Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin stated that while he is unsure of just how bad the effect of the coronavirus outbreak will ultimately be on the U.S. economy, he is confident that it will only be a short-term problem that will be resolved in a matter of months.
Mnuchin predicted during an appearance on "Fox News Sunday" that by the third quarter of 2020, Americans will see an economic recovery with production and employment levels back up.
"I don’t know what the numbers are gonna be this quarter. What I do think is, we are gonna kill this virus," Mnuchin said. "We’re gonna re-open this economy. And in the third quarter of this year, you’re gonna see this economy bounce back with very large GDP numbers and low unemployment back to where we were beforehand."
When asked by host Chris Wallace about President Trump's optimism over having the country "opened up by Easter," Mnuchin said he would "leave that decision to the medical professionals and the president," while he works on providing economic assistance. He touted a program that his department is working on alongside the Small Business Administration that would provide forgivable loans that could help "half of the private workforce" as soon as this coming Friday.
“I encourage all small businesses to take out these loans because if you hire back your workers for eight weeks, you’ll have a forgivable loan and the government will pay for that," Mnuchin said.
When asked about the risk of having Americans return to work too soon and further spreading the virus, Mnuchin noted that "there hasn’t been any recommendation made yet" on when this might happen.
"The president wants to make sure that we kill this virus," he said.
Mnuchin had been a key figure in discussions with congressional leaders as they negotiated terms of the massive $2.2 trillion coronavirus response stimulus package that President Trump recently signed into law. One major sticking point was the $500 billion in relief that would go to private business, and the degree of oversight there would be over this money.
Democrats pushed back against what they claimed was a lack of transparency over this in an early draft, eventually resulting in an agreement for an inspector general to oversee spending in this area. President Trump, however, said that he would only allow the inspector general to address Congress under his supervision.
Mnuchin pushed back against concerns that this condition violates the agreement made with Democrats.
"I don't think that's the case," he said. "We're going to have full transparency." Mnuchin noted that there will be a bipartisan oversight committee to review the administration's actions.
"We are fully comfortable that whatever we do, we want full transparency and we're very careful in what we're doing about supporting American workers and the American economy," he said.