Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell faced an array of questions from senators Tuesday on the government’s response to the economic pandemic, the push to reopen the country and the status of billions set aside to help businesses weathering the economic crisis.
The pair offered a cautious view of the economy, with Mnuchin displaying a more optimistic outlook than Powell, who told the Senate Banking Committee that “the scope and speed of this downturn are without modern precedent and are significantly worse than any recession since World War II.”
Mnuchin noted that he anticipated the economy would recover but said “there is risk of permanent damage” should states wait too long in reopening their economies. He also noted that while he anticipates the economy and the jobs numbers to recover, things are likely to get worse before they recover.
The hearing was the first as part of a mandate in the CARES Act, the nearly $2 trillion emergency bill that was signed by President Donald Trump at the end of March, that requires quarterly oversight hearings examining the Treasury and Federal Reserve’s use of funds and its management of a $500 billion lending program.
It came as Democrats have pushed to pass more funds to counter the coronavirus while Republicans say a pause is needed to assess the nearly $3 trillion that Congress has passed to address the pandemic and wait for those funds to fully go into effect.