U.S. House Speaker Pelosi says 'very close' to coronavirus funding deal


WASHINGTON, April 19 (Reuters) - U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she believed lawmakers are very close to a deal on approving extra money to help small businesses hurt by the coronavirus pandemic.

An agreement would end a stalemate that has lasted more than a week over President Donald Trump's request to add $250 billion to a small-business loan program. Congress set up the program last month as part of a $2.3 trillion coronavirus economic relief plan, but it has already run out of money.

"We're close," Pelosi said in an interview with ABC's "This Week" broadcast on Sunday. "I think we're very close to an agreement.

Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer say they favor more money for small businesses but also want more coronavirus response funds for state and local governments and hospitals, as well as food assistance for the poor.

"We want to make sure that it's reaching all of America's small businesses. And we also want to make sure that it's operating in a community where our police and fire, our health care workers, our doctors, nurses, our teachers, are being compensated for and not fired," Pelosi said.

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"That’s why we’re asking for the additional funds in the package, as well as for hospitals so that we can do testing, testing, testing."

Governors of hard hit states such as New York and New Jersey have said they need more federal funding to significantly ramp up testing capacity.

Democratic lawmakers from battleground districts are already under attack by Republican campaign operatives because the emergency loans for small businesses have dried up. Last week some of these Democrats said their congressional leaders should prioritize the small business funding and get it flowing again.

Pelosi, however, said there was an opportunity to get money for the hospitals, teachers and firefighters in the interim funding bill. Congress plans to take up another major coronavirus relief legislation after the small business fund is replenished. (Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

Originally published