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Mnuchin Explains Decision To Scale Back Federal Unemployment: We’re Not Going To Use Taxpayer Money To Pay People To Stay Home
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 17: Secretary Steven Mnuchin testifies before the House Small Business Committee at the U.S. Capitol on July 17, 2020 in Washington, DC. The committee hearing is looking into the Small Business Administration and Treasury pandemic programs. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images)
Photo by Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin appeared on the Sunday morning talk shows to explain the White House’s decision to press Republican legislators to lower the amount of Federal unemployment assistance outlined in a fourth coronavirus relief package, set to be released this week.

In an interview with Fox News Sunday, Mnuchin “took a hard line” against continuing the $600-per-week federal unemployment benefit, per The Hill, suggesting that the administration wants Americans to get back to work, even if that means seeking out employment because they can’t return to their former jobs.

“It just wouldn’t be fair to use taxpayer dollars to pay more people to sit home than they would working and get a job,” Mnuchin told host Chris Wallace.

“I think workers and Americans understand the concept that you shouldn’t be paid more to stay home than to work,” he added.

Instead, Mnuchin said, the Trump White House is pressing for a second round of $1200 stimulus payments to individual Americans — a plan, Mnuchin said, would get money into pockets faster than an unemployment hike or a payroll tax, which the White House pressed for initially but has now abandoned — and has asked Congress to add 2 million additional recipients who were excluded from the last round of handouts to the list of individuals receiving payments.

“The direct payments are a much quicker way of effectively giving everyone a tax cut — much quicker than the payroll tax cut,” he said. “June retail sales were 1 percent higher than June of last year, so all that money we pumped into the economy, it worked. People went out and spent.”

The payroll tax, Mnuchin added, was unlikely to pass the House, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) had expressed hardline opposition to the measure.

Senate Republicans are optimistic that the latest round of coronavirus relief will pass early this week, even though, at meetings last week — including a private lunch with only GOP leadership — certain key Republican legislators expressed concerns about a $1 trillion relief package passing so soon after the $4 trillion CARES Act. Many, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), encouraged Senate leadership to wait on the bill until there is more evidence that the American economy can withstand another major federal spending package.

Mnuchin, though, seemed unfazed by Republican opposition, telling Wallace that even this $1 trillion package might not be the final round of coronavirus relief spending.

“This will be the fifth set of legislation, so there’s no reason why we can’t have number five, six, and seven as we need to deal with issues, and obviously anything we do, we need bipartisan support,” Mnuchin said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) does want to move quickly on the measure, regardless of outstanding votes, as some key elements of the CARES Act are set to expire at the end of July. Fox News reports that the “Paycheck Protection Program that provides small businesses with forgivable loans, is set to end in early August, and the enhanced unemployment insurance benefits will expire on July 31. A federal eviction ban already ended on July 25.”

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