WASHINGTON (Reuters) – US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Wednesday he would seriously consider increasing direct payments to individuals in the next phase of coronavirus rescue legislation, adding that funds should also be targeted to help sectors struggling to reopen, including hospitality and tourism.
Testifying before the U.S. Senate Small Business Committee, Mnuchin said the Treasury also plans to issue new guidelines this week to relax rules that prohibit business owners with criminal convictions in the past. last five years of accessing paycheck protection program repayable loans.
That would be reduced to three years, and Mnuchin said he was ready to relax the rules further.
Mnuchin said he “definitely” believes another round of federal coronavirus aid will be needed, including measures to create jobs. Congress has so far passed three coronavirus bills totaling an estimated $ 3 trillion in programs, including small business payday loans, payments to individuals, money for healthcare providers, Federal Reserve health and credit market safety nets.
“We will have a significant amount of unemployment and we will have to look to do something there,” Mnuchin said. “I think we’re going to take a serious look at whether we’re going to make more direct money to stimulate the economy, but I think it’s all going to be about getting people back to work.”
The Treasury chief, who has negotiated most of the programs with congressional leaders, also said he was open to “reallocating” some of the unused funds. When asked if he would consider allowing some $ 130 billion in unclaimed PPP funds to be used to rebuild businesses damaged in recent protests against police brutality, Mnuchin said he would consider the idea. .
He warned against rushing into a fourth bill as the economy began to reopen. But some sectors that have been slow to reopen, including restaurants and travel-related industries, may need more help, he said.
“Small businesses and, by the way, many large businesses, in some industries will definitely need more help,” Mnuchin said.
Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Peter Cooney