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How Senate bill would ease pandemic’s economic burden

Wall Street soared Tuesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average gaining a record 2,100 points. The gains came as the Senate continued to debate the details of a possible economic recovery package for Americans suffering from the coronavirus pandemic. Lisa Desjardins and Yamiche Alcindor join Judy Woodruff to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, as we mentioned, Wall Street soared today, on hopes that the U.S. Senate would approve an economic rescue plan. The Dow Jones industrial average gained a record 2,100 points to close at 20705. The Nasdaq rose 557 points, and the S&P 500 added 210.

    For more on the rescue plan, and other efforts to battle the pandemic, we turn again to Lisa Desjardins at the Capitol, and to Yamiche Alcindor at the White House.

    To Lisa, I'm going to start with you first.

    Individual Americans, in particular those who may become unemployed as a result of the coronavirus, what's in this plan for them?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Well, that's important.

    First of all, an update. We are still waiting to see the plan and the text. And we do not know yet if there will be a vote tonight. It looks more likely a vote tomorrow on this, as they're putting ink on paper.

    Judy, absolutely, this is what Americans want to know. Let's start with those who have lost their jobs or could lose their jobs. Here's what's in this for them for the unemployed. There would be up to $600 over usual unemployment benefits for each person.

    That would mean close to full pay for most Americans, not every, but for most middle-class Americans, you could get an unemployment benefit of full pay. That is for four months, Judy. And that is an increase over the original plan for this bill.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Lisa, we know another important piece of this legislative plan has to do with small businesses.

    Tell us about what's in there for that for them.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    This is the part that they agreed on the earliest, but here's where we are, $350 billion in loans for small businesses.

    Now, those loans will become grants, essentially, they will be forgiven, if those small businesses keep those workers on the payroll, keep those workers paid. And the Treasury Department, I'm told, has a provision in this where they can use tax credits to cut those checks more quickly than usual, get that loan money out more quickly for small businesses, small businesses making up 48 percent of the work force here in America.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now to you, Yamiche.

    Another part of this, of course, has to do with the larger businesses, corporations. And we know that this is an area where the White House apparently gave ground on. What do we know about that?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    That's right.

    Well, the president says that he's eager to get a bill passed in Congress. And in doing so, the White House, they say, made compromises.

    To put up some of the compromises that they made, it's dealing with large corporations. There's going to be $500 billion going for these large business loans. There's going to be now an inspector general and an oversight board to look at how Secretary Mnuchin, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, disburses these loans.

    And then Treasury Secretary Mnuchin himself will have to answer to Congress. So, he will be able to have — be called up to Congress to answer questions.

    So, what we see here is the White House saying, look, we want to make a deal. Democrats, they were saying at one point, were trying to add all sorts of things that they thought was not related to the coronavirus bill. But we now see the White House really moving closer and closer to having that deal done.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And we know at the same time, Yamiche, this is a — I'm sorry — to Lisa now.

    Let me come back to you on this.

    This is a bill that does deal more than with just businesses. It also is going to have some help for hospitals, for states. Tell us more about that part of it.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's right.

    Some important provisions in here, Judy. We're told that it has $130 billion in it for hospitals, including rural hospitals, $150 billion for states, counties and cities, for local governments.

    And then also, Judy, this has in it, we're told, a freeze on federal student loan payments. Now, Judy, we want all the details of all this. The details are important. We're waiting.

    But one big detail, Judy, we're told the price tag is over 200 and — I'm sorry — $2 trillion. Judy, that would make that the largest single bill in American history, the longest — largest single legislative measure for one-time spending in history.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And just quickly, Lisa, at this point, we think we know everything that's in there, or not?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    We don't. We don't know. We don't know what's in it all the way, not yet.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Ah.

    And, again, on timing, Lisa, you said it may not be tonight.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Right. It may not be tonight, could be tomorrow.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, finally, Yamiche, let me come back to you on the — with this last question.

    And that is what the president had to say today about getting the country back to business. It's something he raised yesterday. He spoke more about it today.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    That's right, Judy.

    President Trump is making it crystal clear that he wants to try to ease the coronavirus guidelines that the White House issued, which were focused on social distancing and telling people not to be in groups of larger than 10, by April 12. That would be Easter Sunday.

    The president said he wants to see churches packed by then. Now, health officials have stressed repeatedly that this coronavirus outbreak could last all the way into the summer. President Trump himself has said that this could last until August.

    But the president is making clear that he wants to ease those guidelines. He says that he believes more people will die if the economy is slowed down than if the virus hurts people or kills people.

    So, the president there is stressing that. But it's not clear whether or not he's getting that guidance and that data from health officials.

    The other thing to note, Judy, is that the president is getting pushed still by governors to enact the Defense Production Act. The president just now — he's still speaking at the White House in this hour at a White House briefing.

    He's saying that he still doesn't need to do that act, that, instead, American companies are volunteering, and there's enough medical equipment being made to meet the needs of hospitals all across the country.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, still not using the full federal power that he has?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    That's right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right. So much to follow.

    Yamiche Alcindor, Lisa Desjardins, thank you both.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Thanks.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We appreciate it.

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