Businesses will need more help: Mnuchin

WASHINGTON (AP) — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he believes the United States (US) economy will need more help to pull out of the recession, but added that the next round of support should be more targetted to the hardest hit parts of the economy.

Mnuchin, testifying before the Senate Small Business Committee, said the administration plans to spend the next 30 days looking at what measures should go in the next relief bill.

Congress already approved close to USD3 trillion in support to deal with the impact of the coronavirus, which resulted in millions of layoffs and pushed the country into recession.

“There is no question that small businesses in many industries will need more help,” Mnuchin said. “Small businesses and larger businesses are going to need more help.”

New support measures will need to encourage business owners to rehire workers, especially those in the hardest hit industries like restaurants and travel, he said.

“You can’t get hotel capacity up to speed without hiring people first,” Mnuchin said.

Mnuchin and Small Business Administrator Jovita Carranza were generally praised by lawmakers for their efforts to get relief to small businesses under the Paycheck Protection Program, which has so far processed 4.5 million loans worth USD511 billion. The loans are forgivable if the business uses the money to keep employees on the payroll or rehire workers who have been laid off.

Congress passed legislation last week that allowed companies to use 60 per cent of the money for payroll and 40 per cent for other expenses, such as rent payments and utilities. That was a modification from an initial requirement that 75 per cent of the funds be used for payroll. The legislation, which was signed into law by US President Donald Trump last Friday, also extended the time for companies to use the loans from eight weeks to 24 weeks.

Senators had a number of questions about a separate program administered by the SBA that provides Economic Injury Disaster Loans. Those are typically given to companies that suffer financial losses during hurricanes and other disasters, but have not necessarily suffered physical damage.

The applications require more paperwork from small businesses than the paycheque protection loans. Businesses have complained that it has taken too long to process the applications, and that loans were being approved at amounts much lower than what they were seeking.

The programme also had glitches that slowed processing — including a change in applications in late March that forced many companies to start the process over again. Separately, on March 25 the EIDL system suffered a data breach that potentially exposed personal information of nearly 8,000 applicants.