coronavirus

Mnuchin: Trump administration 'carefully' monitoring reopening

The administration is considering all possibilities for the next stimulus package, including payroll tax cuts.

Steven Mnuchin

The Trump administration is "very focused" on working with states to carefully reopen the economy and bring it back to pre-coronavirus economic levels, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Sunday.

"The president wants to work with the states to safely reopen the economy, so we can safely get people to get back to work," Mnuchin said on "Fox News Sunday."

The administration is monitoring the reopening of the economy "very carefully," state by state, Mnuchin said, to help give "American workers the confidence to reopen in a careful and deliberate way."

Appearing later on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett echoed Mnuchin’s line on reopening the economy.

“We're watching very closely what happens to those states, get their economies up relatively quickly,” he said. “Does the opening of the state lead to a new outbreak of the disease?”

Fox host Chris Wallace pointed out that unemployment is quickly approaching Great Depression-era levels. The official unemployment rate hit 14.7 percent in April, a mark that doesn't include millions of workers who aren't searching for jobs or the "underemployed."

"These are not large numbers because the economy wasn't doing well, these are large numbers because we shut down the economy," Mnuchin said, arguing the high unemployment rate is a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has predicted a 9.5 percent unemployment rate at the end of 2021. But Mnuchin argued his numbers aren't "rosy" — rather he predicts the reported numbers are "probably" going to get worse before they get better.

"You're going to have a very, very bad second quarter, and then I think you're going to see a bounce back from a low standpoint," he said.

The U.S. will "have a better third quarter," he said. "We'll have a better fourth quarter, and next year is going to be a great year."

In the meantime, Mnuchin said the administration is still pushing for a payroll tax cut in Congress' next stimulus package, which would allow workers to take home more of their paychecks.

It will be "one of the components," he predicted.

Still, not all Senate Republicans have embraced the demand, with some arguing it would impact Social Security and that it would do nothing for the millions of unemployed Americans.

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