U.S. administration ready to reach bipartisan COVID-19 relief agreement: Mnuchin


  • World
  • Wednesday, 23 Sep 2020

WASHINGTON, Sept. 22 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Tuesday the administration continues to try to work with Congress and is ready to reach a bipartisan COVID-19 relief agreement, noting that a "targeted" package is still needed.

"The President and I remain committed to providing support for American workers and businesses. We continue to try to work with Congress on a bipartisan basis to pass a Phase IV relief package," Mnuchin said in his testimony at a hearing before the House Committee on Financial Services.

The extra 600-U.S.-dollar weekly federal unemployment benefits, part of a 2-trillion-dollar relief package approved by Congress in late March, expired at the end of July, but lawmakers remain deadlocked over the next round of COVID-19 relief bill.

House Democrats unveiled a 3-trillion-dollar relief proposal in May, which didn't gain support from Republicans. Senate Republicans unveiled a 1-trillion-dollar package in late July, but failed to advance a slimmed-down proposal earlier this month.

The U.S. treasury secretary voiced confidence the economy will see "tremendous" third-quarter growth, fueled by strong retail sales, housing starts and existing home sales, manufacturing growth, and increased business activity.

Mnuchin noted the recovery has been strong because the administration and Congress worked together on a bipartisan basis to deliver the largest economic relief package in American history, adding that the Federal Reserve has also been instrumental to the recovery by implementing various lending facilities.

Mnuchin's optimism, however, is not shared by some lawmakers, including Rep. Juan Vargas, a California Democrat, who said he thinks tens of millions of Americans would disagree with the treasury secretary's remarks on a strong economic recovery.

"In fact I would say that the stock market is not the only economy," Vargas said. "You have 11 million Americans that are still out of work, that lost their jobs, more than in the financial crisis."

In his response, Mnuchin said there is a strong recovery because the country closed the economy and then reopened it, while adding that there is still more work to do.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, who also testified at the hearing, said a full recovery is likely to come only when people are confident that it is safe to reengage in a broad range of activities.

"The path forward will depend on keeping the virus under control, and on policy actions taken at all levels of government," Powell said.

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