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Biden Announces COVID Funding Window For Small Businesses. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired February 22, 2021 - 12:30   ET



JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Both shared the same message with me when I spoke to them on the road. And that was American small businesses are hurting and hurting badly, and they need help now. And it's all of our interest to make sure they get the help now.

Small businesses are the engines of our economic progress. They're the glue in the heart and soul of our communities.

But they're getting crushed. Since the beginning of this pandemic, 400,000 small businesses have closed, 400,000. And millions more are hanging by a thread. It's hurting black, Latino, and Asian-American communities the hardest.

Walk down any main street and you see it; empty storefronts, goodbye signs hanging in the windows. Maybe it's the pizza place you used to take your family to dinner or the hardware store that always had the tool you needed.

It's the mom and pop shop that's sponsored by -- that is supported by the community, and, in turn, they support the community. They sponsor little league teams. The barber shop with the first dollar bill that he or she earned still taped to the wall, along with a picture of their kids who are now in college.

These small businesses -- not the ones with 500 employees -- but these small businesses that, with a handful of folks, they are 90 percent of the businesses in America.

But when the Paycheck Protection Program was passed, a lot of these mom and pop businesses got muscled out of the way by bigger companies who jumped in front of the line.

And I want to be clear -- the Paycheck Protection Program is a bipartisan effort. Democrats and Republicans helped pass it.

But Democrats and Republicans have also voiced concerns about improving it. With their input, that's what we're doing in our administration, improving it.

In the last month, we've increased the share of funding for small businesses with fewer than 10 employees by nearly 60 percent.

For businesses in rural communities, the share of funding is up nearly 30 percent since we came to office.

And the share of funding distributed through banks that traditionally helped minority-owned businesses is up more than 40 percent.

And today, I'm announcing additional changes to the PPP program that will make sure we look out for the mom and pop businesses even more than we already have.

As I explained to Pilar and Tim (ph), the two small business people I spoke to -- on Wednesday, the Small Business Administration is going to establish a 14-day exclusive PPP loan application period for businesses and non-profits with fewer than 20 employees.

People can -- can go out and find out how to get a hold of these loans. People can find out more at the

Small Business Administration will also remove barriers that have stopped many businesses from being able to apply for these loans.

For example, we're making it so that a student loan default or a non- fraud related criminal record does not prohibit someone from applying for the program.

We're also making it easier for those one-person businesses, like the home repair contractors, beauticians, small independent retailers to secure forgivable PPP loans.

At the same time, we're increasing access by increasing oversight.

I invite any inspector general in this program, with jurisdiction over this program, to closely look at these loans and report -- publicly report on any issues they uncover inconsistent with what I'm saying today.

We will ensure every dollar is spent well. These changes will bring much needed, long overdue to help -- to small businesses who really need help staying open, maintaining jobs, and making ends meet.

And this is a starting point, not the ending point. We need Congress to pass my American Rescue Plan. It deals with the immediate crisis facing our small businesses.

Now, critics say the plan is too big. Let me ask the rhetorical question, what would you have me cut? What would you leave out? The American Rescue Plan targets $50 billion to support -- to support the hardest hit small businesses after this program expires at the end of March.

Would you not help invest in them? Would you let them continue to go under? Would you leave them out again, like the previous administration did?

One of the things I've heard again and again from small business owners like Pilar and Tim (ph) is that knowing about support is one thing, being -- gaining access to getting it is another.


That's why we proposed $175 million to bringing community organizations and to serve as navigators who help them through this process of application.

It would also establish a hotline with help available in multiple languages, so folks can pick up a phone and get the help they need to stay open and serve their community.

Again, the critics, it's too big. Should we not -- should we stop spending money on them? Do we not want a return on the investment that we make in these businesses to be able to stay open and thrive and pay back?

Why would we not want to make sure small businesses who lack teams of lawyers, banker, and accountants have an advocate, someone they can rely on, to direct them to help that's there for them. Now, we'll be there for them.

The American Rescue Plan is a rescue plan for America's small businesses and America's mainstream businesses. And we need Congress to pass it right away. I'm grateful to the Senate and the House for moving so quickly.

And I want to make it clear, I'm prepared to hear ideas about how to make the American Rescue Plan better and cheaper, but we have to make clear who we're helping and who it would hurt.

I always try to help people like Tim (ph) and Pilar and all the country's small businesses and families, the workers, the communities who depend on them to survive, recover, and grow.

And it's my hope -- my hope, that as Democrats and Republicans who have backed the PPP program, that Democrats and Republicans will back the American Rescue Plan.

