U.S. cannot shut down economy again, Treasury's Mnuchin says

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States cannot let the coronavirus shut down its economy again, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Thursday, adding that more than $1 trillion in rescue funds will flow into the economy over the next month.

Mnuchin, speaking on CNBC television, said he was prepared to go back to Congress for more money to support the economy, but additional funds would be targeted to sectors with the most need, including hotels, restaurants, travel and entertainment firms.

The Treasury chief, who has been the Trump administration’s point man for negotiating rescue programs, said that he was confident that COVID-19 infection spikes in certain areas could be dealt with due to improvements in testing, contact tracing and ample hospital capacity.

“We can’t shut down the economy again. I think we’ve learned that if you shut down the economy, you’re going to create more damage and not just economic damage,” he said, adding that this includes other problems.

Mnuchin said of the $3 trillion in coronavirus rescue spending approved by Congress this year, only about $1.6 trillion has filtered through the economy so far.

“Over the next month, you’re going to see over another $1 trillion pumped into the economy, that’s going to have a big impact,” Mnuchin said. The Federal Reserve’s Main Street Lending program for mid-size businesses is just getting started and “we’re prepared to go back to Congress for more money to support the American worker,” he added.

Asked if he was considering more aid to states, Mnuchin said that would be subject to negotiations with Congress.

Mnuchin added that due to an extension of forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans to 24 weeks, he expects many restaurants that had previously been reluctant to seek loans will come forward to take up a significant portion of the program’s remaining funds.

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