Powell, Mnuchin urge Congress to act on coronavirus aid as path to recovery remains ‘highly uncertain’

Washington D.C.

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Lawmakers in the U.S. House heard from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin about the status of the country’s economy on Tuesday as the coronavirus pandemic rages on.

Both the Fed and the Treasury have introduced ways to lend money to struggling businesses since March, but their leaders emphasized Tuesday that lawmakers still have work to do.

“The path ahead continues to be highly uncertain,” Powell said.

Powell warned that, despite the job market gaining momentum, the coronavirus is still blocking a full recovery. He made it clear – Congress needs to act.

“Both employment and economic activity, however, remain well below their pre-pandemic levels,” he said.

Arkansas Congressman French Hill and his Republican colleagues are trying to force a vote on a bill extending the Paycheck Protection 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,” Rep. Hill said.

Rep. David Kustoff said there’s concern about the complexity of the forgiveness. The Tennessee Republican asked Mnuchin if his department could forgive certain PPP loans – up to $150,000 – without congressional approval.

“We have considered that. We don’t think we have the authorization to do that,” Mnuchin said.

Democratic Florida Congressman Al Lawson said he is most concerned about a specific business: The commercial real estate market. He wants to make it easier for the 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.”

Mnuchin and Powell will both be back on the Hill this week to testify before the Senate.

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