The vast majority of the American people, more than 70 percent of the American people, including a majority of Republicans, want us to act -- based on all the polling data -- act big and act quickly.

Major economists left, right, and center here and abroad say we should focus on smart investments that can make jobs available and -- and focus on the jobs.

And then, the people prevent -- prevent long-term economic damage to our nation and to strengthen the economic competitiveness going forward.

In fact, an analysis by Wall Street's firm Moody's estimates that, if we pass my American Rescue Plan, the economy will create seven million jobs this year. This year.

We've also been in constant contact with the mayors and governors, county officials, members of Congress from both parties in every state -- that includes a letter, I might add, for more than 400 mayors from big and small cities, Democrat and Republican --they agree we have to act and act now.

They understand we're not going to get our economy back in shape and the millions of people back to work until we beat this virus. Getting our economy back means bringing our small businesses back.

And that's what we're going to do. That's what I'm doing today. We're going to focus.

The program ends at the end of March. But for the next two weeks, the only folks who can apply for that PPP money are businesses with fewer than 20 employees

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: President Biden at the White House walking away without taking questions. Just making an announcement, a short term announcement about an existing COVID Relief Program, the so called PPP Paycheck Protection Program, saying for the next two weeks, applications will only be taken for businesses, small businesses with fewer than 20 employees. That the President says a way to end what he believes has been a disadvantage to those small businesses, the money going to bigger businesses.

And as he made that announcement for about the next few weeks tweaking an assisting program, the President also urging Republicans and Democrats in Congress, so far it's all Democrats to support what he called needs to be a, the big COVID relief package. The first vote on that comes next hour in the House Budget Committee.

Our chief political correspondent Dana Bash is still with us. It was interesting, number one, he's trying to help people now with the powers he does have. But he said he wants big, he wants bold. He says the analysis says it'll create 7 million jobs. The mayors want it. The governors want it. But he did also say he is open to ideas if somebody can make it better and cheaper. The House plan is 1.9 trillion, just as the President asked. The question is what is the final plan?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, that is the question. We don't know the answer to that. When you look at what is going to be passed in the House, it's almost definitely going to be pretty close to what President Biden put forward because that's -- those are the outlines of what we have there. I don't want to say that it's going to be exactly what President Biden wants because there's also a pretty narrow majority of Democrats in the House as well.


But the big question is going to be once it gets over to the Senate. And you -- that's why the debate, you know, all week and particularly over the weekend has been whether or not the $15 minimum wage increase is going to remain in that bill. Progressive pushed hard, they're continuing to push hard lobbying really, really intensely to keep it in. And the question is whether or not it will be allowed procedurally in the Senate.

But even Apart from that, John, you also hear from moderate Democrats, saying we don't even think that this is necessarily appropriate to put in this COVID relief bill for a number of reasons. So, you know, is it going to change after it gets to the Senate, the question is, how so?

KING: And that's what's fascinating. We didn't have many policy debates in the Trump era. So we just simply didn't. We had repeal and replace early on we -- about Obamacare, the Republicans failed. Even when they controlled Washington, the President did get, former president did get his tax cuts.

And then there just wasn't much policy, especially old school policy where the House passes a plan, it goes over to the Senate, something else comes back, and then you're going to have to decide to put them together. Both "The Wall Street Journal" and "The Washington Post Editorial Board" they don't often agree, saying non-COVID spending blow out, most of the 1.9 trillion House bill has little to do with the virus, that's according to "The Wall Street Journal." "The Washington Post" more favorable to the President and the Democrats just puts it more politely. Congress needs to focus its COVID relief bill on COVID relief.

BASH: Right.

KING: The President is going to get a big package. Democrats understand even minimum wage, one of the differences here, there's going to be some bruised feelings at the end of this without a doubt. But they also understand this is test number one out of the box. There's been some Republican grumbling. But is there a good faith Republican effort to try to get the President, they need to come closer to him, he won the election and then he won two in Georgia.

BASH: There is some, again, not so much in the House just because they don't have the numbers. But there is that bipartisan group, 10 republicans, 10 Democrats in the Senate. We need to go back.

KING: We need to go back up to this confirmation hearing from Merrick Garland, the President choice for Attorney General. We promised we would dip in when it gets interesting. Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas.

SEN. TOM COTTON (R-AR): -- the time that he needed to complete that investigation. You said you didn't have the info yet; that you needed to speak to him but you had no reason to think that him staying on was not the correct decision.

GARLAND: Yes, sir.

COTTON: Why can't you commit specifically to saying that he will have the time, staff, and resources he needs to complete his investigation?

