Trump to declare national emergency over coronavirus, allowing officials to direct billions in aid to those fighting virus

  • In Business
  • 2020-03-13 19:06:53Z
Trump to declare national emergency over coronavirus, allowing officials to direct billions in aid to those fighting virus
Trump to declare national emergency over coronavirus, allowing officials to direct billions in aid to those fighting virus  

Pelosi: House to vote on relief package

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House would move forward with a vote Friday on a sweeping package to confront the coronavirus.

The bill would include free virus testing for all Americans, including the uninsured, as well as two weeks of paid sick leave for those who have to skip work due to the virus. It would also included expanded federal food assistance, such as seniors' meals, student lunches and food banks.

"The three most important parts of this bill are: testing, testing, testing," she said in her televised remarks at the U.S. Capitol.

Pelosi has been in constant communication with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who is leading negotiations for the Trump administration.

Her remarks came amid reports that President Donald Trump is expected to declare a national emergency Friday over the coronavirus outbreak, a move that would enable federal officials to direct billions of dollars in federal disaster money to responders fighting the virus.

The pandemic has killed dozens in the U.S., canceled major sporting events, limited commercial travel, roiled stock markets and transformed everyday life around the globe.

- Ledyard King and Nicholas Wu

Trump to declare national emergency

President Donald Trump is expected to declare a national emergency Friday over the coronavirus outbreak, a move that would enable federal officials to direct billions of dollars in disaster money to responders fighting the virus, according to a senior administration official.

The declaration would be among a series of steps the administration is taking to try to boost the confidence of the American public and the financial markets in its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump, who is scheduled to hold a news conference at 3 p.m. EDT, has been heavily criticized for the administration's response, including problems rolling out test kits for the virus and an Oval Office speech he delivered Wednesday that exacerbated huge losses on Wall Street. Investors were shaken by misstatements in the speech and what many saw as the lack of a broader strategy to address the crisis.

At the 3 p.m. news conference, Trump is also expected to weigh in on a relief package negotiated between Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that would provide paid sick leave to workers, among other steps to blunt the impact on the economy of virus-related disruptions.

The national emergency is expected to be declared under the 1988 Stafford Act, which authorizes federal assistance to local governments, usually for natural disasters. The Stafford Act is one several laws in a president's extensive emergency powers toolkit. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar declared a public health emergency over the virus in late January. That step made it easier for states to redirect staff responding to the virus.

The nation's Disaster Relief Fund has a balance of about $42 billion, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Debt relief, airline help under consideration, Mnuchin says

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said debt relief for student loans and help for the hard-hit airline industry are under consideration for the next coronavirus rescue package. Speaking to CNBC as a deal was imminent on a separate, near-term package that includes paid emergency leave, Mnuchin said President Donald Trump has no intention of closing financial markets.

Mnuchin also said:

  • Congress and the administration have "100 things on our list" for the next possible package, and added "The president wants a stimulus package."

  • Financial authorities are ready to provide liquidity to parts of the economy taking a hit from shutdowns.

  • A "big rebound" in economic activity could come by the end of the year, drawing a contrast with the Great Recession that began after the 2008 market meltdown.

  • "This is not like financial crisis where people don't know when this will end. ... By the end of the year, we're going to expect we're going to have a big rebound in economic activity," he said.

  • Asked about suspending student debt of three months, Mnuchin said: "That's on our list of 50 different items we're bringing to the president for a decision." He added: "We're like in the second inning of getting things done. We'll be passing more legislation."

  • He's spoken to the airlines: "That is the next priority on my list," Mnuchin said while also mentioning hotels, the cruise industry and small businesses.

  • Tariff rollbacks are not under consideration by Trump.

Louisiana will delay presidential primary

Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin announced Friday he has requested to delay the state's presidential primary for two months due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.

The presidential primary was slated for April 4, but will be moved to June 20.

2020 race:: How coronavirus is changing the 2020 presidential campaign for Trump, Biden and Sanders

Ardoin, during a press conference, said there are provisions in place that allow for the delay of primaries and early voting in "declared states of emergency" as a way to "protect the integrity of the electoral process"

"Today I have certified that the state of emergency exists and requested that the government issue an executive order postponing the elections this spring," he said.

According to the Monroe, La., News Star, Gov. John Bel Edwards will grant the delay.

Louisiana is the only state that has announced it will delay its primaries due to coronavirus.

Former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign released a statement in response to Louisiana's primary delay, saying that "our elections can be conducted safely in consultation with public health officials."

"Voting is at the very heart of who we are as a democracy," Biden deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield said in a statement. "If voters are feeling healthy, not exhibiting symptoms, and don't believe they've been exposed to COVID-19, please vote on Tuesday."

