RALEIGH – More than 39,000 small businesses across North Carolina have been approved for emergency loans totalling just over $8 billion during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the federal program providing the cash is out of money and demands continue for Congress to strike a deal for more cash.

Senator Thom Tillis disclosed the NC funding totals on Friday as negotiations continued in Washington for a boost to the Paycheck Protection Plan which reached its $349 billion can last week. Tillis wants another deal struck quickly.

“It is clear that while the Paycheck Protection Program is far from perfect, it will make a difference by helping tens of thousands of small businesses in North Carolina get through this crisis and keep their employees on payroll,” Tillis said in a statement.

Only a fraction of NC small businesses have received funds, which could reach a maximum of $10 million.

According to Small Business Administration figures there are nearly 900,000 small businesses across the state with fewer than 500 employees. These firms did employ 1.6 million people as of 2018 and before the pandemic triggered more than 500,000 unemployment claims.

Business groups including the North Carolina Bankers Association and the National Federation of Independent Business which has a chapter in North Carolina have called for more PPP funding.

Small business group wants more federal funding, loans in NC

In Washington, reports emerged Sunday that  the Trump administration and Congress expect an agreement Monday on an aid package of up to $450 billion to boost the small-business loan program  and add funds for hospitals and COVID-19 testing.

As talks continued, President Donald Trump said there’s a “good chance” of reaching a bipartisan agreement with Democrats.

“We are very close to a deal,” Trump said Sunday at the White House.

Along with the small business boost, Trump said the negotiators were looking at “helping our hospitals,” particularly hard-hit rural health care providers.

The Senate is scheduled for a pro forma session Monday, but no vote has been set.

The House announced it could meet as soon as Wednesday for a vote on the pending package, according to a schedule update from Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md.

Head of NC Bankers calls for quick boost COVID-19 loans as $349B fund runs out

With small-business owners reeling during a coronavirus outbreak that has shuttered much economic activity, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he was hopeful of a deal that could pass Congress quickly and get the Small Business Administration program back up by midweek.

“I’m hopeful that we can get that done,” Mnuchin said Sunday.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., also said he believed a deal could be reached. “We still have a few more details to deal with,” he said.

The emerging accord links the administration’s effort to replenish a small-business with Democrats’ demands for more money for hospitals and virus testing. It would provide $300 billion for small-business payroll program, and $50 billion would be available for small business disaster fund. Additionally, it would bring $75 billion for hospitals and $25 billion for testing, according to those involved in the talks.

On a conference call Sunday afternoon that included Trump, Mnuchin and Republican senators, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., indicated the only remaining item for discussion involved the money for testing, according to a Senate GOP leadership aide who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a private call.

But Democrats have been insisting on boosting funding to cash-strapped states and local governments whose revenues have cratered. In weekend talks, they had proposed $150 billion for the effort.

“We are pushing hard,” Schumer said.

But Mnuchin and McConnell reiterated on the call with senators that money for state and local governments as well as food stamps would not be included in the package, according to the GOP aide.

“The president is willing to consider that in the next bill, but wants to get this over the finish line with a focus on small businesses, hospitals and testing,” Mnuchin said.

He said he’s been in touch with GOP leaders including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and all are “on board with the same plan.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., predicted an agreement would be reached “soon.”

Under the emerging deal, the government’s PPP pgroam would get roughly $300 billion, according to Mnuchin. The Small Business Administration program has been swamped by companies applying for loans and reached its appropriations limit last Thursday after approving nearly 1.7 million loans. That left thousands of small businesses in limbo as they sought help. An additional $50 billion in the evolving deal would go for disaster loans.

About $75 billion would go to U.S. hospitals, for those straining under a ballooning coronavirus caseload as well as those struggling to stay financially afloat after suspending elective surgeries during the pandemic. About $25 billion would be added for COVID-19 testing, something states have said was urgently needed.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.