- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 23, 2020

Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin on Thursday outlined more of the contours of Senate Republicans’ offer for the next coronavirus relief package, saying there will be a partial extension of juiced-up unemployment benefits and no payroll tax cut in the “base bill.”

He said a payroll tax cut has merit, but that President Trump’s preference is to send out direct payments to Americans to get money out more quickly.

“It’s all about getting money now for kids and jobs,” Mr. Mnuchin said on CNBC.
He also said that a boost in unemployment benefits would continue, though not at their current $600-per-week juiced-up level.

“It will be based on approximately 70% wage replacement,” he said.

The expanded $600-per-week benefits, which were included in a $2.2 trillion package Congress passed in March, are due to expire at the end of the month.

Republicans have said they don’t want to extend a structure that makes it more lucrative for many people to take the benefits rather than return to work.

Mr. Mnuchin also said the package will include tax credits to try to incentivize companies to hire people.

He said a measure from Sen. John Kennedy, Louisiana Republican, to give states and localities more flexibility on how they can spend $150 billion from a previous package is also included.

“The president is not going to bail out Chicago and New York and other states that, prior to the coronavirus, were mismanaged,” Mr. Mnuchin said. “The Democrats want $900 billion and if we gave them $900 billion they’d probably ask for $1.5 trillion. So I’m not sure we’ll ever completely satisfy them.”

As many conservatives raise concerns about runaway federal spending, Mr. Mnuchin said Mr. Trump is prepared to come back for another round of funding if the White House thinks it’s necessary.

“This virus is like a war,” he said. “We have to make the investment now to make sure that American workers and American businesses can survive.”

The Democrat-led House passed a $3 trillion-plus bill in May that also included a full extension of the $600-per-week benefits through January and another round of direct payments for millions of Americans.

Mr. Mnuchin said there will be liability protections for reopening businesses, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has emphasized is a red line in the negotiations.

“The layman’s language is you can’t have frivolous lawsuits,” Mr. Mnuchin said.
Senate Republicans on Wednesday evening had outlined some elements of the deal they struck with the White House.

Mr. Mnuchin reiterated that there will be $105 billion earmarked for schools, some of which will be tied to school reopening plans.

Mr. Mnuchin also said there is $25 billion available for coronavirus testing, which includes a $16 billion “top-up” and $9 billion in leftover funds.

Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, also said Thursday he would be presenting a proposal for another round of small business loan funding through the Paycheck Protection Program.

Mr. Rubio, who chairs the Senate Small Business Committee, said the money would be targeted toward companies with 300 employees or fewer and companies in low-income neighborhoods.

Mr. Rubio said the measure would make expenses tied to personal protective equipment and coronavirus protection forgivable.

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