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Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speaks during a virtual Senate Banking Committee hearing. Photo: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

One takeaway from Tuesday's Senate coronavirus bailout hearing: The Treasury Department and Federal Reserve both think the worst could be yet to come for America's economy.

Why it matters: Fed Chair Jerome Powell reiterated his belief that a full recovery may not come until there's a vaccine, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said there's the risk of "permanent damage" if states delay reopening.

In the virtual hearing, the Senate Banking Committee pressed Powell and Mnuchin on whether the economic programs were enough to support businesses or localities that are in need.

  • Powell said the Fed would continue to adjust the terms, and possibly the eligibility, of its lending programs “as we learn more.” It’s already expanded eligibility for its medium-sized business and its state lending programs.
  • Mnuchin also said the Treasury was “fully prepared to take losses” on the money it is extending to backstop the Fed’s lending programs. That’s a shift from comments last month, when he said the U.S. would recover the money.

The big picture: Many of the Fed's coronavirus lending programs have yet to launch.

  • Powell said he expected all of the programs to be up and running by the first week of June.

One fiery moment: Sen. Elizabeth Warren pushed Mnuchin on whether the businesses receiving relief from certain programs would be required to keep workers on their payrolls.

  • "Different facilities have different requirements," Mnuchin said. He also added that there is a provision in the Main Street Lending Program that "we expect people to use their best efforts to support jobs."

Between the lines: Mnuchin was pressed on the eight-week period that businesses are required to spend Paycheck Protection Program funds. Small businesses want it extended, but that fix would need to come from Congressional legislation, not the Treasury Department.

Go deeper

Aug 26, 2020 - Health

Carson: It would "behoove" us to move forward with COVID-19 vaccine and treatment testing

Screenshot: Axios Events

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson says "this is not necessarily the time to take everything slowly" when it comes to the Trump administration's approach to getting vaccines and treatments to the public.

Why it matters: Carson's comments, made Wednesday during an Axios virtual event, came days after the Food and Drug Administration announced an emergency use authorization (EUA) for treating the coronavirus with convalescent plasma. President Trump accused the agency of slow-walking the development and approval of vaccines and therapeutics to hurt him politically.

Coronavirus cases fell by 15% this week

Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Map: Andrew Witherspoon, Sara Wise/Axios

New coronavirus infections fell by almost 15% over the past week, continuing a steady downward trend.

Why it matters: The standard caveats still apply — progress can always fall apart, the U.S. is climbing down from a very high number of cases, and this is far from over. But this is undeniably good news. Things are getting better.

You’ve caught up. Now what?

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