WASHINGTON • Americans should receive direct deposits for financial aid within three weeks once the coronavirus economic relief Bill is signed into law, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said yesterday, adding that record jobless claims announced on the same day were "not relevant".
Mr Mnuchin, in an interview on CNBC, said he hoped companies would ultimately rehire workers and pointed to other industries such as grocers that were hiring. He added that he hoped the Bill, which has been passed by the US Senate, would be taken up quickly by the House of Representatives. Unemployment benefit filings surged to a record 3.28 million last week as businesses shuttered and laid off workers as part of efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Mr Mnuchin said the US$2 trillion (S$2.9 trillion) aid package the Senate passed late on Wednesday will provide assistance to laid-off workers through unemployment insurance and cash sent directly to families.
Mr Mnuchin also said he talks as many as 30 times a day with Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell to coordinate the US government's response to the outbreak. "We both have the same objective: To protect American workers and companies."
In a separate interview on NBC's Today Show, Mr Powell said the US "may well be in recession", but that progress in controlling the spread of the coronavirus will dictate when the economy can fully reopen.
"We are not experts in pandemics... We would tend to listen to the experts. Dr Fauci said something like the virus is going to set the timetable, and that sounds right to me," Mr Powell said, in reference to Dr Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who is on the White House's coronavirus task force. "The first order of business will be to get the spread of the virus under control and then resume economic activity."
The US central bank chief's remarks are a contrast to the urging by some of President Donald Trump's advisers for a faster reopening.
Mr Powell's remarks yesterday were an unusual acknowledgement by a Fed chairman that the economy may be contracting even before data has confirmed it.
"The sooner we get through this period and get the virus under control, the sooner the recovery can come... We know that economic activity will decline probably substantially in the second quarter, but I think many expect, and I would expect, economic activity to resume and move back up in the second half of the year," Mr Powell said.