“Small businesses need help maintaining their cash flow, not more strains on it,” they wrote.

But a Brookings Institution analysis said the change would help far more wealthy than mom-and-pop business owners.

“So there’s no cost on the way in and no cost on the way out — those two don’t add up,” said Richard L. Reinhold, the former chairman of the tax department at Willkie Farr & Gallagher and a professor at Cornell Law School. Congress could have simply expanded the program, but instead it did it almost by stealth, through a tax deduction.

“That’s the part that is troublesome,” he said.

Although there had been discussion of limiting the deduction to Paycheck Protection Program recipients below a certain income threshold, the final provision was made available to anyone, regardless of income.

The Small Business Administration this month released data showing that just 1 percent of the program’s 5.2 million borrowers had received more than a quarter of the $523 billion disbursed.

That 1 percent included high-priced law firms like Boies Schiller Flexner and the operator of New York’s biggest horse tracks, which received the maximum loan amount of $10 million.

“The year 2020 is going to be one of the most unequal years in modern history,” Mr. Looney said. “Part of the inequity is the effect of Covid, which hammered service sectors the most and allowed rich, educated people to work on Zoom. But the government totally compounded these inequities with their response.”

Yet in the end, only six senators, all Republicans, voted against the coronavirus relief package and spending bill, mostly citing fiscal concerns about runaway spending, while 85 House members — a mix of Democrats and Republicans — voted against its military provisions. The bill increased military spending by about $5 billion.

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