Trump said yesterday 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.
“We’ll be discussing a possible payroll tax cut or relief, substantial relief, very substantial relief, that’s a big number,” Trump told reporters.
House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer 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 $8.3bn (£6.4bn) 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 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 on 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.
All of which is all very well, but the president’s lacklustre response is still not inspiring confidence among Americans, with tweets like this hardly helping matters.
John T Bennett has this report on anxiety spreading faster than the virus itself.