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Treasury secretary tells Senate no one should die to boost economy

WASHINGTON, DC -- U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin warned Tuesday of potential long-term damage to the U.S. economy the longer states are shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"There is risk of permanent damage," Mnuchin told the U.S. Senate Banking Committee.

Republicans and Democrats have been divided over how to safely reopen the economy and how quickly it can be done without putting lives at risk. The Trump administration, as well as several Republican governors, have pushed communities to open as fast as possible -- but there are few national guidelines. All states will be partially reopened by Memorial Day.

The debate over when and how to reopen the economy was laid bare during the hearing. In a testy exchange, Ohio Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown accused the Trump administration of being eager to send employees back to work during uncertain times.

"How many workers should give their lives to increase the GDP or the Dow by 1,000 points?" Brown asked.

"No workers should give their lives to do that, senator, and I think your characterization is unfair," Mnuchin said.

Mnuchin told lawmakers that while he thinks "the jobs numbers will be worse before they get better," he expects economic conditions will improve in the third and fourth quarters of this year.

"The country will emerge from the pandemic stronger than ever," he said.

Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell also faced questions from the Banking Committee about how they're implementing the $2.2 trillion coronavirus rescue package.

Here are additional takeaways from the hearing:

Billions of dollars in lending to small and mid-sized business will start in June

The program to lend billions of dollars to small- and medium-sized businesses should be ready to launch by the end of the month, Powell said, amid complaints the money has been too slow to reach the public.

Known as the Main Street Lending Program, it was included in the relief bill passed in March.

Congress appropriated $454 billion to be sent to the Fed to serve as the baseline for lending facilities -- including the Main Street Lending Program, as well as lending program for cities and local governments. The Fed has revised the terms and qualifications for the programs multiple times, but they still haven't launched yet.

Bipartisan push to make small business lending more flexible

A separate loan program for small businesses called the Paycheck Protection Program was implemented by Treasury and the Small Business Administration. To date, about 4.2 million small business loans have been made for a total of more than $530 billion.

But borrowers have been frustrated with how the rules of the program keep changing and it's made some business owners afraid to spend the money.

Borrowers are required to spend the money in eight weeks, which is proving difficult for some who may not have been able to open their doors yet with stay-at-home orders still active in many states and cities.

On Tuesday, Mnuchin acknowledged that the eight-week deadline is a concern.

"We'd like to get a bipartisan technical fix," he said.

There's a lot of support from industry groups and lawmakers for extending the eight-week period, including Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, chairman of the Senate's Small Business Committee. House Democrats have proposed extending it to 24 weeks.

Mnuchin won't commit to further restrictions on big business

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts, pressed Mnuchin on whether he would require big companies receiving money from the aid package to hire back their workers.

Congress gave Treasury the authority to dole out $500 billion to shore up mid-sized and large corporations. But unlike the Paycheck Protection Program and other small-business lending facilities, which forgive loans when businesses keep employees on their payroll, Treasury did not stipulate anything about big businesses having to do the same.

"You're boosting your Wall Street buddies, and you are leaving the American people behind," Warren said. "You were given the authority to determine the terms ... and those term sheets do not require that a single corporation getting millions of dollars in taxpayer money retain one job."

Mnuchin called that a "very unfair characterization," noting that different programs have different requirements, and that there are certain restrictions on employee compensation, dividends and buybacks for companies receiving loans.

"We expect people to use their best efforts to support jobs," Mnuchin said.

Warren noted that's far from a requirement.

Republicans want to see results before passing another stimulus package

Democrats are eager to appropriate more money to be help the economy. Last week, the U.S. House passed another $3 trillion sweeping bill for Covid-19 relief.

But seeing that the Federal Reserve is still in the process of rolling out its emergency lending programs, many Republicans want to wait for the money to be spent before rushing to pass another bill.

"I think you can make a pretty strong case that before we rush out and do another spending bill, we actually let some of this stuff go to work and understand the consequences of what we've already done," said Sen. Pat Toomey, a Republican from Pennsylvania.

Powell, noting that the government response has been big and fast, suggested more money could be needed.

"The question looms in the air of 'is it enough'," he said.

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  1. “No workers should give their lives to do that, Senator, and I think your characterization is unfair,” Mnuchin said.

    More propaganda from CNN – The Communist News Network.

        1. But they do have one thing in common. Both Stalin and Hitler killed millions of people. Based on your rants I’d say you support the Communists.

          1. Mr Velarde the commies are still killing their people. The Chinese prohibited its people to travel inside China. Now they have another 600 thousand positive with the virus. More needless deaths if they only let them out to earn a living and live. The ruskies are still putting their political enemies in gulags and calling them enemies of the state for speaking their minds. Fake news and the commy dems want exactly that. Quite the truth tellers and feel the websites with the likes of alberto, ux2, 123, cara and several other useful idiots.

          2. No I supported the Americans, British, and the French. My father risked his life crossing the English Channel in a B-17 from an airfield in England to drop bombs on the same filth we now have dirtying up our White House. My dad is probably rolling in his grave at Arlington National Cemetary every time that piece of trash opens his mouth. You probably should take note that it was Communist Russia that played a very big part in our victory over Nazi Germany.

          3. Hey markturner1946 your nose is growing. You now get 12 Pinocchios. Didn’t you claim you were born in 1961? Oops your bad!

  2. “He also said it’s time to reopen the economy, arguing, “It is so important to bring workers back in a safe way.”
    Correct. Mnuchin gets valedictorian.

  3. One day before a top Florida Department of Health data manager was taken off her role maintaining the state’s COVID-19 dashboard, officials had directed her to remove data from public view that showed Floridians reported symptoms of the disease before cases were officially announced, according to internal emails obtained by the Tampa Bay Times.
    Imagine that. Health officials fudging the numbers to meet with their communist democrats claims. Who knew?

    1. The breath taking stupidity of these tin foil hat wearers thinking that this disease is either Republican or Democrat is astounding. I never dreamed we had people that ignorant living in our country.

  4. We have to open soon. Do it as safe as possible and get businesses going again. And if private businesses require masks, so be it. I’m quite positive the founding fathers didn’t think the requirement to wear face covering to be an infringement of liberty, unlike some of the Covidiots out there. Don’t want to wear a mask at a private business? Fine, go find one that doesn’t require it. Don’t infringe on a business owner’s right to set their own rules.

    1. Huh? Hello Steve on Resler? Weren’t the essential businesses open and never shut down? It’s the non-essential businesses opening back up in phases. How effective do you think your face mask is?

        1. Wrong again dolt! A typical virus such as the COVID-19 is around 2 microns. The medical N95 filters down to .3 microns. Of course most of us don’t wear face masks that filter that low for obvious reasons. I have a PM2.5 filter in my mask which filters down to 2.5 microns. So do the math. I asked you how effective your face mask is not looking to listen to your diatribe. The best defense against the COVID-19 is social distancing from a minimum of 6 feet and limiting exposure time. End of class.

  5. Finally a Republikklans who’s God is not the almighty dollar. Wait for it true form vindictive Republican Trump will retaliate by firing America’s banker in chief and he will be on the recieving end of the Economic Stimulus check that bears ‘Covid-45’ signature.

    1. Fire him? He’s going to give him the medal of freedom for speaking the truth. That’s what Mr Trump has been saying all along. Read the article 123. You might learn something before you comment so idiotically.

      1. I would not waste any time with this dolt. He was previously Pavlov’s Dawg on the old Disqus KVIA forum. He is none other than the troll Alberto V.

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