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Mnuchin on $600 unemployment benefit: We can't be 'paying people more to stay home'

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump OKs transition; Biden taps Treasury, State experience On The Money: Democrats accuse Mnuchin of sabotaging economy in dispute with Fed | Trump administration proposal takes aim at bank pledges to avoid fossil fuel financing | JPMorgan: Economy will shrink in first quarter due to COVID-19 spike Democrats accuse Mnuchin of sabotaging economy in dispute with Fed MORE on Sunday threw cold water on the prospect of extending $600-per-week unemployment benefits for Americans for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an interview with ABC's "This Week," Mnuchin suggested that the payments, which expired last week, led to some out-of-work Americans being "overpaid" and indicated that he believed they were slowing the return of workers to the labor market.

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"Unemployment is supposed to be wage replacement, so it should be tied to some percentage of wages," he said. "The fact that we had a flat number was only an issue of an emergency where we had 30-year-old computer systems."

"I think on the concept we absolutely agree on enhanced unemployment," Mnuchin continued. "We want to fix the issue where in some cases people are overpaid, and we want to make sure there's the right incentives [to get back to work]."

"In certain cases where we're paying people more to stay home than to work, that's created issues in the entire economy," he added. 

Democrats rejected a short-term stimulus deal from Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump holds his last turkey pardon ceremony Overnight Defense: Pentagon set for tighter virus restrictions as top officials tests positive | Military sees 11th COVID-19 death | House Democrats back Senate language on Confederate base names Trump administration revives talk of action on birthright citizenship MORE last Thursday. The exact provisions of that package were not made public but included a temporary extension of unemployment benefits, according to Meadows.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpMinnesota certifies Biden victory Trump tells allies he plans to pardon Michael Flynn: report Republican John James concedes in Michigan Senate race MORE and other white House officials have urged Democrats to agree to a short-term stimulus deal while Senate Republicans debate over the specifics of a longer-term package. Federal unemployment insurance payments totaling $600 per week expired on Friday, with no extension for the benefits in sight as millions of Americans faced rent payments on Aug. 1.