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story.lead_photo.caption Rep. French Hill, R-Ark., speaks on the floor of the House of Representatives at the U.S. Capitol in Washington in this April 23, 2020, file image from video. Hill is one of the members of the Congressional Oversight Commission that is overseeing stimulus spending from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. (AP / House Television )

WASHINGTON -- The Congressional Oversight Commission, which monitors a $500 billion Treasury fund, met with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on Capitol Hill on Wednesday to discuss covid-19 lending programs.

It was the first time the commission had met in person since the March 27 passage of a $2.2 trillion covid-19 financial relief package, which created both the fund and the oversight commission.

U.S. Rep. French Hill, R Ark., one of the commission's four members, said the meeting had been productive.

"The takeaway was that they are flexible and ready to provide assistance to the parts of the economy that need liquidity financing as we reopen the economy and head back in the right direction," Hill said.

"I think it is important to emphasize that Chairman Powell and Secretary Mnuchin are committed to using the [U.S. Treasury] Exchange Stabilization Fund and Federal Reserve lending authority to take whatever actions they can to ensure that the economy has the financial resources it needs to come back to life and begin to grow again."

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Actions taken by the Fed in recent months have had a positive effect, Hill said. One result is that many businesses have been able to obtain financing through private lenders rather than government programs.

The Municipal Liquidity Facility, one of the Fed funds, will help state and local governments with short-term funding.

Hill said Illinois is the only state that has borrowed money from the fund thus far.

Much of the money for relief related to covid-19 remains unspent, he said.

The funds for lending, in particular, are still largely available to be used as needed.

"They have used very, very little of the money that Congress authorized," Hill said. "So they have substantial capacity to help the economy, should it need that help, in a variety of ways in the coming months."

Since its launch more than two months ago, the commission has operated without a chairperson. Under the law, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., must agree before the appointment can take place.

Hill said Wednesday that he believes the vacancy is about to be filled.

"I hope a decision is soon. It is my understanding there is a consensus choice between Leader McConnell and Speaker Pelosi, and that they are going through the administrative clearing process for that individual," he said.

Hill, a former Little Rock banker, was appointed to the commission by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

Between now and September 2025, the commissioners are tasked with evaluating efforts by the U.S. Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve System board of governors "to provide economic stability as a result of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic of 2020," the new law states.

They will also monitor the "impact of loans, loan guarantees, and investments made under this subtitle on the financial well-being of the people of the United States and the United States economy, financial markets, and financial institutions," the law says.


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