The Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs held a remote hearing regarding “The Quarterly CARES Act Report to Congress” on May 20. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell offered testimony and answered questions on the efficacy and implementation of financial programs created by the CARES Act in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In his opening remarks, Ranking Member Sherrod Brown (D-OH) called for more aid to low-income essential workers and their families. “As essential workers go home to their families after a long, stressful day, they’re wondering how they’re going to pay the rent, or how they’re going to afford another week of groceries,” Brown stated. “If Congress does not act now to put money in the hands of the people who actually power our economy – in workers, their families, and Main Street businesses in struggling communities – we risk making the economic crisis worse.”
Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) thanked Secretary Mnuchin for Treasury’s willingness to begin issuing debit cards to individuals who are otherwise unable to receive economic impact payments. Senator Jones asked the Secretary if he would commit to requiring collection of demographic information for Paycheck Protection Program recipients to increase the program’s transparency, after widespread reporting that the loans are being distributed inequitably and locking many minority-owned businesses out of the program. Secretary Mnuchin answered that Treasury has “been advised to make [collection of demographic information] optional and not mandatory, but [they] very much hope people provide that [information].”
Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) highlighted the long-standing challenge of affordable housing supply, questioning Chairman Powell on how this crisis would impact the housing market for both homeowners and renters. Powell expressed serious concerns about the increasing volatility of the housing market in response to this crisis but said the Federal Reserve could do little to address housing affordability.
Watch a recording of the full hearing at: https://bit.ly/36uzcA1