As the number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus passes 9,000 in the U.S. Thursday morning, and the northern border to Canada closes to nonessential travel, President Donald Trump prepares to visit Federal Emergency Management Agency Headquarters Thursday, while his GOP allies enter negotiations for “phase three” of coronavirus relief measures.
The negotiations come as healthcare workers across the country complain they’re grappling with CDC guidelines on personal protective equipment as supplies like masks and gloves dwindle — and amid alarming data that the disease is hitting younger people harder than projected.
Expected to be one of the largest emergency spending packages in American history, the $1 trillion “phase three” that the White House and Republicans are proposing breaks down to: $500 billion for two rounds of $250 billion of direct payments for Americans to go out around April 6 and May 18; $300 billion to help small businesses meet payroll; $50 billion for the airlines; and $150 billion for loans and loan guarantees for other parts of the economy.
Trump signed “phase two” of coronavirus economic relief Wednesday night after the Senate overwhelmingly passed the House-backed bill hours earlier. It ensures free COVID-19 testing, paid leave for some workers, bolsters unemployment insurance, increases spending on health insurance for the poor and adds $1 billion in food aid.
But Senate Majority Leader McConnell vowed earlier in the week that the Senate wouldn’t leave town until a third relief package is on the president’s desk.
With two members of Congress testing positive for COVID-19 overnight, it will be all the more difficult to get the bill quickly passed the House floor, as concerns grow that the virus is spreading around Capitol Hill — and McConnell still needs House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on board with the legislation.
Here are Thursday’s most significant developments in Washington:
Here is how developments unfolded on Thursday.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin gave an update to the White House’s proposal to send money directly to Americans affected by COVID-19, saying the White House aims to send $1,000 checks to most adult Americans and an additional $500 per child, in a phone interview Thursday morning with Fox Business’s Maria Bartiromo.
“The plan is 500 billion dollars in two tranches. The first one would be $1,000 per person, $500 dollars per child,” Mnuchin said. “As soon as Congress passes this, we get this out in three weeks.”
Mnuchin went on to say another round of identical payments would be sent out six weeks after that, if the country was still experiencing a national emergency.
It’s one part of the trillion dollar plan in “phase 3″ of the federal government’s economic response to offset COVID-19.
Ambassador Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, got office space in the West Wing, according to White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere.
Birx raised concerns on Wednesday about reports coming out of Italy and France showing “some young people getting seriously ill and very seriously ill in the ICUs” — a threat the administration appears to be taking seriously.
“We have not seen any significant mortality in the children, but we are concerned about the early reports coming out of Italy and France,” Birx said. “Even if it’s a rare occurrence, it may be seen more frequently in that group, and be evident now.”
Politico first reported the news this morning.
In his first tweet of the day, President Trump said, “We are going to WIN, sooner rather than later!”
Trump said in Wednesday’s coronavirus task force briefing he is fighting an “invisible enemy.”
He also signed — but had not yet invoked — a rarely used emergency power called the Defense Production Act, which gives the president the power to direct civilian businesses to help meet orders for products necessary for the national defense.
ABC News’ Ben Gittleson, Jordyn Phelps, Anne Flaherty, and Michelle Stoddart contributed to this report.