Rep. Cindy Axne

Congresswoman Cindy Axne says pandemic relief programs approved in the spring are in danger of ending and congress must take action to extend unemployment benefits.

“This is all happening when week after week we see initial claims higher than the worst that we saw in the Great Recession,” Axne says.

Iowa’s unemployment rate fell to 3.6% in October and the state was notified laid-off Iowa workers were no longer eligible for extended benefits as of October 31.

“As we all know, we’re in dire straights right now,” Axne said. “Iowa has now had increasing unemployment claims for six straight weeks.”

Axne, a Democrat from West Des Moines, is a member of the House Committee on Financial Services and she spoke at a committee hearing yesterday. She quizzed Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin about his decision to end several Federal Reserve emergency loan programs financed by the CARES Act congress passed last spring.

“Why are you making it harder to support the economy in the future?” Axne asked.

Axne said the treasury secretary’s action has put more than $400 billion out-of-reach that otherwise could have been loaned to businesses by the incoming Biden Administration. Mnuchin said the CARES Act specified the money had to be returned to the treasury if it hadn’t been loaned out by December 31.

“That’s just not accurate. The CARES Act is very clear that existing investments can remain there,” Axne said. “…This isn’t your money. It’s taxpayer money and it should be quickly available to the American people.”

Axne said since more than three million American businesses have closed during the pandemic, Mnuchin’s decision to retract that loan money “is unacceptable.”