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Coronavirus Government Response Update—Mnuchin, Powell Questioned on Economic Response

May 21, 2020

Welcome to the Coronavirus Government Response Update. This information is intended to keep ISSA members up to date on fast-moving government affairs related to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as other public policy issues important to the cleaning industry. Today’s update touches on U.S. Senators questioning the Treasury Secretary and Federal Reserve Chair, all states entering some phase of reopening, the CBO projecting slow economic recovery, and more.

Mnuchin, Powell Grilled on Coronavirus Response
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell faced an array of questions from senators on the government’s response to the economic pandemic, the push to reopen the country, and the status of billions of dollars set aside to help businesses weathering the economic crisis. The pair offered a cautious view of the economy, with Mnuchin displaying a more optimistic outlook than Powell, who told the Senate Banking Committee that “the scope and speed of this downturn are without modern precedent and are significantly worse than any recession since World War II.” Mnuchin noted that he anticipated the economy would recover but said “there is risk of permanent damage” should states wait too long in reopening their economies.

Every State Somewhere Along Road Toward Full Reopening
As of May 20, the entire United States will be in some phase of reopening. Yet as of May 19, at least 17 states have recorded a clear upward trend of average new daily cases—a rise of at least 10%—over the past seven days, according to an analysis based on data from Johns Hopkins University. Only 16 states reported their average of new daily cases dropped more than 10%. Some public health experts say declining case rates should be one guide for figuring when states should relax social distancing restrictions.

Post-COVID-19 Economic Recovery Expected To Be Slow, CBO Says
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said in updated projections that the U.S. economy will contract at an annualized rate of almost 38% in the second quarter of this year, part of a precipitous fall in economic activity that has ended the longest expansion since World War II. Almost 26 million fewer people will be employed in the second quarter, compared to the fourth quarter of 2019, resulting in an unemployment rate of 15% and marking the “steepest deterioration in the labor market since the 1930s,” the agency said. While the CBO expects the second quarter to be the worst from an economic perspective, it said the economy overall will recover slowly from the coronavirus pandemic and associated disruptions and the damage will be lasting.

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