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Trump says he’s eager to sign economic relief bill into law

President Trump’s Coronavirus Task Force held another news briefing on Thursday evening, at which Trump reiterated his desire to sign the Senate’s new pandemic economic aid package into law. But Trump continues to differ from state governments and health officials regarding a timeline for relaxing physical distancing. Yamiche Alcindor was there, and she joins Judy Woodruff to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    An evening briefing by the Coronavirus Task Force at the White House wrapped up moments ago.

    And our Yamiche Alcindor joins us now for the very latest.

    So, Yamiche, we know, among other things, the president was talking about the compromise legislation that the Senate passed late last night, now headed to the House of Representatives.

    What is the president saying about how much this is going to help?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, the president is saying that this bill is going to help people who badly need the help.

    And he also says that he's eager to sign it. So, he's urging again the House to pass it and for it to end up on his desk. He could sign it as early as this week.

    I do want to walk through one big thing that this shows that Republicans and Democrats were compromising. And that's how passenger airlines were dealt with in this bill.

    To put up for people, the thing that's going on here is that you're getting $25 billion for worker salaries and benefits. This money would not need to be repaid directly, but airlines may offer the government some stock to compensate taxpayers.

    There's another $25 billion in loans and loan guarantees. Now, airlines had been lobbying aggressively for direct grants, and not just loans. But that was a compromise.

    And there's also $3 billion for contract workers. Those are people who help with baggage, who help with ticketing. So it's not just only airline employees, but contractors that are getting the help.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, separately, Yamiche, at this briefing, we understand the president was asked about and talked about those huge new numbers of unemployment claims, 3.3 million people filing for claims just in the last week.

    What is he — what is he, what are White House official saying about it?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, these unemployment claim numbers are stunning, 3.3 million people in the last week filing unemployment claims.

    The president said it's no one's fault, but he also talked about the fact that this means that Americans need to get back to work.

    Here's what he said just moments ago from the White House:

  • President Donald Trump:

    I heard the number. I mean, I heard it could be six million could be seven million. It's 3.3 or 3.2.

    But it's a lot of jobs. But I think we will come back very strong. The sooner we get back to work — every day that we stay out, it gets harder to bring it back very quickly. And our people don't want to stay out.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    So, the president there stressing again that he really wants to try to get people back to work.

    He has said that he wants to get people back as early as Easter Sunday, which would be only in about 17 days. That said, there are health officials who are saying we have not reached the peak of the coronavirus outbreak. So they're not sure whether or not we're even going to know how bad this outbreak might get at the time when the president wants to bring people back to work.

    Another thing, Secretary — Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, he talked about these unemployment claims, and he said these are irrelevant numbers, that people shouldn't focus too much on them. He said that because he thinks things might get worse and likely will get worse.

    As you heard, the president said he was thinking there might be six million, even seven million unemployment claims. So, Judy, we might see even more staggering numbers as the weeks go on.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Sounds like they're expecting it to get worse.

    And, finally, Yamiche, what are they saying at this point about efforts to address this coronavirus pandemic head on and what's needed in this country?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, there continues to be this tension between the federal government and the White House and state governments and governors.

    The president today held a call with governors. There was some back and forth. The president said it wasn't a too contentious call. But the president also had a back-and-forth with Washington state Governor Jay Inslee.

    Jay Inslee said, after the president said the federal government should be a backup, the governor said, "We don't need a backup, we need a Tom Brady," referring to the Super Bowl champion Tom Brady, talking about the fact that the federal government needs to be doing more.

    So you hear a lot of governments — governors saying, we want more.

    And the president also wrote a letter to governors today saying that he's thinking about maintaining, reducing or increasing social distancing mitigation measures. He said that's going to be based on data.

    A part of that letter, we will put up for people. It says the government is thinking about categorizing counties as high risk, medium risk or low risk.

    So you have there President Trump again pushing forward, trying to get people back to work sooner. But you even have some Republican governors, including Larry Hogan in Maryland, saying, well, we need help with testing facilities on that call.

    So, even as President Trump is writing to governors saying, we need to get this ball rolling and get the government back up, you have both Democrats and Republicans telling the president, wait, we still need more resources, and we still need to figure out how bad this is going to get.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Striking that there's still this kind of disagreement at such a high level.

    Yamiche Alcindor, reporting for us from the White House, thank you, Yamiche.

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