WASHINGTON, March 27 — US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Friday pledged to quickly send cash to Americans as part of the a massive US$2.2 trillion (RM9.6 trillion) relief package aimed at rescuing the coronavirus-battered economy.
President Donald Trump is expected to sign the measure later today, once it is approved by the House of Representatives, which provides for payments of US$1,200 for Americans making less than US$75,000, and US$500 for each child, to help support households as the economy faces crushing unemployment and a recession.
“Americans need that money now, they can’t wait for government to take three or four or six months like we normally do,” Mnuchin said on Fox Business Network, adding he expected direct deposits of the cash to arrive in three weeks.
Mnuchin also tried to clarify statements he made yesterday when he seemed to downplay as “not relevant” government data showing a staggering 3.3 million workers filed for unemployment benefits last week — by far the highest ever recorded.
“We’re in an unprecedented situation where the government shut down major parts of the economy,” he said in the interview today.
“So whether it’s unemployment claims, or other numbers, this doesn’t reflect the normal economy.”
The Covid-19 outbreak in the US has grown into the world’s largest, and is accelerating, pushing cities nationwide to shut down businesses and employers to lay off workers as people stay indoors.
The monthly University of Michigan survey released today showed the virus battered the consumer sentiment index which plunged 11.9 points to 89.1, worse than expected and the fourth-largest monthly drop in nearly 50 years.
The index is set for an even sharper fall in April, the extent of which “will depend on the success in curtailing the spread of the virus and how quickly households receive funds to relieve their financial hardships,” the survey’s chief economist Richard Curtin said.
“Mitigating the negative impacts on health and finances may curb rising pessimism, but it will not produce optimism,” he said.
Economists are projecting a severe US recession, with a double-digit contraction and double-digit unemployment as soon as April — far surpassing the worst of the global financial crisis in 2008. — AFP