July 9, 2020 / 2:52 PM / a month ago

U.S. Treasury chief supports more direct payments in next coronavirus aid bill

FILE PHOTO: Steven Mnuchin, U.S. Treasury secretary, arrives before a Senate Small Business Committee hearing on coronavirus relief aid and "Implementation of title I of the CARES Act.", in Washington, U.S., June 10, 2020. Al Drago/Pool via REUTERS

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Thursday that he supports another round of direct payments to individuals as part of the next coronavirus legislation and is working to get it passed by Congress by the end of July.

Mnuchin also told CNBC in an interview that not all of the airlines that signed Treasury loan agreements will need to access those loans, as they may be able to meet their financing needs in private financial markets.

Despite United Airlines’ decision on Wednesday to notify 36,000 employees of potential furloughs, Mnuchin said he believed most airlines wanted to keep as many staff as possible, and healthy airlines were needed to aid the U.S. economic recovery.

Regarding the future of the $660 billion Paycheck Protection Program, Mnuchin said any extension of the program for more funding “is going to be much more targeted to the businesses that really need this money and the smaller businesses.” Previously, he said the travel, hospitality and restaurant sectors would likely need more aid as they struggle to reopen.

Treasury plans to review all PPP loans of $2 million or more to determine whether they should be forgiven, but Mnuchin said “the vast majority” of these loans would meet the test for forgiveness.

Any extension of enhanced unemployment benefits would be capped at 100% or less of workers’ pay at the jobs from which they were laid off, giving people incentives to return to work, Mnuchin said.

Reporting by David Lawder and Makini Brice; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and David Gregorio

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