Mnuchin urges U.S. Congress to pass $2 trillion economic relief bill
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[March 24, 2020]
By Doina Chiacu and David Lawder
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Treasury
Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Monday urged the Senate to quickly pass an
economic relief bill that has grown to $2 trillion, saying it would keep
small businesses, airlines and other firms from shedding workers as the
coronavirus halts commerce.
"This is a massive liquidity program," Mnuchin told Fox Business Network
in an interview, saying the approximately $2 trillion package, along
with actions by the Federal Reserve, would provide $4 trillion in
potential market liquidity.
While noting that details were still being hammered out, Mnuchin urged
the U.S. Senate pass the measure later on Monday. He said people and
businesses could get cash within the next two to three weeks and pleaded
with companies to hold on and not fire their workers.
Weekend negotiations ended with no deal acceptable to both Democrats and
Republicans, and Mnuchin was headed back to Capitol Hill on Monday to
work on a package that balanced the interests of large corporations and
small business, governments and the health care system.
The proposed plan would offer government loans for small companies of
500 employees or less to pay two months of salaries and forgive the debt
if they rehire the workers, Mnuchin said.
"We are encouraging small businesses: Make sure you hire people back. If
you haven't let people go, don't let people go. Because we are providing
you necessary liquidity, and we're going to get that money out fast," he
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U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin testifies before the Senate
Finance Committee during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington,
U.S., February 12, 2020. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Photo
A provision to assist domestic airlines was still being negotiated,
Mnuchin said, adding that the measure was not a bailout for big
corporations: "It is not a slush fund."
He said that aid would be granted "on market terms" and could
include the government taking equity stakes in airlines.
Mnuchin's comments came after the U.S. Federal Reserve on Monday
launched an extraordinary array of programs to offset the "severe
disruptions" to the economy caused by the coronavirus outbreak..
The Fed's announcement failed to lift U.S. stocks, however, and the
S&P 500 was down more than 1% in morning trade.
"I think we're very close. We need to get this done today," Mnuchin
told CNBC in a separate interview.
(Reporting by David Lawder and Doina Chiacu; writing by Susan Heavey;
Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Dan Grebler)
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