WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The coronavirus economic relief bill being finalized by the U.S. Congress will include a one-time $3,000 payment for families and allow the Federal Reserve to leverage up to $4 trillion of liquidity to support the nation’s economy, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Sunday.
Mnuchin, speaking on the “Fox News Sunday” television program, said the additional liquidity measures would allow the U.S. central bank to help a broad base of businesses to get through next 90 to 120 days.
Trump administration officials hoped to finalize the legislation on Sunday and see a vote on Monday, Mnuchin said, adding that further steps could be taken if the crisis did not abate in 10 to 12 weeks.
Mnuchin said the U.S. economy would clearly take a hit from the health crisis, but should rebound once the new coronavirus has been contained.
“We need to get the money into the economy now. If we do that, we think we can stabilize the economy,” he said.
Nearly one in four Americans, or 80 million people, were under orders to close up shop and stay home as New York, California, Illinois, Connecticut and New Jersey instituted statewide lockdowns to try to contain the rapid spread of the highly contagious respiratory illness.
Mnuchin downplayed a question about a possible recession, calling it a “technical question” that was not “terribly relevant” in the current situation since the government was effectively shutting down large parts of the economy to slow the virus.”
“When people focus on recessions, it’s normally because of a prolonged economic environment,” Mnuchin said. “This is a very unique situation that we’ve never had before. This is the government has self-imposed shutting down large parts of the economy. And as soon as we can get the medical situation under control, we’re going to reopen it.”
Mnuchin declined to comment specifically about a Washington Post report that the Trump administration did not act on repeated warnings about the potential impact of the coronavirus from the U.S. intelligence community, but said no one expected the crisis to escalate as quickly as it had.
“I don’t think that anybody should second guess the government’s actions,” Mnuchin said. “This has been moving very quickly and I think we’ve responded appropriately.”
Many critics have said the administration has been slow in both its preparation and response to the crisis as President Donald Trump for weeks played down the situation before changing his tone more recently.
Reporting by Andrea Shalal and Susan Heavey; Editing by Bill Berkrot
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