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Another Round Of Virus Relief Likely Needed, Mnuchin Says

By David van den Berg · May 21, 2020, 6:10 PM EDT

Congress will likely need to pass more legislation to provide relief from the economic devastation caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday.

President Donald Trump's administration over the next few weeks will conduct a review to assess the effects of legislation passed so far by Congress, but another coronavirus relief bill will likely be needed, Mnuchin said.

"I think there is a strong likelihood we will need another bill," he said, speaking during a webcast hosted by The Hill. "But we just have $3 trillion we're pumping into the economy, and we're going to step back for a few weeks and think very clearly how we need to spend more money, and if we need to do that."

Mnuchin said Congress should revise the recent expansion of unemployment insurance so that people don't earn more from it than they did when they were working. Asked about infrastructure spending as a possible stimulus, he said lawmakers should consider a comprehensive infrastructure package, something that has been a priority of Trump's.

Mnuchin expressed support for a push to extend the eight-week period that businesses have to spend funds from forgivable loans received through the Paycheck Protection Program.

"One of the things we are working with Congress on — and there is bipartisan support — is lengthening the eight-week period," he said. "The eight weeks I wish I could do administratively. If I could we'd already do it."

The Senate on Thursday discussed extending the eight-week limit but did not act before leaving Washington for a weeklong Memorial Day break, likely delaying any change in the law until early June.

Mnuchin pushed back, however, on proposals to revise a requirement that businesses spend 75% of the forgivable PPP loans on payroll. Most of the money received through the program should go to workers, he said.

Next week the House is expected to vote on the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act, legislation that would drop the requirement that businesses use at least 75% of forgivable PPP loans on payroll. The bill would also give employers up to 24 weeks to use funds eligible for forgiveness, instead of the current eight-week limit.

Mnuchin rejected outright a coronavirus relief bill passed by the House last week as being obviously partisan. The Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, or Heroes Act, approved by the House May 15, would provide $1 trillion in aid to state and local governments along with another round of direct payments and additional employer tax credits.

The PPP was authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act , or CARES Act, a $2 trillion bill Trump signed into law in March. In April Trump signed the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act , a $484 billion bill that provided about $310 billion to replenish the program.

Earlier in March, Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act into law, which provided tax credits for employers when workers receive paid sick leave because of illness from COVID-19, the disease the novel coronavirus causes.

--Additional reporting by Andrew Kragie. Editing by Vincent Sherry. 

Update: This article has been updated to reflect Senate discussion of changes to the Paycheck Protection Program.

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