Trump vows economic relief amid growing coronavirus fears

Alexander Nazaryan
National Correspondent

WASHINGTON — Just hours after the stock market closed for the day Monday with a record-setting decline of 2,000 points on the Dow Jones average, President Trump took to the White House briefing room to announce steps he said would bolster the economy.  

“We are going to take care of — and have been taking care of — the American public and the American economy,” Trump said in his surprise appearance at the daily briefing of the White House coronavirus task force.

Specifically, Trump mentioned a “possible payroll tax cut or relief, substantial relief, very substantial relief.” Trump had floated a payroll tax cut back in August, but the proposal has taken on new significance as worries grow that the world economy could buckle under the weight of the coronavirus outbreak, which has crippled output and consumption in China.

The robust state of the U.S. economy, and the stock market gains since Trump took office, have been the president’s leading argument in his reelection campaign, but the coronavirus outbreak has the potential to undercut it seriously. The Dow closed at 23,851 points on Monday. It was approximately 20,000 points when Trump took office, reaching an all-time high of 29,568 points less than three weeks ago.

President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence at a briefing about the coronavirus outbreak. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

So far, the coronavirus has sickened 605 people and killed 19 in the United States.

Trump also promised that he would get help for hourly workers who lack paid sick leave, which could cause them to come to work while ill to avoid missing a shift. In his remarks on Monday evening, Trump said he wanted to make sure that hourly workers “don’t get penalized for something that’s not their fault.” He said that he would be “working with companies, small companies, large companies, a lot of companies” to craft a plan.

The president is also set to meet with senators on Tuesday. A leading Republican, Ted Cruz of Texas, will likely not be at the meeting, since he quarantined himself after learning that he had come in contact with a coronavirus-infected individual at the Conservative Political Action Conference, held in National Harbor, Md., late last month. Trump also attended the conference, as did other legislators with whom the president has met and spoken in the past week.

 In his comments on Monday night, Trump also said that the Small Business Administration would be “creating loans for small businesses.” He suggested that aid will be forthcoming to a number of sectors that have suffered as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, specifically naming airlines, cruise ship operators and hoteliers.

Also speaking at the Monday evening press conference was Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who has survived tumult in the Trump administration by hewing closely to the president’s sunny messaging. In keeping with that outlook, Mnuchin said that the United States has “the most resilient economy in the world,” though he did not explain how that resilience was gauged.

“The economy will be in very good shape a year from now,” Mnuchin said. “This is not like the financial crisis,” he said, referencing the housing market collapse of 2007.

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