GARLAND: Well, again, it's because I'm sitting here and I don't have any information about what he needs and his resources and how -- and the allocation of resources. But my -- everything I know sitting here suggest that he should, of course, have those resources.

COTTON: Judge, two years ago Bill Barr made that exact commitment about the Mueller Special Counsel. He did not have that information; he had not consulted with the Department. He was in the same posture you are. He simply said yes. Why can't you say yes, today, the way Bill Barr did two years ago?

GARLAND: Again, my view about every investigation and every decision I make is I have to know the facts before I can make those kinds of decisions. I don't know what went into his consideration but for myself I have to be there and learn what's going on before I can make a decision.

But as I said, I have no reason to doubt that the decision to keep him in place and the continuing of his investigation was in anyway wrong.

COTTON: Was it wrong for Bill Barr to make that commitment two years ago?

GARLAND: As I said, Senator, I'm not going to be making judgments about my predecessors. I don't think there's any purpose in that for myself. I want you to judge me on my own record and what I do going forward.

COTTON: Was it wrong for Democratic Senators on this committee to repeatedly demand that Bill Barr make that commitment two years ago?

GARLAND: I think my answer would be the same.

COTTON: OK. Let's turn to the death penalty. You said that you've developed great pause over it and you said that Joe Biden has expressed his opposition to the death penalty. Did Joe Biden or anyone from his administration transition or campaign ask you not to pursue capital punishment in cases against murders or terrorists?


COTTON: Thank you. Judge, you spoke at the outset as did perhaps several other senators about your outstanding work in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing case in which you were part of team that helped to bring the justice of white supremacist mass murder Timothy McVeigh, he was sentenced to death.

That death penalty has been carried out. Do you regret the fact that Timothy McVeigh received the death penalty and has been executed?

GARLAND: Look, I supported the (ph) -- as I said in my original Senate hearing, when I became a judge originally I supported the death penalty at that time for Mr. McVeigh in that individual case and don't have any regret. But I have developed concerns about the death penalty and the 20 some years since then.

And I -- and I -- and the sources of my concern are issues of exonerations of people who have been convicted of sort of arbitrariness and randomness of its application because of how seldom it's applied and because of its desperate impact on black Americans and members of other communities of color.


Those are the things that give me pause. And those are things that have given me pause over the last -- you know as I thought about it over the last 20 years.

COTTON: Judge, you were confirmed as attorney general and there was another case like Timothy McVeigh's where a white supremacist bombed a federal court house, killing 168 Americans, including 19 children and your (inaudible) sought your attorney your approval for the death penalty, would you give him that approval?

GARLAND: So I think it depends on what the development of the policy is. If the president asks or if we develop a policy about moratorium, then it would apply across the board. There's no point in having a policy if you make individual discretionary decisions. So if that -- if that's the policy then that would be the policy.

COTTON: Judge, you said in your opening statement and in addition to several questions from Senators that you would strictly regulate communications between the White House, that there'd be no partisan influence. So is this a case in which there would be influence from the White House and individual cases the U.S. attorney was seeking the death penalty against the white supremacist domestic terrorist?

GARLAND: I understand the question. I'm sorry. Maybe I didn't understand before. What -- what I'm trying to say here is if there was a policy decision made by the president -- announced by the president, he certainly has the authority to direct -- and nothing in appropriate about it, it's when his authority to acquire an across the board moratorium.

This not what I was talking about. It was not a decision by the president in an particular case or the direction of how any particular case should go forward but of a moratorium, which we reply as a policy across the board. The Supreme Court has held that the death penalty is Constitutional but it is not required. And that's within the discretion of the president.

COTTON: Before we move on from the Oklahoma City case, let me just commend you again for your work on it and say that I believe Timothy McVeigh deserved the death penalty.

GARLAND: Thank you, sir.

COTTON: Another case involves Dylann Roof, a white supremacist from South Carolina who went into an African American Church and killed nine African Americans in a racially motivated terrorist attack.

The Obama Department of Justice sought the death penalty against him and received it. Do you believe that was a mistake?

GARLAND: I'm sorry --

COTTON: Do you believe it was a mistake to seek the death penalty against Dylann Roof for murdering nine African Americans as they worshipped in church?

GARLAND: I know I'm not supposed to be asking you the questions but I have a feeling that this is still a pending matter. And if it is I can't talk about a particular -- particular case. COTTON: In that -- in that case let me ask you the hypothetical idea about --

GARLAND: I apologize for asking you, because I know --

COTTON: Let's -- let's --

GARLAND: -- that's not my right.

