WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. lawmakers may need to think of different ways to put money in Americans’ pockets if coronavirus aid does not reach enough people and may look at providing a minimum guaranteed income, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Monday.
The Democratic House leader was asked if $310 billion in fresh small business aid due to be released by the government on Monday would help enough Americans.
“Let’s see what works, what is operational and what needs attention,” Pelosi said in an interview with MSNBC.
“Others have suggested a minimum income, a guaranteed income for people. Is that worthy of attention now? Perhaps so. Because there are many more people than just in small business and hired by small business … that may need some assistance as well.”
U.S. banks were girding for another chaotic dash to the new funds delivered through the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, which allows lenders to resume processing applications from businesses hurt by the novel coronavirus shutdown.
With the nation’s lenders already sitting on hundreds of thousands of backlogged applications, the fresh funds are expected to be burned through in days – leaving swaths of mom-and-pop enterprises out in the cold again, banking groups said.
Pelosi also pushed the need for additional funding to state, local and tribal governments as Congress considers the next massive relief legislation to help prop up the U.S. economy.
“Then we’ll see what the needs are,” Pelosi said. “We may have to think in terms of some different ways to put money in people’s pockets.”
The small business funding program has come under scrutiny after banks channeled some of the money to their larger, more profitable clients, including hedge funds and public companies.
Pelosi said it was important to have oversight “just to make sure everybody knows that there will be transparency and there will be accountability.”
“These dollars are precious dollars,” she said. “They make a world of difference, life and death, to the survival of a company for some companies, and others really don’t need it that much.”
Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis