WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday urged Congress to move quickly to pass a $1 trillion economic relief measure by early next week, saying he expects bipartisan support for the bill to get cash payments to Americans during the coronavirus crisis.
Mnuchin, in an interview on Fox Business Network, said the federal government was focused on being able to provide liquidity to companies and had no problem issuing more debt, but that it expected loans to businesses to be paid back.
Congress is taking up its third legislative package to address the coronavirus pandemic as the response to the crisis shutters U.S. businesses and puts pressure on the nation’s healthcare system.
Lawmakers already have passed a $105 billion-plus plan to limit the damage from the coronavirus pandemic through free testing, paid sick leave and expanded safety-net spending as well as an $8.3 billion measure to combat the spread of the pathogen and develop vaccines. U.S. President Donald Trump has signed both into law.
The Trump administration now wants another $1.3 trillion in aid to help businesses and individual Americans harmed economically by the virus, with Mnuchin on Thursday saying the plan was not a bailout for companies.
“We’re going to get through this,” Mnuchin said. “This is not the financial crisis that will go on for years.”
Mnuchin also rejected any suggestion that U.S. tariffs were keeping Chinese-made medicines out of the United States.
“We’re doing everything to make sure the supply chains stay open,” he said, noting that U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer had waived tariffs on any critical items.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal and Doina Chiacu; Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Will Dunham)