Congress Just Spent $2 Trillion on Coronavirus Relief. It’s Eyeing More.
With the $2 trillion economic stimulus just signed into law on Friday, Washington is already considering a fourth response package to combat the spread of the coronavirus and bolster a shuddering economy.
By Emily Cochrane
WASHINGTON — As the toll of the coronavirus continues to rise — with more state shutdowns, extensive new layoffs and overwhelmed hospitals — lawmakers and administration officials are turning their focus to what more is needed to counter the pandemic and protect a battered economy.
President Trump, in a stark change of tone, told Americans on Monday that the peak of fatalities from Covid-19 will not arrive for two more weeks, pleading with the public to continue social distancing in order to get through “a very vital 30 days” that would be a time of national challenge.
“This is our shared patriotic duty,” he said at a news conference in the White House Rose Garden. “We’re sort of putting it all on the line, this 30 days — so important because we have to get back. But the more we dedicate ourselves today, the more quickly we will emerge on the other side of the crisis, and that’s the time we’re waiting for.”
Officials are beginning to outline elements of another government relief package to add to the federal response, only days after Mr. Trump signed into law a $2 trillion economic stimulus, the largest in American history.
“We have a list of issues that are immediate — that have a short fuse,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in a nearly 40-minute telephone interview on Monday from her office in the Capitol. She ticked off a list of Democratic priorities, including increased protections and equipment for workers on the front lines of the coronavirus, expanded paid leave, a major new infrastructure investment and additional funds for state and local governments.
“This isn’t about how fast we can do it,” she added. “It’s how fast we must do it.”
It is not clear how quickly such a bill could materialize — Republican leaders and Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, have said they are not yet certain that more help would be needed, or when — but in outlining her plans on Monday, Ms. Pelosi made it clear that the path to any further government assistance would run through her office, and that Democrats would press for another large package sooner rather than later.
By Monday afternoon, more than half of the 50 states were under a directive to remain at home, meaning that roughly three out of four Americans are or will soon be asked to avoid leaving their homes as part of a broad effort to stall the spread of the virus.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the United States’ leading infectious disease expert, said that the country as a whole would see the death toll rise. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw over 100,000 deaths,” he said.
The Comfort, a Navy hospital ship, docked in Manhattan on Monday to provide relief to New York’s overwhelmed hospitals and to help treat patients who do not have the coronavirus. And even with billions of dollars in funds being allocated to both states and hospitals, officials say more will probably be needed as the virus continues to spread and portions of the economy continue to shutter.
More than 66,500 cases had been identified in New York State by Monday, with the death toll surpassing 1,200, by far the most of any state.
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