This week, multiple congressional committees will hold hearings related to the coronavirus pandemic. These hearings will address the Federal Reserve’s policies, investigate the distribution of CARES Act funding, and discuss the efficacy of the federal response.
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell and Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin are making multiple trips to Capitol Hill this week, including a visit on Tuesday to the House Committee on Financial Services for a hearing titled “Oversight of the Treasury Department’s and Federal Reserve’s Pandemic Response.” On Wednesday, the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis will hold a hearing with Powell to discuss the Fed’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Then on Thursday, in a hearing in the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, both Mnuchin and Powell are to present the Quarterly CARES Act Report to Congress, as required by the pandemic relief bill signed by the president back in March. The CARES Act appropriated billions of dollars to the Treasury and Federal Reserve to assist consumers, businesses, and states affected by the economic impact of the pandemic.
These hearings come amid growing criticism over the Fed’s Municipal Liquidity Facility, a $35 billion fund created in the spring to help state and local governments survive the pandemic. To date, states have reportedly only used less than $2 billion from the fund.
The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions will hold a hearing on Wednesday titled “COVID-19: An Update on the Federal Response.” Witnesses include Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary of Health and Human Services, and Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. With the recent news that HHS officials have interfered with CDC scientific reports, have attempted to restrict Fauci’s media interviews, and have even limited the rule-making authority of other health agencies, we can expect to see lawmakers ask questions about this politicization.
Lastly, on Thursday, the House Subcommittee on Innovation and Workforce Development will hold a hearing titled “Paycheck Protection Program: An Examination of Loan Forgiveness, SBA Legacy Systems, and Inaccurate Data.” William Manger, the chief of staff at the Small Business Administration, will testify at the hearing, which comes on the heels of multiple investigations into the SBA’s technical systems for implementing the loan program.
One congressional report revealed that more than 10,000 loans in the Paycheck Protection Program were obtained by borrowers that had received more than one loan, in violation of CARES Act rules. And a report by the Project on Government Oversight showed after providing more than $160 billion in Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL), the Small Business Administration had “scrambled” in August to enact key anti-fraud controls. The report revealed internal SBA emails which showed that many of SBA’s loan officers were untrained and had been approving loans to applicants that should not have received them.
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