COVID-19

Mnuchin rejects renewal of some Fed emergency loan programs

Associated Press Nov 19, 2020
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GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images
COVID-19

Mnuchin rejects renewal of some Fed emergency loan programs

Associated Press Nov 19, 2020
GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

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Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday he will not to extend several emergency loan programs set up with the Federal Reserve to support the economy in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision drew a terse rebuke from the Fed.

The central bank said it “would prefer that the full suite of emergency facilities established during the coronavirus pandemic continue to serve their important role as a backstop for our still-strained and vulnerable economy.”

But in a letter to Fed Chairman Jerome Powell, Mnuchin said that the Fed’s corporate credit, municipal lending and Main Street Lending programs would not be renewed when they expire on Dec. 31.

Under law, the loan facilities required the support of the Treasury Department, which serves as a backstop for the initial losses the programs might incur.

Mnuchin said that he is requesting that the Fed return to Treasury the unused funds appropriated by Congress for operation of the programs.

He said this would allow Congress to re-appropriate $455 billion to other coronavirus programs. Republicans and Democrats have been deadlocked for months on approval of another round of coronavirus support measures.

In public remarks Tuesday, Powell made clear that he hoped that the loan programs would remain in effect for the foreseeable future.

“When the right time comes, and I don’t think that time is yet, or very soon, we’ll put those tools away,” he said in an online discussion with a San Francisco-based business group.

The future of the Main Street and Municipal Lending programs has taken on greater importance with President-Elect Joe Biden’s victory. Many progressive economists have argued that a Democratic-led Treasury could support the Fed taking on more risk and making more loans to small and mid-sized businesses and cash-strapped cities under these programs. That would provide at least one avenue for the Biden administration to provide stimulus without going through Congress.

Neither program has lived up to its potential so far, with the Municipal Lending program making just one loan, while the Main Street program has made loans totaling around $4 billion to about 400 companies.

Mnuchin’s move comes as the resurgent virus and slowing consumer spending, as well as colder weather that will shut down outdoor dining, will cause more small and mid-sized businesses to struggle with lower revenue and potentially close.

However, Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania said in a statement that he approved of Mnuchin’s decision.

“Congress’ intent was clear: These facilities were to be temporary, to provide liquidity and to cease operations by the end of 2020,” Toomey, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, said. ”With liquidity restored, they should expire, as Congress intended and the law requires, by Dec. 31, 2020.”

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What do I need to know about tax season this year?

Glad you asked! We have a whole separate FAQ section on that. Some quick hits: The deadline has been extended from April 15 to May 17 for individuals. Also, millions of people received unemployment benefits in 2020 — up to $10,200 of which will now be tax-free for those with an adjusted gross income of less than $150,000. And, for those who filed before the American Rescue Plan passed, simply put, you do not need to file an amended return at the moment. Find answers to the rest of your questions here.

How long will it be until the economy is back to normal?

It feels like things are getting better, more and more people getting vaccinated, more businesses opening, but we’re not entirely out of the woods. To illustrate: two recent pieces of news from the Centers for Disease Control. Item 1: The CDC is extending its tenant eviction moratorium to June 30. Item 2: The cruise industry didn’t get what it wanted — restrictions on sailing from U.S. ports will stay in place until November. Very different issues with different stakes, but both point to the fact that the CDC thinks we still have a ways to go before the pandemic is over, according to Dr. Philip Landrigan, who used to work at the CDC and now teaches at Boston College.

How are those COVID relief payments affecting consumers?

Payments started going out within days of President Joe Biden signing the American Rescue Plan, and that’s been a big shot in the arm for consumers, said John Leer at Morning Consult, which polls Americans every day. “Consumer confidence is really on a tear. They are growing more confident at a faster rate than they have following the prior two stimulus packages.” Leer said this time around the checks are bigger and they’re getting out faster. Now, rising confidence is likely to spark more consumer spending. But Lisa Rowan at Forbes Advisor said it’s not clear how much or how fast.

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