Just a few hours after the markets closed the books on one of its worst trading days since the dawn of the financial crisis, President Donald Trump and members of the coronavirus task force took to the podium in the White House press briefing room to tease an economic stimulus package in an effort to stabilize shaky markets.
In a brief statement before the press corps, the president hinted at a possible payroll tax cut and emergency support for businesses looking to guarantee that hourly workers are protected from job loss and lost wages as social distancing becomes recommended practice in response to the spread of COVID-19.
“We’re going to be talking about hourly wage earners getting help so that they can be in a position where they’re not going to miss a paycheck,” the president said. “So that they don’t get penalized for something that’s not their fault.”
Trump intends to speak with representatives of the Small Business Administration to create potential loans for small businesses affected by response efforts from federal, state and local governments.
“This is about providing proper tools and liquidity to get through the next few months,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, at the briefing.
The president left the podium without responding to reporters’ questions about whether he had been tested for COVID-19, after reports surfaced earlier today that several members of Congress who had met with the president had been exposed to the disease last week at a gathering of national conservative leadership.
Vice President Mike Pence then outlined the latest steps from the U.S. government to respond to the spread of the disease while emphasizing most Americans’ risk of contracting the disease remained low.
“The risk of contracting the coronavirus to the American public remains low and the risk of serious disease also remains low,” the vice president said yet again.
Meanwhile, the American private health industry is working overtime to develop vaccines, treatments and diagnostic testing tools to buttress the work being done in national laboratories.
As more private tools come to market, the question will be who will ultimately foot the bill for treatment of the disease as it spreads.
Some epidemiologists contend that the U.S. remains unprepared for the severity of the disease’s spread, and that even a good scenario means that millions of Americans will be sickened and need some sort of consultation or care.
The government’s response to stabilize markets follows the advice laid out in a series of policy suggestions from the International Monetary Fund and advocated by Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former head of the Food and Drug Administration, who has returned to the private sector as a managing director of the venture capital firm NEA.