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Trump vows ‘major’ steps to aid US economy amid coronavirus rise

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) — President Donald Trump on Monday said he will be taking “major” steps to gird the economy against the impact of the spreading coronavirus outbreak and will discuss a payroll tax cut with congressional Republicans on Tuesday.

President Donald Trump speaks to the media near Vice President Mike Pence, front right, and Surgeon General Jerome Adams, back right, during the daily coronavirus-related briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C. on  March 9, 2020.  REUTERS

“We’ll be discussing a possible payroll tax cut or relief, substantial relief, very substantial relief, that’s a big number,” Trump told reporters.

He did not provide details but said a news conference will be held on Tuesday.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the top two Democrats in Congress, told reporters that any payroll tax cut should be limited to those affected by the virus.

They also said they are crafting new legislation, on the heels of $8.3 billion coronavirus funding enacted last week, that might be ready to be introduced this week.

Among proposals that could be included are ensuring water supplies are maintained for people even if they cannot pay their bills as a result of the crisis, expanded unemployment insurance, medical leave and providing food for children who rely on school nutrition programs if schools are shut.

Vice President Mike Pence said the administration was consulting Congress on providing paid sick leave to workers, an idea that Democrats already have been trying to advance.

The stepped-up response to the coronavirus came as the number of confirmed cases in the United States hit 605, according to Johns Hopkins University. Three additional deaths in Washington state, according to officials, brought the total nationwide to 25.

Earlier Monday, Johns Hopkins said that worldwide, there are 113,584 cases, with 3,996 deaths, the majority in China.

The Trump administration moves came as stock markets plunged and top health officials urged some people to avoid cruise ships, air travel and big public gatherings.

The administration was planning to huddle in coming days with executives of the banking, hospital and health insurance industries.

While an across-the-board payroll tax cut has been under discussion, top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow and others have advocated specific tax credits, loans or direct subsidies to certain industries or hard-hit areas.

A payroll tax cut could encourage consumer spending and help households that might otherwise struggle to make rent and mortgage payments on time or pay medical bills if family members’ work hours are reduced during the coronavirus outbreak.

In Florida, state health officials said everyone returning from China, Iran, South Korea and Italy must isolate for 14 days while travelers from other countries affected by the outbreak should monitor their health.

Thirty-four U.S. states and the District of Columbia have reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention infections of the respiratory illness Covid-19 that can lead to pneumonia. Louisiana had its first presumed coronavirus case, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced on Monday.

As worries over the virus deepened, a wave of selling took over Wall Street. The Dow fell a record 2,000 points when trading opened and the S&P 500 posted its largest single-day percentage drop since December 2008, the depths of the financial crisis. A nearly 25% plunge in oil prices contributed to fears of a looming recession.

Trump, who often points to the stock market as a gauge of his economic record, criticized news media organizations’ coverage of the coronavirus outbreak and accused Democrats of hyping the situation “far beyond what the facts would warrant.”

November 2020 pssnewsletter

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