COTTON: -- let's suppose that another white supremacist walks into another African-American church and murders African-Americans worshipping Christ, in cold blood. The U.S. Attorney seeks the death penalty against that white supremacist. Would you approve it?

GARLAND: Again, I -- Senator, I think it does depend on what policy is adopted going forward. I would not oppose a policy of the president, because is within his authority to put a moratorium of the death penalty in all cases. And instead, to seek mandatory life without the possibility of parole. Without any consideration of the facts of any particular case.

COTTON: Some on the left are calling for President Biden to grant a cross-the-board commutation to all federal death row inmates to reduce their sentence to life in prison. Would you recommend to President Biden they make such a cross-the-board commutation?

GARLAND: So, this is one of the ones that I would have to think about. And which I have not thought about. I'd have to consult with the administration on such across-the-board policy. I haven't thought about that.

COTTON: Thank you. I want to turn to racial equity. Do you agree that core concept of judge of American law is that the government can't discriminate against a citizen on the basis of their right?

GARLAND: Absolutely. Equal justice under the law, written right there on the steps of the impediment (ph) above the Supreme Court.

COTTON: And not only is it unlawful, it's morally wrong as well?

GARLAND: Yes. I think discrimination is morally wrong, absolutely.

COTTON: And you're aware that President Biden has signed an executive order stating this his administration will affirmatively advance racial equity, not racial equality but racial equity?

GARLAND: Yes, and I read the opening of that executive order, which defines equity as the fair and impartial treatment of every person without regard to their status. And including individuals who are in -- who have -- in underserved communities where they were not accorded that before. But, I don't see any distinction between -- in that regard. That's the definition that was included in that executive order that you're talking about.

COTTON: So, to you racial equity and racial equality are the same thing? [12:50:00]

GARLAND: I don't - you know -- this is a word that is defined in the executive order as I -- as I've just said it. So, I don't know what else -- I can't give you anymore than they in which the executive order defined the term that it was using.

COTTON: Thanks judge.

DURBIN: Senator Booker.

BOOKER: Thank you Mr. Chairman. Judge Garland it's really good to see you sitting before the Judiciary Committee of the United States Senate.

GARLAND: Thank you Senator.

BOOKER: I'm really grateful. The -- if you don't mind me starting a little bit with philosophy. There's The Micah Mandate, which I'm not sure by your expression you know, but it's -- you've heard it before. It's do justice, love mercy.

GARLAND: That mandate I do know. Yes.

BOOKER: Yes. And walk -- and walk humbly. It seems like a pretty good mandate for life.


BOOKER: and this idea of justice to me is fundamental to the ideals of the nation founded with a lot of injustice at the time. But, the brilliance of the imperfect geniuses of our founders who aspired to create a society that John Lewis and others would have called a more beloved community.

And one of my -- an activist I've read a lot, a theologian, said what does love -- what does love look like in public? It looks like justice. And you have to me perhaps one of the more important positions on the planet earth for trying to create a more just society. And the issues of race, and I was really grateful that you -- your opening remarks talked about your agency actually coming about to deal with issues of justice in our nation.

I want to talk to you about white supremacist violence, which has been mentioned a lot, but before I get there I'm actually concerned with something that I consider pernicious and very difficult to root out, which is the realities of implicit racial bias that lead to larger systemic racism.

Now, I've been kind of sunded (ph) that the issue of systemic racism has become something argued over, but if I can just walk you through for a second, does our justice system treat people equally in this country at some (ph) point?

GARLAND: Sadly, and it's plain to me that is not -- that it does not -- BOOKER; And I'm going to stop you there. I mean Brian (inaudible) says we have a criminal justice system that treats you better if you're rich and guilty than if you're poor and innocent because one's finances make a difference often with what kind of justice one gets. Is that correct?

GARLAND: Senator, it's no question that there is disparate treatment in our justice system. Mass incarceration is a very good example of this problem. You know, we're incarcerating 25 percent -- almost 25 percent of the world's population and we have something like 5 percent of the world's population. I don't think that is because Americans are worse. But what underlies --

BOOKER: Well, what --

GARLAND: -- that is the disparate treatments of blacks and the communities of color.

BOOKER: Well, let's drill down on that for a second.


BOOKER: So, one of the big things driving arrests in our country, stunningly to me even that its still the case, is marijuana arrests. We had in 2019 more marijuana arrests for possession than all violent crime arrests combined.

