At Hearing, Secretary Mnuchin Concedes Unemployed Americans Urgently Need More Federal Help
Washington, D.C. (September 1, 2020) — Today, the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, chaired by Rep. James E. Clyburn, held a hybrid hearing with Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin.
“Today’s hearing is a call to action. The most important step we can take to fix the economy in the long term is to get the pandemic under control. But American families are hurting now, and there are urgent steps the Administration must take to prevent our nation’s economic crisis from becoming a catastrophe,” said Chairman Clyburn.
During the hearing, Secretary Mnuchin testified, “I very much agree with you and those other experts that more fiscal response is needed.” In response to questions from Subcommittee Members, Secretary Mnuchin agreed more federal funding is needed in several areas that House Democrats prioritized in the HEROES Act, including funding for:
- Enhanced unemployment insurance
- State and local governments
- Direct payments to families
- Rental assistance
- Small businesses
- Coronavirus testing
- The Postal Service
Secretary Mnuchin also agreed that the billions of dollars in potential waste, fraud, and abuse that a Select Subcommittee report identified in the Paycheck Protection Program should lead to audits, and he agreed to share an audit plan with the Select Subcommittee.
Secretary Mnuchin provided the following additional testimony during the hearing:
The Economy Still Is Not Close to a Full Recovery
- Secretary Mnuchin conceded that the economy has not yet recovered from the pandemic, explaining, “We are still very far from where we were in January.” He went on to note, “there are many industries, and many small businesses, that have been destroyed by this,” and explained, “The services industries have been particularly hard hit, many of the service industries do employ people at lower wages.”
- Asked if he agreed with Administration claims that the economy is doing “great,” Secretary Mnuchin said, “Great is a relative term.”
The Federal Government Must Extend Enhanced Unemployment Benefits
- Secretary Mnuchin agreed that unemployed Americans need more help from the federal government and that the expiration of $600 in enhanced unemployment benefits was hurting Americans. He stated: “And let me just say the expiration of enhanced unemployment insurance is something we are concerned about.”
- However, the Secretary refused to acknowledge the full scope of the jobs crisis. He claimed that an “extraordinary” number of jobs had returned, and that only 10 million Americans “are still impacted by loss of jobs”—despite data showing more than 27 million Americans are collecting unemployment assistance.
Renters Need More Help from the Federal Government
- Secretary Mnuchin touted the Administration’s executive actions on housing, but conceded, “Our first choice would be to have rental assistance.” He explained: “We did have bipartisan agreement about putting more money for rental assistance. Again, we maybe differ on the amount, but I can say we’ve agreed with the Democrats on the idea of providing money for rental assistance.”
State and Local Governments Need Federal Help
- Secretary Mnuchin conceded that states and local governments need additional funding, contradicting Republican arguments that no more funding is needed. Secretary Mnuchin said, “The President and I have agreed for more money on state and local.”
More Oversight is Needed in the Paycheck Protection Program
- Asked about the Select Subcommittee’s report showing potentially billions of dollars in waste, fraud, and abuse in PPP, Secretary Mnuchin responded: “I appreciate the Committee's work and let me just emphasize, we are working with SBA . . . they are standing up a detailed audit program and I look forward [to] this Committee and your Committee and all the other oversight committees making sure they’re comfortable with SBA’s audit plan.”
- “As the Chair has noted, there are [in]appropriate people out there that took loans that shouldn’t have taken loans, we want to get money back for the taxpayers.”
We Must Do More to Support the Hardest Hit Communities
- “One of the areas we’ve agreed upon on a bipartisan basis, Chair Waters, Chair Velazquez, Senator Warner, others, Crapo, is an idea to put $10 billion into CDFI banks that would create $100 billion in lending in areas that have been hardest hit, and minorities and other areas.”