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Mnuchin says hardest-hit businesses should be next aid focus

WASHINGTON (AP) — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Congress on Tuesday that the administration wants the next round of economic aid to focus supporting businesses like restaurants that have been hardest hit by the coronavirus crisis.

Mnuchin said he is already talking to lawmakers about getting another round of relief approved by the end of July. He said those discussions included ways to use leftover funds from the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill signed by President Donald Trump in late March.

There is about $128 billion in that program that has not been doled out from the popular Paycheck Protection Program, which was designed to help businesses keep their workers on the payroll. The program, which had $659 billion to use to support small businesses, will no longer be able to extend loans after Tuesday unless Congress approves an extension.

Testifying before the House Financial Services Committee, Mnuchin said that the administration is committed to “working with the House and the Senate so we can pass legislation by the end of July.” The House has passed the Heroes Act that would provide an additional nearly $1 trillion of economic support. That legislation has not been taken up by the Senate.

Mnuchin testified along with Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell at the oversight hearing held by the House panel. The coronavirus rescue package, known as the CARES Act, requires both Mnuchin and Powell to testify before Congress on a quarterly basis on the legislation's implementation.

In his testimony, Powell said that the outlook for the economy is “extraordinarily uncertain" at the and that a full recovery is unlikely “until people are confident that it is safe to re-engage in a broad range of activities.”

The Fed has slashed interest rates to near zero and pumped $2 trillion into purchases of Treasury and mortgage-backed securities to support the financial system. It is also providing additional support through 11 special programs that facilitate the functioning of credit markets for businesses and consumers and borrowing by state and local governments.

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