Mnuchin urges U.S. Congress to pass $2 trillion economic relief bill

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Monday called on the Senate to quickly pass a massive economic relief bill saying it was urgently needed to support small businesses, workers and industries such as U.S. airlines amid the coronavirus outbreak.

“This is a massive liquidity program,” Mnuchin told Fox Business Network in an interview, saying the approximately $2 trillion package would along with actions by the Federal Reserve provide $4 trillion in potential market liquidity.

While some details were still being hammered out, he urged the U.S. Senate pass the measure later on Monday, saying people and business could get cash within the next two to three weeks and pleading with companies to hold on and not fire their workers.

The proposed plan would offer government loans for small companies of 500 employees or less to pay two months of salaries and forgive the debt if they rehire the workers later, Mnuchin said.

“We are encouraging small businesses: Make sure you hire people back. If you haven’t let people go, don’t let people go. Because we are providing you necessary liquidity, and we’re going to get that money out fast,” he said.

A provision to assist domestic airlines was still being negotiated, Mnuchin said, adding that the measure was not a bailout for big corporations: “It is not a slush fund.”

“I think we’re very close. We need to get this done today,” he told CNBC in a separate interview.

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