While the employment rate has improved from the sudden cratering in the spring, Powell noted that the jobs market hasn’t nearly returned to pre-pandemic levels and wouldn’t get there soon without more help from Congress.  

“We still have 11 million people out of the 22 million who were laid off in March and April,” Powell said. “That’s more people than just during the global financial crisis, as I’m sure you know. There’s a lot of work to do there — and you know our policies will support that — but it will go faster for those people if it’s all government working together.”

Powell said that businesses still struggling due to the pandemic need direct fiscal aid — not more lending, which is all the Fed can provide. He also noted that the Fed’s projections for economic growth, as well as private estimates, assume Congress will pass additional fiscal support.

Mnuchin seemed open to giving direct bailouts to particularly hard-hit industries, like hotels and restaurants. “We support additional money to small hotels, because that’s what they need,” he said, saying that he was also considering providing relief through additional PPP loans or other SBA lending.

Popular support for relief

With the election just weeks away, 89 percent of voters want another coronavirus economic aid package, according to a Financial Times-Peter G. Peterson Foundation poll released Tuesday. While 39 percent of voters faulted both sides for failing to pass another stimulus bill, 26 percent of voters placed the blame on Republicans, slightly more than the 23 percent who pointed fingers at Democrats.