by April 16.

He set the same deadline for Grenell to disclose whether he blocked any investigations by Michael Atkinson, whose firing by Trump last week as the inspector general for the intelligence community the committee is reviewing.

Trump said Atkinson did “a terrible job” by sending to Congress the whistleblower complaint that led to his impeachment, calling it “fake.” 


© 2020 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Posted on

Ohio Governor Says State Will Seek Release of Some Inmates in Response to Coronavirus – Reason.com

Ohio’s Republican Gov. Mike DeWine announced today that the state will seek the release of nearly 200 inmates to decrease the risk of COVID-19 spreading throughout the state prison system.

DeWine said his administration will ask the state’s correctional institution inspection committee to grant release to 141 inmates whose release dates are under 90 days away. The 141 inmates are all housed in minimum-security prisons, and DeWine said the state screened out those convicted of violence, sex crimes, and other serious felonies, as well as those incarcerated for a second time.

 “Social distancing in prison is difficult,” DeWine said. “Murderers, sexual predators, people like that we’re not going to let out.” 

DeWine also announced the state will be recommending the release of 26 inmates who are 60 or older who have underlying medical conditions.

That is a minuscule number compared to the roughly 49,000 inmates incarcerated in Ohio state prisons, but it is an acknowledgment that COVID-19 presents a grave threat to jail and prison systems, where close quarters and poor sanitation make them an ideal disease vector.

Over the weekend, the state announced that 10 inmates and 27 staff members at Ohio prisons have tested positive for the virus.

DeWine has already asked judges to consider early release for several dozen elderly and pregnant inmates.

Criminal justice advocacy groups have been calling on states and counties to decarcerate as much as possible to avoid deadly outbreaks inside jails and prisons.

“Governor DeWine’s leadership in safely reducing the prison population during this unprecedented pandemic should serve as an example for governors across the country,” Holly Harris, executive director of the Justice Action Network, said in a statement. “We hope the saying holds true that ‘as goes Ohio, so does the country.’ Lives depend on it.”

U.S. Attorney General William Barr has directed the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to identify elderly and at-risk inmates who can be transferred early into home confinement. So far, the BOP says it has approved than 500 inmates for early transfer. Barr also directed federal prosecutors to consider COVID-19 risk when seeking bail.

California announced plans to release as many as 3,500 inmates early over the next two months.

Although DeWine has commutation powers, the process is lengthy. In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has also claimed he has few options to quickly release inmates in state prisons.

Likewise, Georgia requires that prosecutors be provided a 90-day notice before an inmate can be released, meaning even those inmates that are granted medical reprieve, such as a female inmate dying of cancer, might not get out before it’s too late.

Civil liberties and criminal justice groups have turned to the judiciary to try and work around some of these restrictions. Groups filed lawsuits in several places—Louisiana, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.—seeking the immediate release of inmates due to the COVID-19 threat. 

As Reason‘s Scott Shackford reported, California’s judicial system announced temporary regulations on Monday to limit human interaction within the criminal justice system, including setting bail at $0 for most misdemeanor and low-level felony cases.

Posted on

Bernie Might Be Losing the Democratic Primary, But He’s Still a Force To Be Reckoned With

Op-Ed

Presidential hopeful and self-proclaimed socialist Bernie Sanders is losing the Democratic vote to former Vice President Joe Biden. Nonetheless, the Vermont senator remains convinced that he has the upper hand “ideologically” among voters.

“While our campaign has won the ideological debate, we are losing the debate over electability,” Sanders said last month, following a massive blow to his campaign in recent primaries.

The question ensues: Has Sanders really won the ideological debate? Not yet.

Despite not taking the lead in recent primaries, the movement Sanders has created of so-called “Bernie Bros” is significant. He has been a major force in bringing radical policies to the center of political dialogue, and those policies are what we should be concerned about.

Sanders has become an icon to younger generations by pushing the narrative that if you can take down the top 1 percent, you can create more equality.

TRENDING: Ben Carson Delivers Dose of Coronavirus Hope: ‘Looks Like It’s Moving Much Faster Than Anybody Thought’

To put it simply, the Sanders movement is built upon the idea that those who are rich are the root of all society’s problems, and that government is the power that can fix these issues — whether it be through taxes, social programs or the overregulation of markets.

Thus, his movement embodies a desire for total revolution and the uprooting of American principles.

Sanders himself said during the announcement of his 2016 presidential campaign that he and his supporters can “begin a political revolution to transform our country economically, politically, socially and environmentally.”

And truthfully, that is what those who are “feeling the Bern” have begun to do.

Are you worried about young Americans’ embrace of socialism?

Today, an astonishing 61 percent of Americans ages 18 to 24 view socialism positively.

The problem with this is that many young Americans have hardly been taught about the dangers of socialism, or they believe that real socialism has “never been tried.” The fact is that real socialism has been tried all over the world in the past and present and has failed countries miserably.

