Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin warned of “permanent economic damage” unless the United States begins reopening businesses during the coronavirus pandemic — but cautioned that it must be done in a “thoughtful way.”
“I think there’s a considerable risk of not reopening, you’re talking about what would be permanent economic damage to the American public,” Mnuchin said on “Fox News Sunday.”
“We’re going to reopen in a very thoughtful way that gets people back to work safely, that has them social distance,” he continued.
The question of reopening the economy comes as 20.5 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits in April, bringing the unemployment rate up to 14.7 percent.
In all, more than 33 million people have sought benefits in the past three months.
“These are not large numbers because the economy isn’t doing well, these are large numbers because we’ve shut down the economy,” Mnuchin told host Chris Wallace.
He predicted the numbers “are probably going to get worse before they get better” but said he expects to see a rebound in the third and fourth quarters as the economy starts to get going.
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow, during an appearance on ABC News’ “This Week,” said May’s unemployment statistics could also be dire.
“I don’t want to sugarcoat it because I think those numbers for May are gonna be also very difficult numbers,” Kudlow said. “It’s going to take a while for the reopening to have an impact, so there’s that.”
But he said there’s a “glimmer of hope” because 80 percent of the people filing claims are those who have been furloughed or laid off temporarily.
“That, by the way, doesn’t assure that you’ll go back to a job. But it suggests strongly that the cord between the worker and the business is still intact,” Kudlow said.
Health experts have cautioned that allowing governors to reopen their states’ economies too quickly without continuing social distancing and reduced crowd size measures could lead to a resurgence of COVID-19 deaths and delay any economic recovery because they would have to shut down again.
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