White House forecast of how the US economy could rebound coronavirus crisis and the speed with which a vaccine could be rolled out was questioned on Sunday.
The United States will need more tests before schools reopen later this year, said Lamar Alexander, Republican chairman of the Senate health committee.
Appearing on NBC Meet the Press, the Tennessee senator appeared to question the White House’s ability to reach a target of 100 million doses of vaccine by the fall and 300 million by the end of 2020.
Alexander called it “an incredibly ambitious goal” and added, “I have no idea if we can achieve this.”
No vaccine has been approved although a number are under development.
Neal Kashkari, president and chief executive officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, told ABC’s This Week that he looks forward to a robust economic recovery.
“But that would require a breakthrough in vaccines,” he said, “a breakthrough in general testing, a breakthrough in therapies, to give all of us the certainty that it is safe to return. I don’t know not when we have that confidence. “
White House advisers said they had started informal talks with Congress over what to include in another round of coronavirus relief legislation. But they also predicted further job losses.
Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin and economic adviser Larry Kudlow said they are having discussions with legislators on issues such as aid to states whose finances have been devastated by the pandemic. Another economic adviser, Kevin Hassett, said the legislation could include food aid and broadband access.
Since March, Congress has passed bills allocating $ 3 billion to fight the pandemic, including taxpayers’ money for individuals and businesses to mitigate an economic impact that includes an unemployment rate of 14, 7% in April, after job losses never seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Democrats who control the House of Representatives are unveiling new relief legislation this week. But the White House is in no rush.
“Let’s take the next few weeks,” Mnuchin told Fox News on Sunday.
“We just want to make sure that before we dive back and spend a few trillion tax dollars, we do it carefully,” he said. “We have been very clear: we are not going to do things just to bail out states that were mismanaged.”
The pressure can increase as the economic situation worsens. On CBS Face the Nation, Hassett said unemployment could rise “north of 20%” in May or June before administration officials insist on a robust recovery.
Unemployment in April underestimates some unemployed Americans, economists say. When asked if the country could face a “real” rate of almost 25%, Mnuchin replied: “We could be.” This rate also includes people who have lost their job and are not actively looking for work and those considered to be underemployed.
Democrats are pushing for another massive bill that would include more money for state and local governments, coronavirus testing and the US Postal Service. Advisers say the White House will not be considering new stimulus legislation in May.
“It’s not that we’re not talking. We are. It’s just informal at this point,” Kudlow told ABC. “We are collecting ideas for the next steps, which will no doubt be data-driven . “
Kudlow said he participated in a call Friday with parliamentarians from both parties, and plans to do the same on Monday with members of the Senate, which is organized by the Republicans.
“If we’re moving to a phase four deal, I think President Trump has signaled that, if he doesn’t want to bail out the states, he’s ready to help cover some of Covid’s unexpected expenses that could have happened, “Hassett told CNN about the state of the Union.
The White House is “absolutely” pushing for a reduction in payroll taxes, said Mnuchin. Trump has called for a reduction in the tax, which is paid by employers and workers and funds social security and health insurance. The proposal has little support in Congress.
Trump has also threatened to withhold state funds that limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities, according to a critic who would exploit a public health crisis to advance political goals.