Steven Mnuchin, US Treasury secretary, says the Trump administration may extend the tax filing deadline beyond July 15 to help Americans who are struggling from the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Mnuchin said he was looking at the situation and considering whether another extension to the filing deadline would be beneficial. The deadline has already been pushed back once, from April 15 to July 15.
“It’s something I’m thinking about,” he told the Bloomberg Invest Global forum. “As of now, we’re not intending on doing that, but it’s something we may consider . . . We’ll look carefully as we approach this July date.”
Mr Mnuchin said the administration was also “seriously considering” another stimulus package to follow the $2.2tn Cares Act passed by Congress in March.
The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed a $3tn plan last month, but the Republican-controlled Senate has been more hesitant. Mr Mnuchin said he had met Republican senators on Tuesday and held nascent discussions about the contours of a new economic relief plan.
“We are beginning to discuss the different aspects of what another bill would look like,” Mr Mnuchin said. “We want to take our time because, number one, there’s a lot of money we still haven’t put out, and, number two, we want to make sure whatever we do . . . is much more targeted to the businesses that are most impacted.”
Republicans are also debating whether the next relief package should provide Americans with direct payments, in the same way that the Cares Act passed in March provided $1,200 cheques.
Asked on Monday by Scripps television if he was considering another round of direct payments to Americans, Donald Trump, president, on Monday said: “Yeah, we are.”
Larry Kudlow, the White House economic adviser, told Fox Business television that the measures under consideration included either tax rebates or cheques.
“Probably we would want to target [money] to those folks who lost their jobs and are most in need,” Mr Kudlow told the network on Tuesday.
US officials last week said Mr Trump would push Congress to pass a $1tn infrastructure bill to help the economy. Mr Mnuchin said that while Mr Trump wanted to build more roads and bridges, it would probably not be part of the stimulus package because it would not give the economy a sufficiently quick injection.
“Normally these are not shovel ready so . . . even if we pass something, this isn’t going to impact getting people back to work in September and October,” he said. “The likelihood is the next Cares bill is going to be very focused . . . We want to make sure that 20m people that don’t have jobs because of Covid . . . get back to work quickly.”
The US economy is continuing to grapple with the devastating impact of the pandemic. The unemployment rate has risen to 13.3 per cent as millions of Americans lost their jobs because of the lockdowns imposed by authorities because of the pandemic.
While most US states have eased restrictions, some including Texas, Florida and Arizona have had recent jumps in Covid-19 cases. But Mr Mnuchin said the entire economy would not be shut as earlier in the year.
“We’re just in a completely different situation, so I think it would be highly unlikely we get to a point where we need to shut the economy down,” he said.
The Treasury secretary said the economy would have a “spectacular rebound” in the third quarter of the year. Jay Powell, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, last week warned that there was uncertainty “about the timing and strength” of the recovery.
Mr Mnuchin said he was not worried about the short-term impact on the US of rising debt levels to pay for the relief packages passed by Congress, saying it was necessary given the unprecedented economic shock.
“Fighting this virus is like fighting a war. The president and I were determined to spend what we needed to spend to protect the American workers,” he said. “The good news is, long-term interest rates are very low. So, the cost of this debt is very low . . . Over time, we’re going to need to deal with the debt.”
Asked if he was concerned about the health of US banks given the extent of the crisis, Mr Mnuchin stressed that the sector was in much stronger shape than when the financial crisis hit more than a decade ago. “The banks had very good capital and very good liquidity coming into this,” he said.
Follow Demetri Sevastopulo on Twitter: @dimi