Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, Fed Chair Powell testify on COVID-19 relief needs

Coronavirus

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell appeared before a Senate committee Tuesday to testify on coronavirus pandemic assistance.

Mnuchin urged Congress to tap into $455 billion of unused emergency relief funds for another round of targeted aid for American households and businesses.

“Based on recent economic data, I continue to believe that a targeted fiscal package is the most appropriate federal response,” Mnuchin said before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. “I strongly encourage Congress to use the $455 billion in unused funds from the CARES Act to pass an additional bill with bipartisan support.”

He added that President Donald Trump’s administration “is ready to support Congress in this effort to help American workers and small businesses that continue to struggle with the impact of COVID-19.”

The Senate committee hearing Tuesday is part of a quarterly report to Congress on the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, the U.S. government’s more than $2 trillion relief package to help businesses, workers and a health care system staggered by the pandemic.

The legislation was signed into law in March, and both Democrats and Republicans are pushing for a fresh installment of coronavirus relief. But such aid remains out of reach as negotiations have stalled and compromises have yet to be reached.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell warned Congress Tuesday about challenges presented by a spike in new COVID-19 cases.

“The rise in new COVID-19 cases, both here and abroad, is concerning and could prove challenging for the next few months,” said Powell. “A full economic recovery is unlikely until people are confident that it is safe to reengage in a broad range of activities.”

Powell said while progress on developing vaccines had been “very positive,” significant challenges remained regarding the timing, production and distribution of the vaccines, and it remained difficult to assess the economic implications of this process with any degree of confidence.

Earlier on Monday, the Fed and Treasury announced as expected that four other lending facilities that do not utilize CARES Act funds would be extended through next March. Those facilities helped to stabilize short-term funding markets when the coronavirus hit last spring, sending shockwaves through the financial system.

The four Fed loan programs that were extended included the Commercial Paper Funding Facility, which provided critical support for the market that supplies short-term corporate IOUs. Also extended was operation of the Money Market Fund Liquidity Facility, which helped to prevent potential runs on money-market mutual funds.

Following their appearance Tuesday, Powell and Mnuchin are also scheduled to testify Wednesday at an oversight hearing held by the House Financial Services Committee.

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