Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Tuesday called on Congress to resume negotiations on COVID-19 relief talks after they stalled last month.
“While we continue to see signs of a strong economic recovery, we are sensitive to the fact that there is more work to be done, and certain areas of the economy require additional relief,” Mnuchin said while testifying in front of a House panel that is investigating the White House’s response to the CCP virus pandemic.
Mnuchin, one of the top negotiators for the Trump administration, said his team will attempt to work with Democrats in the House and Senate for another round of emergency aid.
“I believe a bipartisan agreement still should be reached and would provide substantial funds for schools, testing, vaccines, [Payment Protection Program loans] for small businesses, continued enhanced unemployment benefits, child care, nutrition, agriculture, and the U.S. Postal Service, along with liability protection for universities, schools, and businesses,” Mnuchin said.
Democrats had proposed more than $3.4 trillion in their HEROES Act, which cleared the House in May, while Republicans sought about $1 trillion. Both sides disagree about the amount, and namely, how much should be spent on federal and state governments.
Democrats including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have said that $2.2 trillion is the cutoff point for a bill. The White House wants to keep the measure closer to $1 trillion, citing the deficit.
“We have said again and again that we are willing to come down, meet them in the middle—that would be $2.2 trillion,” Pelosi told reporters. “When they’re ready to do that, we’ll be ready to discuss and negotiate. I did not get that impression on that call.”
Mnuchin, however, said that it’s necessary for a measure to be passed to provide economic relief to people who have lost their jobs.
“When it became clear that previous negotiations were not moving forward, the president took executive action to provide critical relief to Americans through lost wages assistance and other important items,” Mnuchin said in front of the House panel.
President Donald Trump last month took executive action to address economic issues incurred in the pandemic, including suspending payroll taxes, postponing student loan payments, possible moratoriums on evictions, and $300-per-week federal supplements to unemployment benefits.
In the panel, Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) criticized Mnuchin for saying previously that delivering aid quickly made it inevitable that the Treasury to run into issues of waste.
“That is a false dichotomy. Taxpayers should not have to choose between quickly getting aid to those who need it and wasting federal funds. And there are simple steps that could have been taken to improve oversight and reduce fraud,” Clyburn said.
Reuters contributed to this report.