What would make socialism in America any different?

And those failures are not just the radical policies as seen in places like Venezuela, either.

Even nations like Sweden that have used democratic socialism to create an overbearing welfare state have proven that socialism creates a slippery slope for individual liberty and independence from government.

RELATED: Mike Huckabee: Biden’s Resurgence Is Bad News for Bernie

The danger in supporting this style of socialism is that the need for expansion in government never ends and the cost continually increases. This cost is then placed on not only the wealthy, but the middle class as well.

One can already foresee the issue of a slippery slope arising in the very policies supported by Sanders.

The senator does not simply wish to raise taxes on the wealthy: He wants to implement a $90 trillion “Green New Deal,” universal health care and free college for all, to name just a few of his policy measures.

All of this is not to say that change is not needed to make education more affordable, or to decrease the insane cost of health care in America. But the means by which we intend to do these things will change the course of this country for better or for worse.

So far in this election season, young Americans — who are seen by many as Bernie’s secret weapon to winning the nomination — have not shown up to vote for him in the numbers he has hoped for.

Our greatest concern should be that eventually these young people will show up to vote before they are warned about the dangers of socialism.

The principles of freedom that our founders so uniquely established have created the most just, most innovative and freest nation on earth. But in the wise words of Benjamin Franklin, America will only stay that way if we can keep it.

The views expressed in this opinion article are those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by the owners of this website.

We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

Posted on

Trump Removes Glenn Fine As Oversight Leader Of Congressional Coronavirus Bill : NPR

Glenn Fine, then the acting Inspector General at the Department of Defense, testifies during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on December 6, 2017. Fine was the defense department’s acting inspector general until April 6, 2020, when President Trump replaced him.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images


hide caption

toggle caption

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Glenn Fine, then the acting Inspector General at the Department of Defense, testifies during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on December 6, 2017. Fine was the defense department’s acting inspector general until April 6, 2020, when President Trump replaced him.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Trump has removed the head of a group charged with overseeing the $2 trillion Coronavirus package passed by Congress last month.

The Coronavirus recovery law requires that an existing inspector general be selected by a council of inspectors general to oversee the response to the pandemic. That council picked Glenn Fine, the acting inspector general at the Department of Defense, to lead the newly formed Pandemic Response Accountability Committee.

But on Monday, the president designated Sean W. O’Donnell, the inspector general at the Environmental Protection Agency, to be the new acting inspector general at the Department of Defense, thus voiding Fine’s eligibility to lead Coronavirus oversight efforts.

Glenn Fine “is no longer on the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee,” said Dwrena Allen, a spokesperson for the Pentagon Inspector General’s office, adding that Fine would revert to his old role as the Principal Deputy Inspector General at the Department of Defense.

Fine has worked under both Republican and Democratic administrations, serving for more than a decade as the inspector general at the Department of Justice. He later joined the Department of Defense’s Office of Inspector General in 2015.

In a statement, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, the Democrat who chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, called Fine’s removal “a direct insult to the American taxpayers,” adding that Trump’s “actions are a blatant attempt to degrade the independence of Inspectors General who serve as checks against waste, fraud, and abuse.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trump has bristled at the oversight actions of several inspectors general during his presidency. This featured prominently over the past week, including with the firing of Intelligence Community inspector general Michael Atkinson on Friday.

Atkinson pushed back, saying in a statement late Sunday that his actions were in keeping with the federal whistleblower law.

“It is hard not to think that the President’s loss of confidence in me derives from my having faithfully discharged my legal obligations as an independent and impartial Inspector General,” said Atkinson, who received a whistleblower complaint in August 2019 about allegedly improper commitments made by Trump to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The complaint eventually led to an impeachment inquiry, and eventually the acquittal of the president in an impeachment trial.

The president has also criticized Inspector General findings at the Department of Health and Human Services. A report published yesterday found that hospitals are struggling to properly source supplies in response to the Coronavirus crisis, and were facing delays in COVID-19 testing.

The president said that complaints about delays in test results were “wrong” and suggested that the inspector general was politically motivated.

Posted on

Trump Replaces Inspector General Providing Oversight of Coronavirus Relief Fund

Inspectors general in this administration seem to have the job security once enjoyed by the No. 3 men in al Qaeda. Now, it seems, the coronavirus relief fund is open for whatever shady business occurs to the White House Grift-o-Mat. From the Washington Post:

Glenn Fine, who had been the acting Pentagon inspector general, was informed Monday that he was being replaced by Sean W. O’Donnell, currently the acting inspector general at the Environmental Protection Agency. Fine is a career official who had served as acting Pentagon inspector general for four years and three months. Before that he was inspector general at the Department of Justice for 11 years.

