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Rubio Discusses the Paycheck Protection Program on CNBC
Miami, FL — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, joined Joe Kernen and Andrew Ross Sorkin on CNBC’s Squawk Box where he provided an update on the Paycheck Protection Program funding, addressed eligibility concerns, and discussed reopening areas of the country.
A lightly edited transcript of the interview .
Joe Kermen: “President Trump says Democrats and Republicans could reach a deal today on funnelling more money into the government’s Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses. Senator Marco Rubio joins us now, he is Chairman of the Senate Small Business Committee. Thought maybe it was going to happen yesterday, Senator, what is happening, where are we at this point in time?”
Senator Rubio: “So I think we have the outlines of a pretty good deal here, it’s a deal we could’ve had a week ago. What I want to caution everybody about right now is even if that money is approved on Wednesday, it’s going to take some time now to have to redo the entire SBA website to meet these new parameters of the money set aside for banks under 10 billion in assets and one billion in assets, and what I’m asking them to do is to start doing that now, not to wait until Thursday or Wednesday when this passes, because we’re going to have on Thursday, whenever this opens up, you will have 800-900,000 applications hit the system all at once. We’re going to go right back to the same problems we were having in the early days of the launch. So I hope that these next four days, first of all this is the price for what’s happened here, this delay in funding, but second, I hope we don’t waste the next three or four days and we set up a system so it can launch as easily as possible or we are going to have another massive disruption here.”
Joe Kermen: “So it’s going to happen today in your view?”
Senator Rubio: “Well, the Senate I hope will vote it out today unanimously unless somebody flies to D.C. and blocks it. We’ll see — the House has different procedures. I hope — I believe — they’ve got a deal. I think they’ll do what it takes to get it done, and then you’ve got to re-launch this, re-do the website, the E-tran system, the online portal. I’m asking them to start working on that now — just assume that it’s going to pass and get ready for it. Don’t wait till it’s signed to do that. We can’t afford to waste all these days. People are hurting right now.”
Joe Kermen: “How would you err: make sure that everyone who needs it gets it — which means some people that shouldn’t get it are getting it — or to make sure that certain entities don’t get it, [and] some people who do deserve to get it don’t get it. How would you err on that? Because there’s a lot of criticism and there’s a lot of second-guessing on who’s getting it, who deserves it, who shouldn’t get it — that’s just par for the course.”
Senator Rubio: “So here’s what happened, we were asked to draft this to cover as many people as possible — so not just small business, but not-for-profits and 1099 independent contractors — and then we were asked specifically to include restaurants and the hospitality industry, hotels, because they had been the first ones hit, remember this was a month ago, to get hit with closures and the like. And then we had to write affiliation rules, because these hotels that may say Marriott or Hyatt or Hilton, but it’s actually owned by an individual, it’s just a flag that’s on it. And the same can happen with restaurants and franchises, and so there have been some people approved, some companies, that I believe should not have been even under the intent of the law, and that comes down to the certification process and how they were certified into the system. Look, there were glitches made, there is no doubt about it. In the end, take comfort in the fact the money has to go to the workers. Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter who a worker is working for, we want to keep them employed. This is not a bailout of any company. But I think certainly the goal here is to get the money into the hands of businesses who don’t have anywhere else to go for money, including the stock market, shareholders, and other sort of credit lines.”
Andrew Ross Sorkin: “One of the questions I wanted to ask you is we were talking about Harvard University — which has a $41 billion endowment — taking the money and whether you think they should give that money back?”
Senator Rubio: “Yeah look, I don’t know the details of how they qualified for it or how they got it, I imagine they are organized as a c3 or some sort. We thought about putting a need test on the front end. I want everybody to understand the more requirements we came up with, the harder it was going to be, to get the money out the door. The goal here is to get money out quickly so we sort of erred on the side of expediency because we felt this was an emergency situation. In emergencies mistakes are going to be made, but the biggest mistake you can make is to move too slowly. I think everybody now will have to look at these organizations –”
Andrew Ross Sorkin: “What about the transparency piece? What about the transparency piece and having some kind of Inspector General on top of this given the fact that we don’t have transparency and that the president is now effectively removed?”
Senator Rubio: “Yeah, there is an Inspector General at the Small Business Administration. The SBA has an Inspector General — a very good one — and they are going to look at this program as they do every program that’s done. In addition to whatever CARES Act’s does in addition to congressional oversight. Look guys, let there be no doubt — they made 14 years worth of loans in 12 days and when you do something like that so rapidly there are going to be unintended consequences, issues you didn’t foresee and things you probably would have done differently, there’s no doubt about it. But ultimately we’re dealing with an emergency here, so what we’re trying to do is push money out as quickly as possible into the hands of workers and that’s the fall back here. This becomes a loan that has to be paid back if you don’t get it into the hands of your workers. The hope here was to keep as many people employed as possible.”
Joe Kermen: “Senator when should we reopen and what do you think of some of the protests that we’re seeing. We had someone refer to those protesters as “far right-wingers” or something. Do you think you have to be a “far right-winger” to want to get back to work?”
Senator Rubio: “No, I don’t think it’s ideological. I’ll say this to you though — if you hear people out there talking about if we should keep things the way they are now until the virus goes away or until it’s at a certain level, I agree theoretically that’s the right approach. It’s also not realistic. It’s important for leaders to recognize that there will come a point where no matter what rules we come up with people will stop following them. So it’s a balancing act here, and it really should put pressure on leaders to expedite the things we’re going to need to make a reopening safer. The rapid testing is important.”