- Rebecca Morin

G-7 leaders will hold virtual summit to discuss coronavirus

President Donald Trump and six other world leaders will hold a virtual summit Monday to coordinate a global response to the coronavirus, French President Emmanuel Macron said Friday.

The videoconference of G-7 leaders will focus on research efforts to find a vaccine, as well as an economic response to the crisis, which has rocked global markets and sparked fears of a recession.

Following a call with Trump, "we agreed to organize an extraordinary Leaders Summit by video conference on Monday on Covid-19," Macron announced on Twitter.

- Deirdre Shesgreen

Trump to hold press conference on coronavirus

President Donald Trump will speak on the coronavirus on Friday, he announced on Twitter.

Trump said he would hold a press conference at 3 p.m. EDT. It comes as the White House is negotiating with House Democrats on a bill intended to limit the economic impact of the virus, and as the administration is scrambling to increase the number of coronavirus tests available to the public.

Trump has significantly ramped up the number of times he has taken questions in a press conference setting since the coronavirus spread to the U.S. He has twice appeared in the briefing room to take questions on his administration's response. He appeared in the briefing room again earlier this week but did not take questions.

The president otherwise has a relatively light public schedule, though the White House official schedule rarely reflects the totality of the president's activities. Other than the press conference, Trump is expected to meet with "industry executives" on the virus at 1:30 p.m. EDT.

- John Fritze

Mnuchin: coronavirus response deal 'very close'

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin sounded a positive note Friday morning, saying a deal on a coronavirus response package with Congress was imminent.

"We're very close to getting this done," he told CNBC.

Mnuchin has been the lead negotiator for the White House on the deal, speaking frequently with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., over the past 24 hours.

Pelosi said the deal, which is expected to provide free coronavirus testing, paid emergency leave and increased unemployment coverage, is expected to come to the House floor for a vote Friday.

Despite Mnuchin's optimism about a sweeping deal, he also echoed health officials' warnings of a worsening situation.

"People should understand the numbers (of infections) are going to go up before they go down," he said

Mnuchin said after this deal is reached, he expects the administration will come back to Congress in the coming weeks for a package of economic stimulus measures (Trump has been pushing for a payroll tax cut) which he predicted would lift the country.

"We will get through this and the economy will be stronger than ever when we get through this," he said. "By the end of the year, we're going to have a big rebound in economic activity."

- Ledyard King

Trump knocks fed, repeats call for payroll tax cuts

President Donald Trump lashed out at Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell to lower rates after repeating his call for Congress to include a payroll tax cut in a sweeping, multibillion-dollar package in response to the growing coronavirus pandemic.

"The Federal Reserve must FINALLY lower the Fed Rate to something comparable to their competitor Central Banks." Trump wrote Friday. "Jay Powell and group are putting us at a decided economic & physiological disadvantage. Should never have been this way. Also, STIMULATE!"

Trump also renewed calls for a payroll tax cut holiday on Friday as House Democrats and administration officials signaled they were close to reaching a deal.

"If you want to get money into the hands of people quickly & efficiently, let them have the full money that they earned, APPROVE A PAYROLL TAX CUT until the end of the year, December 31," Trump tweeted. "Then you are doing something that is really meaningful. Only that will make a big difference!"

Democrats dismissed the proposal of payroll tax cuts, which are taken from workers' paychecks to fund Social Security and Medicare. The president has particularly failed to shore up support among Senate Republicans.

He first pitched the idea to Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill Monday and again proposed it during an Oval Office address to the nation Wednesday

- Courtney Subramanian

House may vote on coronavirus response Friday

The House appears close to approving a massive federal response to confront the intensifying coronavirus pandemic that has killed dozens across the U.S., roiled financial markets and disrupted the lives of millions of Americans.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi late Thursday said congressional leaders and the White House were close to finalizing a deal on a sweeping, multibillion-dollar package that would guarantee free testing for all Americans - including the uninsured - and expand worker protections such as sick leave and unemployment insurance.

Final details of the sweeping package could be unveiled by late Friday morning, with a vote by the full House possibly later in the day, Pelosi said.

Coronavirus questions: You asked us tons of questions about the coronavirus. We're answering them.

"Time is of the essence, and this bill must be passed and sent to the Senate," she said in a statement issued late Thursday. "The House will then get to work on a third emergency response package that will take further effective action that protects the health, economic security and well-being of the American people."

According to a press release from Pelosi, the measure would:

  • Mandate free testing "for everyone who needs a test, including the uninsured."