The move, which was first reported by Politico, will be seen by some as another instance of the president chafing at independent oversight. On Friday, he notified Congress that he was removing Michael Atkinson as the inspector general of the intelligence community — a decision that was criticized as a response to Atkinson’s having alerted lawmakers to the existence of a whistleblower complaint about the president’s dealings with Ukraine. The matter ultimately led to the president’s impeachment.

(Aside: long ago, when he was a point guard at Harvard, I wrote about Glenn Fine and how he’d received the phone call awarding him a Rhodes Scholarship at a telephone in a hallway outside the locker room in the old Boston Garden. He had just played a game against Boston College, in which Harvard nearly had pulled a considerable upset. Later, we learned that the game had been one of the games in which BC players had been shaving points on behalf of Henry Hill and various mobsters.)

Glenn Fine might have provided legitimate oversight, so he’s gone.

Drew AngererGetty Images

This, of course, is another move aimed at replacing legitimate oversight with reliable political blinders. This comes on the heels of his paranoid assault during the Monday edition of the Five O’Clock Follies on Christi Grimm, the deputy inspector general at the Department of Health and Human Services, an attack that he continued on the electric Twitter machine on Tuesday morning. Now the chaos has reached into the public trough. And, as we have seen, this is not an administration* that bothers its shiny little mind about profiteering.

On Monday night, Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker blew the whistle on the wild-west system by which states are bidding against each other for vital medical supplies. The president* already had snarked about Pritzker earlier that afternoon, so there’s that, plus Pritzker and the president* have a feud going back to the time when the president* was pretending to be a billionaire while Pritzker actually was one. National leadership is so very much up for grabs.

Respond to this post on the Esquire Politics Facebook page here.

Posted on

Late-night hosts used to come into our living rooms. During COVID-19, we’re entering theirs

Is Seth Meyers reading The Thorn Birds?

The former late-night host, now one of the growing number of stay-at-home hosts, has been talking to guests and delivering his Closer Look segments from several locations in his house, starting with a book-lined garage and moving to an attic storage room. There, he’s been making jokes about the strangely shaped door and oddly tiny armchair behind him, which he says have stoked viewers’ curiosity.

But this fan has been more taken with the two books on the table behind him: the always topical All the President’s Men from 1974; and, from the same era, Colleen McCullough’s romantic saga of life in the Australian Outback in the mid-20th century.

The Thorn Birds actually migrated there from Meyers’ previous set-up where, if you pause the video and squint, you can just make out a few other titles. There’s Jacob Bronowski’s The Ascent of Man, Queenie, and two copies of something that might be called Salonica? Hard to be sure.

When he interviewed Amy Poehler she, too, was in front of a bookshelf in her self-isolation space, which she pointed to and joked: “This is all the erotica I’ve been writing … a book a day.” Though, in fact, it held the young-adult sci-fi novel Time Zero, and Blitzed, about drug use in the Third Reich, among others.

It’s just another symptom of the strange days in which we’re all living. For decades, late-night hosts like Steve Allen, Johnny Carson and David Letterman came into our living rooms every night. Now, we’re going into theirs.

And it’s a quiet place. Aside from lower production values — it was a comedy segment just to watch Stephen Colbert figure out the audio and video feeds for his recent interview with Daniel Radcliffe — there’s also no studio audience to laugh at the jokes. And honestly, laughing alone takes a bit of getting used to. We primates are primed for a group response.

But thank heavens no one decided to use a laugh track. Well, except for Bill Maher, whose black-and-white stock footage of a happy crowd was itself played for laughs. (And nice work by Maher, shifting his body and turning his head throughout the segment as though there was an actual audience out there, and not just his overgrown backyard.)


A scene from The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

YouTube

The peek into celebrities’ homes is telling, though not especially revealing. Canada’s Samantha Bee took to the woods near her New York home to shoot, with husband Jason Jones running the camera. Jimmy Kimmel’s slightly out-of-focus backdrop had viewers convinced it was a green screen, until he broke the third and fourth walls by waving and then climbing through the window. And John Oliver has been hosting Last Week Tonight from in front of a bland backdrop he described as the same colour as a sperm whale, except not the whale part.

Colbert’s set-up is another of those booksy nooks, with visible titles including No Easy Day by Mark Bissonnette and Kevin Maurer; Daniel Yergin’s The Quest; a coffee-table book called First Light; and America, by Colbert’s old Daily Show boss Jon Stewart. Oh, and one of those Gluggle jugs that makes an amusing sound when you pour water from it.

Which brings me to John Krasinski’s Some Good News videos. The star of Jack Ryan, director of A Quiet Place: Part II (now opening Sept. 4, hopefully) and husband of Emily Blunt has leaped into the realm of late-night-talk-show-hosts-broadcasting-from-home, despite not being a late night talk show host to begin with.

