Lawmakers could be closer to agreeing on a package to continue helping out small businesses hit by the coronavirus crisis, indicated Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in an interview on Sunday.
"I think we're very close to a deal today. I'm hopeful that we can get that done," Mnuchin said on CNN's "State of the Union."
In a Fox News interview on Sunday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also indicated a deal was near.
The news comes days after the nearly $350 billion lending program, known as the Paycheck Protection Program, for small businesses dried up.
The program began giving funds on April 3 to businesses hurt by the lockdowns and closures related to the Covid-19 outbreak. It provided payroll assistance to more than 1.6 million small businesses around the nation.
“The Treasury Department and SBA launched the unprecedented Paycheck Protection Program in just one week. Following its launch, the SBA processed more than 14 years’ worth of loans in less than 14 days, which will protect a vast number of American jobs," said Mnuchin and U.S. Small Business Administration Administrator Jovita Carranza in a statement, earlier on Friday.
More funds are now necessary to keep the program running and Mnuchin told CNN on Sunday that he believes an additional funding plan could put up some $300 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program as well as tens of billions of dollars in other funding for hospitals and testing.
"I'm hopeful that we can reach an agreement that the Senate can pass this tomorrow, and that the House can take it up on Tuesday. Wednesday, we would be back up and running," Mnuchin said, according to CNN.
Nearly three in four of the loans from the program so far were for under $150,000, according to the Mnuchin and Carranza, and went to businesses involved in construction, manufacturing, food and hospitality services, health care, agriculture, and retail.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer also told CNN that "we've made very good progress" in the negotiations.
"...House and Senate Democrats have worked closely to expand access to small businesses beyond (Paycheck Protection Program), by increasing funding to the Economic Injury Disaster Loans program," said Democratic Speaker Pelosi in a statement over the weekend as negotiations continued.
"I am pleased to report that we have been engaged in bipartisan negotiations on our interim legislation and our progress is encouraging. We are also working on CARES 2 to prepare for the path ahead to support the lives and livelihoods of the American people. It is recognized that the key to opening our economy is testing, treatment, contact tracing and quarantine."
So far, the U.S. has been by far the hardest hit nation by the coronavirus that was first detected in China last year when it rapidly overwhelmed the Asian nation's hospitals in the city of Wuhan by January. In the following weeks it struck South Korea, Iran, Italy and Spain as infections in those areas ballooned before measures were taken to contain the outbreak. The U.S. has the largest number of deaths at nearly 40,000 and known infections at nearly 750,000.
A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released over the weekend suggests that three in five American voters fear an early lifting of restrictions implemented to slow the spread of the disease in an effort to recover the economy could result in a resurgence of the outbreak.
This story has been updated.