The past few weeks have been disappointing for those waiting for positive news on a coronavirus stimulus round 2. The better than expected May unemployment numbers and comments by high-profile officials dampened the expectations of the next stimulus payments. On Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin offered some encouragement to those waiting for news of whether or not they will be getting a second stimulus check.
Will there be another coronavirus stimulus package?
On Wednesday, speaking at a Senate hearing on what the next coronavirus aid package might include, Mnuchin suggested that the Trump administration is open to another round of stimulus checks.
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“I think we’re going to seriously look at whether we want to do more direct money to stimulate the economy,” Mnuchin said. “But I think this is all going to be about getting people back to work, and we look forward to working with the entire Senate on this.”
Experts are predicting another bipartisan relief measure will likely arrive by late July. "I definitely think we are going to need another bipartisan legislation to put more money into the economy," Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said.
Mnuchin’s remarks came in response to a question from Republican Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana. Kennedy, during the Senate Small Business Committee, asked: “If you were king for a day, what would you put in the next coronavirus bill?”
Replying to the question, Mnuchin said apart from the direct payments, the package would offer funds that would encourage businesses to rehire, especially the ones hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, such as travel, leisure, restaurants.
“Whatever we do going forward needs to be much more targeted to the industries and small businesses that are having the most difficulty reopening as a result of COVID-19," Mnuchin said. “You can’t get hotel capacity back up to speed without hiring people first.”
Mnuchin also talked about unemployment benefits, saying there is a “need to fix unemployment.” The Treasury chief was referring to the issue where enhanced unemployment benefits are discouraging many to return to work.
Steve Mnuchin defends PPP
Though Steve Mnuchin did not share details or dollar amounts on the next coronavirus stimulus checks, his reference to direct money could mean direct checks to the people or funding for businesses that are finding it hard to survive the coronavirus pandemic.
Talking about the U.S. economy, Mnuchin said the recovery “is under way,” referring to the better-than-expected May jobs report. Mnuchin also defended the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which was created to assist small businesses and nonprofits to survive the coronavirus pandemic.
The program received heavy criticism because several public companies were also able to secure PPP loans. Defending the program, Mnuchin said some issues are always expected from a program of such a “magnitude executed on a national scale in record time,” but “we resolved them quickly.”
“By standing up the program quickly, we were able to support tens of millions of workers who may have otherwise been laid off or furloughed,” he said.
Talking further about PPP, Mnuchin said the Trump administration does not plan to release the names of the businesses that benefited from it.
"We believe that that's proprietary information, and in many cases for sole proprietors and small businesses, it is confidential information,” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said.
As per the government data, the PPP program has provided loans to more than 4 million businesses since its implementation in March.
Coronavirus stimulus round 2: what to expect
Steve Mnuchin didn’t give a direct answer as to what the next coronavirus stimulus package might include. Over the past few weeks, several officials have hinted at what coronavirus stimulus round 2 might include.
A Bloomberg report last week noted that the Trump administration expects the next economic package to be about $1 trillion. Republicans in the Senate have already informed the White House about the $1-trillion limit on the next bill, notes a report from Axios.
Late last month, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell talked of a more limited, "narrowly crafted" stimulus package. McConnell also remarked that the next bill would correct the mistakes “we certainly made in passing a multi-trillion-dollar bill in one week".
Larry Kudlow, the presidential adviser, has talked of a focus on "less rescue and more incentive." Kudlow, previously, has supported the call for a $450 return-to-work bonus proposed by Republican Senator Rob Portman.
“Sen. Portman has a good idea. He understands incentives and disincentives," Kudlow told Fox Business.
It is also largely believed that the employment numbers will play a significant role in deciding the next coronavirus stimulus. If June’s employment figures are in line with the May numbers, then Senate Republicans would have one more reason to cap the next bill under $1 trillion.
While Republicans are likely in favor of under $1 trillion relief package, Democrats last month approved a new coronavirus stimulus bill, called the HEROES Act, worth around $3 trillion. Similar to the CARES Act, the HEROES Act also proposes 1,200 per individual, with an increase to $1,200 each for up to 3 dependents.