My theory is that when everyone else goes back to work he’ll just tag along, like a rogue tourist joining a guided tour of an art gallery. He certainly has the charm and patter down pat, although his backdrop seems a touch too curated, like a house that’s been staged by a realtor.


At first, some viewers questioned if Jimmy Kimmel Live From His House was really from his house.

YouTube

There’s an antique typewriter, a Dunder Mifflin mug from his days on The Office, an I Heart Dad card and some Crate & Barrel-type tchotchkes, including a grey-tone globe atop an artful wooden box. It’s all a little too neat, including that “SGN” that can’t have been made by his daughters, aged three and six, unless they’re colouring prodigies.

On the other hand, it’s hard to get too angry at a jovial bearded man who not only celebrates good news but gives shout-outs to copycat artists from around the world, including radio host Stephen Keppler of Kelowna, B.C., and a couple in Saigon inspired by … they couldn’t quite figure out his name. “It’s pronounced Kra-ninky,” he teased.

Krasinski deserves praise for jumping on a bandwagon that can never get too crowded these days. When the Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Late Night with Seth Meyers and other shows first went dark as the coronavirus clampdown took effect, my family knew we’d still have access to news, but feared a lack of satirical takes on American news would take a toll on our already fragile souls.

We needn’t have worried. It turns out the wizards of late night couldn’t stay away, and no one really wanted them to. In the past, we looked to celebrities for fashion tips, sartorial choices and hairstyles to emulate. If the lockdown continues for another few months we’ll be looking over their shoulders for reading recommendations.

Posted on

Trump administration seeks $250 billion more in aid for small U.S. businesses: Mnuchin

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump administration on Tuesday asked Congress for an additional $250 billion in emergency economic aid for small U.S. businesses reeling from the coronavirus pandemic, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pushed for passage as soon as Thursday.

FILE PHOTO-U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin walks to the meeting with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) (not pictured) during negotiations on a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) relief package on Capitol in Washington, U.S., March 23, 2020. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

In a posting on Twitter, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he had consulted with congressional leaders on the need for the second round of funding.

If approved by Congress, the aid would add to the $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses enacted on March 27 as part of a $2.3 trillion economic stimulus in response to the virus outbreak.

Shortly before Mnuchin’s announcement, McConnell, a Republican, said in a statement: “It is quickly becoming clear that Congress will need to provide more funding or this crucial program may run dry.”

He added that he would work with Mnuchin and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer on the initiative with the goal of winning Senate approval on Thursday.

It was not immediately clear whether the top two Democrats in Congress, Schumer and House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, would embrace this timetable as they have been pushing for a broader set of measures that would comprise a fourth coronavirus-response bill since early March.

Quick Senate action would highlight the alarm over the crisis for small enterprises that have been shuttered because of the coronavirus outbreak.

McConnell’s backing also marked a change in attitude. He warned in an April 1 interview with the Washington Post that Pelosi should not undertake a “premature” fourth stimulus bill related to the pandemic.

But just days into the launch of the small business loans, with coronavirus cases raging in many parts of the United States, pressure built for more aid.

“There is a critical need to supplement the (loan) fund to ensure America’s more than 30 million small businesses will be able to access this critical lifeline,” Senate Small Business Committee Chairman Marco Rubio said in a statement.

Restaurants and hotels are among businesses hardest hit by the coronavirus outbreak, with many of them shuttered.

The loan program aims to encourage small enterprises to keep their employees on staff and to help them pay rent, mortgages, utilities and other overhead costs.

Meanwhile, congressional Democrats were crafting a series of additional measures they plan to push in coming weeks.

Democratic senators on Tuesday called for up to $25,000 in temporary, federally paid bonuses to medical workers and others in essential services, such as pharmacists, grocery store workers and truckers whose jobs put them at greater risk of coronavirus infection.

Their plan also contained $15,000 incentives to help recruit first responders and health and home-care workers.

Pelosi on Monday consulted with rank-and-file members of her Democratic majority about House committees working on a bill that could top $1 trillion to augment the $2.3 trillion measure enacted last month.

A House Democratic aide on Tuesday said potential provisions include additional funding and greater flexibility for a “stabilization” fund helping state and local governments cope with the epidemic.

The aide said legislation also would increase funding for federal agencies, such as the Labor Department and Small Business Administration which now must deal with an explosive growth in unemployment and loan programs, respectively.

In an interview on CNN, Pelosi said she wanted to ensure that a range of financial institutions, including community and minority-owned banks, could participate in the loan program and that the lending did not just go to businesses that had existing relationships with lenders.

Some small restaurant operators have voiced concerns the loan program was structured so that large companies and large franchisees could gain advantage.

Reporting by Richard Cowan, Lisa Lambert David Lawder, Diane Bartz, David Morgan, Susan Cornwell and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Doina Chiacu, Alistair Bell, Tom Brown and Cynthia Osterman