Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Wednesday defended the Trump administration’s proposal to send one-time relief checks to millions of Americans rather than pouring more money into federal unemployment benefits, calling it a better way to get aid to struggling households.
“We obviously want to get people back to work,” Mnuchin told reporters in a virtual gathering. “By sending out checks, we’re putting money into the economy for people. This will have the impact of creating demand, which will have the impact of creating jobs. We want to get people their jobs back.”
“We view this as a more effective way to get the money out quickly,” he added.
Democrats have pressed to resume enhanced federal unemployment benefits as well as a second round of one-time stimulus checks — which the government first handed out at the beginning of the pandemic — to help households weather the crisis. Jobless Americans also received $600 a week in additional federal aid, on top of the benefits that states dole out, until the end of July when the program lapsed.
A proposal that Mnuchin offered to Democrats on Tuesday includes $600 one-time payments to individuals and would extend expiring unemployment benefits, but it wouldn’t add more funding for enhanced federal benefits for jobless Americans.
The Treasury chief said he was “cautiously hopeful” about prospects for a deal on more economic relief.
Conversations with Democrats and Republicans “are quite constructive,” he said. “There is a real framework here that everybody agrees on, and there’s a few issues that are still the sticking points.”
“The two biggest issues are the money for state and local governments and liability protections,” he added. “If we can’t resolve those, we can move forward on everything else. I don’t want to tell a bunch of small businesses that they can’t get [forgivable, government-backed] loans.”