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U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Photo: Caroline Brehman-Pool via Getty

The Treasury Department will not extend several Federal Reserve lending programs set to expire by year's end that were put in place at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why it matters: There is concern that pulling the plug on these loan programs will negatively impact the still-fragile economy. Eliminating the programs could hobble the Fed and make it harder to revive similar assistance under a new Congress.

The big picture: The Fed previously said in a statement that it preferred to retain the emergency facilities in full, but chair Jerome Powell wrote in a letter released Friday that the central bank will comply with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s directive to return unused funds.

  • Mnuchin has said the move will allow Congress to re-appropriate more than $450 billion to other coronavirus programs, per the AP.
  • “We will work out arrangements with you for returning the unused portions of the funds allocated to the CARES Act facilities in connection with their year-end termination," Powell said.

The programs affected include:

  • Corporate bond buying.
  • Loans to state and local governments.
  • Loans to small- and medium-sized businesses.

What they’re saying: “By asking for the money back, what Mnuchin does is he makes sure it’s not there for Biden’s Treasury secretary," Krishna Guha, vice chair of independent research firm Evercore ISI, told the Wall Street Journal. "You’re greatly reducing the firepower that’s available to your successor. This is reckless politicization of market-stabilization policy.”

  • Sen. Sherrod Brown, (D-Ohio,) said in a statement: “There can be no doubt, the Trump administration and their congressional toadies are actively trying to tank the U.S economy,” per the AP. "For months, they have refused to take the steps necessary to support workers, small businesses and restaurants. As the result, the only tool at our disposal has been these facilities.”
  • But Mnuchin called the move a “very simple thing” and said it is “not a political issue” in an interview with CNBC on Friday. “Markets should be very comfortable that we have plenty of capacity left,” he said.
  • Up to $800 billion can be deployed as a remedy through the Exchange Stabilization Fund if needed, he added.

Go deeper

Small businesses receive $35 billion in new round of PPP loans

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Small Business Administration said last night that so far this year, it has approved 400,000 Paycheck Protection Program loans worth $35 billion — out of the $284 billion of total available funding.

Driving the news: These are the first figures on the status of the forgivable loan program since it relaunched on Jan. 11.

Updated 4 hours ago - Sports

The potential GOAT of chess faces intriguing challenger

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The World Chess Championship between Norway's Magnus Carlsen and Russia's Ian Nepomniachtchi began on Friday, 1,094 days after Carlsen won his fourth consecutive title.

Why it matters: During the long, COVID-fueled layoff, chess entered a new era, and with the championship finally here, the age-old game is ready for its close-up.

Department of Interior proposes raising cost of drilling on public lands

A horizontal drilling rig and a pump jack sit on federal land in Lea County, New Mexico. Photo: Callaghan O'Hare/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Oil and gas companies should pay more to drill on federal lands and waters, the Department of the Interior argued in a report released Friday, saying that the current rates were "outdated."

Driving the news: The Department of Interior report said that the federal government's oil and gas leasing and permitting program "fails to provide a fair return to taxpayers, even before factoring in the resulting climate-related costs that must be borne by taxpayers."