U.S. Treasury chief says considering more direct payments in next coronavirus aid bill

By David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Wednesday he would seriously consider more direct payments to individuals in the next phase of coronavirus rescue legislation, adding that funds should also be targeted to help sectors struggling to reopen, including hospitality and tourism.

Testifying before the U.S. Senate Small Business Committee, Mnuchin said the Treasury also planned to issue new guidance this week to ease rules that prohibit business owners with a criminal conviction in the past five years from accessing forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans.

That would be reduced to three years, and Mnuchin said he was open to easing the rules further.

Mnuchin said he “definitely” believed another round of federal coronavirus aid would be needed, including measures to create jobs. Congress has so far passed three coronavirus bills totaling about $3 trillion in programs, including the small- business payroll loans, payments to individuals, money for healthcare providers and Federal Reserve credit market backstops.

“We will have a significant amount of unemployment and we’re going to need to look at doing something there,” Mnuchin said. “I think we’re going to seriously look at whether we want to do more direct money to stimulate the economy, but I think this is all going to be about getting people back to work.”

The Treasury chief, who has negotiated most of the programs with congressional leaders, also said he was open to “repurposing” some of the unused funds. When asked if he would consider allowing some $130 billion in unclaimed PPP funds to be used to rebuild businesses damaged during recent protests over police brutality, Mnuchin said he would consider the idea.

He cautioned against rushing into a fourth bill as the economy was starting to reopen. But some sectors that have been slow to reopen, including restaurants and travel-related industries, may need more help, he said.

“Small business and by the way, many big businesses, in certain industries are absolutely going to need more help,” Mnuchin said.

(Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Peter Cooney)

Mnuchin hopes latest talks may seal U.S.-China trade deal

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin leaves the G-20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors' meeting at the IMF and World Bank's 2019 Annual Spring Meetings, in Washington, April 12, 2019. REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, in a television interview that aired on Monday, said he hopes that the United States and China can finalize a trade deal with two more rounds of talks between the global economic powerhouses.

Speaking to Fox Business Network as the latest round of trade negotiations commence in Beijing, Mnuchin also said the part of the negotiations aimed at enforcement is close to finished. Another round of talks is planned for next month Washington.

“We still have more work to do,” Mnuchin said. “I think there is a strong desire from both sides to see if we can wrap this up or move on.”

“We hope within the next two rounds, in China and in DC, to get to the point where we can either recommend to the president that we have a deal or recommend that we don’t,” he told the television network.

Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer are scheduled to travel to Beijing on Monday for the latest negotiations in what could be the talks’ end game.

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He will visit Washington for discussions starting on May 8.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)