Now, what -- when you break out that data in disaggregate along racial lines it is shocking than an African-American has no difference in usage or selling than someone whose White in America, but their likelihood of being arrested for doing things that two of the last four presidents admitted to doing, is three to four times higher than somebody White. Is that evidence that within the system there is implicit racial bias? Yes or no, sir?

GARLAND: Well, it's definitely evidence of a disparate treatment in the system, which I think does arise out of implicit bias. Unconscious bias, maybe. Sometimes conscious bias.

BOOKER: And I think that's the fair point. Unconscious or conscious none the less it results in the system. And I've had great conversations with people on both sides of the aisle, heads of think tanks all speak to this as abhorrent to American ideals that we still have a system that's so disparately treats people at every point the stationhouse adjustment, which I know you know what that is, which I've seen happen as a mayor, that people get called for or arrested for possession of marijuana and the police make that decision like just leave and your parents come or whatever, and it's dismissed or whatever (ph). We see from stationhouse adjustments to charging to bail to sentencing, every objective analysis has shown that race right now in our country is still playing a specific influence in the justice that someone gets. You're aware of all of this? Yes?

GARLAND: I am and this is a particular part of the reason why at this moment I think I wanted to be the Attorney General.

BOOKER: Right, and to the point --

GARLAND: I want to do the best I can to stop --

BOOKER: Well, I want to get to that. To the point that a lot of my folks are making, you just made, it does not mean that the people who are engaged in this are racist overtly. It means that they have implicit racial bias that often leads them to make different decisions about different people. That's correct?


GARLAND: Yes, it also -- you know the for example -- the marijuana example is the perfect example that you've given here. Here's a non- violent crime that -- of expected usage that does not require us to incarcerate people. And then we're incarcerating at different rates -- that's significantly different rates compare -- of different communities and that is wrong and it's the kind of problem that will then follow a person for the rest of their lives. It will make it impossible to get a job. It will lead to a downward economic spiral for their family.

BOOKER: Right. And so to that point and now to your point I cut you off on before, now I would like to give you a chance to answer to that. Here you are in an agency that was formed to deal with the kind of systemic racism that was going on at that time. When you have disparate use of the law where you see African Americans being churned into the criminal justice system, where it is concentrated in certain communities and not in others, where it has, the American Bar Association says, 40,000 collateral consequences on the lives of those African Americans, where they cant get loans from banks, they can't get jobs, they cant get certain business licenses, where it is so dramatic that their estimates that it costs literally to African Americans in the persistence of a wealth gap in our country, where black families have one-tenth the wealth of white families. if you just look at the impact of the law and the disparate impact on just marijuana, it's estimated to have cost African American communities in this country billions of dollars more.

My question to you now is, assuming this position where you are called upon for that Micah Mandate, what are you going to do about this outrageous injustice that persists and infects our society with such a toll on Black and brown communities?

GARLAND: Right. So there are many things that the Justice Department has to do in this regard. And I completely agree that disparate results with respect to wealth accumulation, discrimination in employment, discrimination in housing, discrimination in health care availability, all of which we all see now in the consequences of a pandemic which affects communities of color enormously more with respect to infection rates, with respect to hospitalization, and ultimately to death.

So one set of things we can do is the mass incarceration example that I began with. We can focus our attention on violent crimes and other crimes that put great danger in our society, and not allocate our resources to something like marijuana possession. We can look at our charging policies and go -- and stop charging the highest possible offense with the highest possible sentence.

BOOKER: I was taught in law school never to interrupt a judge of your -- forgive me.


I would like to end with this question and then my time is up. You have talked to me a lot about your thoughts about this and I've been really inspired. But it gets back to me to your conviction on this issue and your determination to go down -- in a time when our nation needs this, to go down as one of the great leaders when it comes to dealing with the daily, unconscionable injustices faced by some Americans and not others at the hands of law enforcement.

And I think that one thing you said to me privately particularly motivated me to believe you when you talk about your aspirations. And I'm wondering if you could just conclude by talking -- telling -- answering the question about your motivation and maybe some of your own family history in confronting hate and discrimination in American history.

GARLAND: Yes, Senator. So I come from a family where my grandparents fled anti-Semitism and persecution. The country took us in and protected us. And I feel an obligation to the country to pay back. And this is the highest, best use of my own set of skills to pay back. And so I want very much to be the kind of attorney general that you are saying I could become. I will do my best to try and be that kind of attorney general.

BOOKER: I believe your heart and I'm grateful that you are living that Micah Mandate.

DURBIN: Thank you, Senator Booker.

KING: Remarkable moment there as we continue to watch the confirmation of Merrick Garland, Judge Merrick Garland, you see right there, he's President Biden choice to be the next attorney general.