Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer on Wednesday warned of an economic recession as the coronavirus spreads through the country and criticized the Trump administration’s latest call for issuing $1,000 checks to Americans in response.
“The coronavirus is slowing our economy to a near standstill and we are almost certainly anticipating a recession,” Schumer said in a speech on the Senate floor. He added that expanded unemployment benefits would be a more effective way of helping workers than a $1,000 check from Washington.
President Donald Trump announced a plan on Tuesday to send money to Americans immediately to ease the economic shock from the coronavirus crisis and said military-style hospitals will likely be deployed to virus hot zones to care for patients.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, appearing in the White House press briefing room, said he was talking with congressional leaders about a plan to send checks immediately to displaced Americans. Trump said some people should get $1,000.
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Scrambling to get a grip on an unpredictable virus that has disrupted Americans in all walks of life, Trump predicted the economic challenge will be tough short term but that the economy will eventually rebound.
“We’re going to win and I think we’re going to win faster than people think, I hope,” said Trump, surrounded by top advisers on the coronavirus crisis.
Vice President Mike Pence said the government was urging construction companies to donate N95 face masks to local hospitals and not purchase any more to help doctors.
Pence said the Army Corps of Engineers can deploy field hospitals quickly to help handle the influx of virus patients. Trump said he was looking at sites where they might be needed.
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Trump on Monday urged Americans to work diligently for 15 days to try to slow the spread of the virus by avoiding crowds and staying home for the most part.
“We’re asking our older generation to stay in their homes. … We’re asking the younger generation to stop going out,” said Trump adviser Deborah Birx.
The abrupt slowdown has staggered the U.S. airline industry and other economic sectors and has left an increasing number of Americans unemployed.
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With markets gyrating and mostly on a downward trend, Mnuchin said the U.S. stock markets should remain open to assure Americans that they can access their money.
“Everybody wants to keep it open. We may get to a point where we shorten the hours, if that’s something they need to do, but Americans should know that we are going to do everything that they have access to their money at their banks, to the money in their 401(k)s, and to the money in stocks,” Mnuchin said.
Trump urged Americans not to travel and said he had not ruled out travel restrictions to parts of the country. He said Americans just “enjoy their living room.”
Globally over 200,000 people have been infected and more than 8,000 have died, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracking website. The U.S. death toll has reached 114, with nearly 6,500 people having tested positive for the disease.
(Reuters contributed to this report.)