Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin on Tuesday warned Republican senators that the nation could see 20 percent unemployment if an economic stimulus package is not passed to offset the effects of the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic.
By comparison, in 2009 the Great Recession saw 10 percent unemployment at its height in the U.S., while in 1933 during the Great Depression unemployment hit 23 percent. However, the Treasury Department clarified that an economic stimulus would prevent unemployment from reaching such high levels.
Mnuchin “used some mathematical examples to illustrate potential risk if there were no intervention, but because they are doing the right things and proposing additional action, [20 unemployment] would not be the case,” a Treasury Department official told CNN.
The Trump administration is currently pushing for a $1 trillion stimulus package. The Treasury Secretary acknowledged the large price tag of the stimulus, but said it was justified given the circumstances of the economy.
“This is not like a normal economic situation,” Mnuchin said. “The government has requested that parts of this economy shut down.”
The stimulus package reportedly includes about $50 million for the airline industry, which Mnuchin described as experiencing a greater crisis than in the period after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, as well as around $500 billion in relief to Americans through payroll tax cuts or direct cash payments.
“Americans need cash now and the president wants to get cash now. And I mean now, in the next two weeks,” Mnuchin said at a press conference on Tuesday.
Several Republican senators, including Mitt Romney of Utah, Josh Hawley of Missouri, and Tom Cotton of Arkansas, have expressed support for direct payments to Americans to help offset the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak.