US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said it is “too hard to tell” whether international travel will resume this year.
During an appearance on Fox business this morning, he said, "Too hard to tell at this point, Maria. I hope down the road, it is."
"Our priority is opening up the domestic economy. Obviously, for business people that do need to travel, there will be travel on a limited basis. But this is a great time for people to explore America,” he added.
Mnuchin also repeated an update the Administration made Sunday on Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funding, saying that $175 billion of the $310 billion has been used. In this round of funding, 2.2 million loans have been processed, the average size $79,000.
“We really see this is going directly to small businesses,” he said – after criticism during the last round that the loans went to some larger businesses. He noted that the last round of funding processed 1.7 million loans.
“There were some hiccups with the systems,” he conceded, but “now the systems are up and running,” predicting 60 million people will be impacted by this round.
Mnuchin was pressed on whether there might be flexibility for businesses regarding PPP loans. He said it was “not designed as a loan, it was really designed as a grant” and pointed small businesses toward other loan programs available to help with overhead costs.
He was pressed again on this with the examples of restaurants, most of which will not be able to reopen under statewide guidelines at full capacity to generate the revenue to rehire their staffs and forgive their loans within the time frame specified by the PPP legislation.
“This is the way the program was designed by Congress… I don’t have the flexibility to change that,” he said.
President Trump, Mnuchin said, is “sympathetic to the restaurant industry.”