Trump presses for $1trn stimulus as US coronavirus deaths cross 100

The Trump administration pressed on Tuesday for enactment of a $1trn stimulus package, possibly to include $1,000 direct payments to individual Americans, to blunt the economic pain from a coronavirus outbreak that has killed over 100 people in the country. With cases of the respiratory illness reported in all 50 states and the total number of known US infections surging past 6,400, millions of Americans hunkered down at home instead of commuting to work or going to school.

Roughly half of all Americans want the US government to act more aggressively to slow transmission of the coronavirus, such as banning large public gatherings and shutting down all overseas flights, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Tuesday.

President Donald Trump said progress was being made against the fast-spreading pathogen and predicted the U.S. economy would “come roaring back” when it slows. “It’s going to pop,” said Trump, who is seeking re-election on 3 November.

The Republican president’s tone on the pandemic has changed sharply over the past few days. After initially playing down the threat and focusing on the stock market, his administration has begun pushing for urgent action to stem the disease’s economic and human toll. The White House on Tuesday urged Americans to avoid groups larger than 10.

His administration sought more than $1 trillion for a stimulus package, including $50 billion for hard-hit airlines facing bankruptcy. “We’re going big,” Trump said. The Trump administration is also considering a plan to send checks to individual Americans of $1,000 to help them weather the crisis, though details of the proposal remained unclear.

High earners might not qualify for payments, which could be sent within the next two weeks, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said his chamber would this week pass a multibillion-dollar emergency spending bill cleared by the House of Representatives on Saturday, despite concerns from some Republicans. He said he told them to “gag and vote for it anyway.”

Mnuchin warned Republican senators privately that U.S. unemployment could hit 20% if Congress failed to act. McConnell said the Senate would not leave town until it passes a follow-up package. The House bill would provide free coronavirus testing, establish paid sick leave for most workers and expand unemployment compensation.

US stocks jumped on Tuesday, a day after their steepest declines since the 1987 crash, as the Federal Reserve took further steps to boost liquidity. The benchmark S&P 500 .SPX closed up 6%. Mnuchin said the government may shorten trading hours if necessary.

Trump said travel restrictions within the United States remained on the table. “You can do a national lockdown. Hopefully, we’re not going to need that,” Trump said. “It’s a very big step.” He asked Americans to avoid traveling and urged them to “buy less” when they go to stores after nationwide reports of anxious shoppers emptying grocery store shelves.

Primary election voters in Florida, Illinois and Arizona were met by gloved poll workers and hand sanitizer as they cast ballots on Tuesday in the state-by-state process of selecting a Democratic challenger to Trump in the November election. Ohio officials postponed that state’s primary due to coronavirus fears hours before voting was to begin.

More on this subject: Coronavirus

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