Treasury secretary to Congress: Pass stand-alone relief bill to repurpose PPP funds

Washington

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — The House committee tasked with overseeing the coronavirus pandemic grilled Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin Tuesday on the Trump administration’s response to the economic side effects.

Lawmakers pushed for additional relief after negotiations with the Senate and White House hit a standstill.  

“American families are hurting now,” said House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-SC.

Six months into the pandemic, Clyburn said the country is still seeing roughly a million new unemployment claims every week.

“The economy remains in serious trouble,” he told the committee.

Clyburn called on the Trump administration to act before the “crisis becomes a catastrophe,” but Mnuchin argued the U.S. has added more than 10 million new jobs in the last three months.

“The economy is recovering very strongly,” he said. “But let me just say there are still areas of the economy, no fault to small businesses or our workers, that it needs more help to recover.”

Mnuchin told lawmakers the president’s priorities for the next round of relief are still kids and jobs. He said Congress can help by passing a stand-alone bill that re-purposes the more than $130 billion in leftover PPP funding for small businesses.

“This would pass with overwhelming support in the House and the Senate,” Mnuchin said.

But before they agree, Democrats want assurances that the mostly minority-owned small businesses left out of the first round of PPP funding would have access to this money.

A staff report the committee’s majority released Tuesday found billions of dollars in PPP loans could be attributed to fraud, waste and abuse, including $1 billion in funds to companies that received multiple loans and $195 million in funds to contractors flagged by the federal government for performance and integrity issues.

“This [PPP program] had strong bipartisan support,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, R-OH. “This thing worked.”

Jordan is ready to pass Mnuchin’s proposal, stressing the program has supported more than 50 million jobs.

“If we’re going to do any legislation, let’s focus just on the PPP program, which we know was so effective, so helpful to so many Americans,” Jordan said.

Both parties and the White House also want to see relief in the form of new stimulus checks and expanded unemployment benefits but can’t agree on the specifics.

The president’s recent executive actions accomplish some of this, but exactly how to implement them is still in the works.

Stay with News 2 for continuing coverage of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

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