  • Set aside up to 14 days of paid sick leave and up to three months of paid family and medical leave for workers affected by the coronavirus contamination.

  • Expand unemployment benefits to workers sent home due to the crisis.

  • Ensure availability of food assistance such as SNAP, student meals, seniors' nutrition and food banks. Democrats were able to place a temporary hold on work requirements under SNAP during the public health crisis.

  • Provide federal Medicaid funds to help states defray costs associated with the crisis.

Even if it passes Friday and gets taken up by the Senate early next week, enacting all the measures will take time.

March sadness: NCAA cancels men's and women's basketball tournament due to coronavirus concerns

The tremendous shortage of fully complete test kits, for example, means access remains a major hurdle even if the cost of the procedure is covered by private insurers or the government.

Still, the deal would represent a major breakthrough and a shot of confidence intended to calm rattled markets and anxious Americans.

Pelosi, who had several conversations throughout Thursday with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, told reporters outside her office Thursday night that both sides have "resolved most of our differences" and the remaining issues can be settled in future bills.

Pelosi said she was particularly stunned by the sudden cratering of the financial markets, which have nosedived in recent weeks and deepened worries about a possible recession due to the rapidly spreading virus.

The Standard & Poor's 500 entered a bear market for the first time since the financial crisis, and the Dow endured its biggest one-day percentage drop since the 1987 crash.

"That was very shocking," Pelosi said of the markets. "I'm not going to go into that because what we're trying to do is be a positive."

Positive test: Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's wife, tests positive for coronavirus

The aggressive approach comes a day after Trump announced a suspension of all air travel from the European Union to the U.S. for 30 days, starting midnight Friday.

The bill is being considered a week after Congress passed an $8.3 billion package that includes more than $3 billion for research and the development of vaccines and $2.2 billion that will help in prevention, preparedness and response. It also allocates $1 billion for state and local response, about half of which would go to specific cities. Each state would receive no less than $4 million.

Trump signed the bill last Friday.

Ted Cruz extends his self-quarantine

Phoning into "CBS This Morning" from a self-imposed quarantine, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said he would extend his self-quarantine after learning he came into contact with another individual who tested positive for the coronavirus.

Cruz, who self-quarantined earlier this month after interacting with a person at the Conservative Political Action Conference who later tested positive, told CBS he would self-quarantine until March 17. The Texas Republican said he had "no symptoms" but had interacted with a "second individual who has tested positive - a Spanish government official who came to my office in D.C."

"On March 3 I had a meeting in the conference room with him for about 20 minutes," Cruz said, noting he had not been tested for the virus because he had no symptoms.

Cruz and two other Republican lawmakers quarantined themselves after coming into contact with an infected individual at CPAC in National Harbor, Maryland. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz, Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., and Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., have also self-quarantined.

- Nicholas Wu

Trump attacks CDC amid coronavirus

Facing pressure for his own administration's response to the coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump is increasingly slamming the efforts under his predecessor to prepare for an outbreak - often with dubious claims.

Trump started his latest attack on President Barack Obama with a tweet late Thursday that repeated a narrative that has increasingly cropped among his supporters: That Obama "took 6 months" to declare a national emergency to respond to the 2009 Swine Flu outbreak.

The claim overlooks the fact that Obama, just like Trump, declared a public health emergency early in the swine flu outbreak. That designation from Obama came in April 2009, before the H1N1 virus was declared a pandemic and at a time when there were only 20 cases in the U.S.

For the coronavirus, the Trump administration declared a public health emergency in January.

A public health emergency is different - and less significant - than a national emergency. Obama declared a national emergency about six months into the swine flu outbreak. Trump has yet to declare a national emergency for coronavirus.

Trump continued the attack on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a tweet early Friday morning.

"For decades the @CDCgov looked at, and studied, its testing system, but did nothing about it," Trump claimed. "President Obama made changes that only complicated things further."

The Trump administration has been under enormous pressure, including from governors and members of his own party, to speed up the distribution of coronavirus tests. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, acknowledged Thursday that the testing system is "failing."

But it's not accurate that an Obama-era rule limited third-party laboratories from developing and running tests for the coronavirus during an emergency, according to an Associated Press fact check this month.

The Trump administration reversed a policy that its own Food and Drug Administration put in place, the Associated Press said. That new regulation allows labs to develop coronavirus tests before the agency reviews them. Previously, the FDA only authorized tests made by the CDC.

Draft FDA guidance considered during the Obama administration called for tighter regulation of laboratory tests but that guidance, which did not pertain to public health emergencies, never went into effect, the Associated Press said.

- John Fritze

Contributing: Christal Hayes

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Coronavirus: Trump to declare national emergency as House vote looms


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