WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — The heads of the Federal Reserve and Treasury Department testified at a House hearing Tuesday on the impact of U.S. efforts to recover from the pandemic-induced recession.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told the House Financial Services Committee they have introduced a variety of new programs since March to lend money to struggling businesses but emphasized lawmakers still have work to do.
“The path ahead continues to be highly uncertain,” Powell said.
Despite the job market gaining momentum, Powell warned the coronavirus is still blocking a full recovery.
“Both employment and economic activity, however, remain well below their pre-pandemic levels,” he said.
Powell made it clear Congress needs to act.
“I plan on signing the discharge petition in the House today,” said Rep. French Hill, R-AR.
Hill and his Republican colleagues are trying to force a vote on a bill extending the PPP program for small businesses and clarifying how the loans could be forgiven.
“This is something that should have been done at the end of July,” Hill said.
“There is the concern about the complexity of the forgiveness,” said Rep. David Kustoff, R-TN.
Kustoff asked Mnuchin if his department could forgive certain PPP loans up to $150,000 without congressional approval.
“We have considered that,” Mnuchin said. “We don’t think we have the authorization to do that.”
Rep. Al Lawson, D-FL, said he is most concerned about a specific business.
“The impact of COVID-19 on the commercial real estate market,” Lawson said.
Lawson wants to make it easier for these companies to access economic support while the pandemic continues to shutter storefronts and limit travel.
“Chair Powell and I will continue to work on this,” Mnuchin said. “It’s an issue. We don’t have a solution. We wish we did.”
Both Mnuchin and Powell will be back on the Hill this week to testify before the Senate.