News for Monday, March 23rd from across the nation and stories of interest from BasinLife.com
A second vote on the latest U.S. Rescue Package has failed. Senate Democrats blocked today’s deal of at least $1.6 trillion from advancing for a second straight day Monday, seeking further changes to GOP-written legislation aimed at easing the economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic.
A midafternoon vote to take up the bill failed with 49 votes in favor and 46 against, too few to clear the 60-vote threshold. Democrats and Republicans disagree over conditions on hundreds of billions in funding for America’s largest companies and the level of aid for hospitals, states, and unemployed workers, among other matters.
“Democrats are trying to get things done—not making partisan speech after partisan speech,” responded Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) “We are very close to reaching a deal,” said Mr. Schumer about his negotiations with the Trump administration and said he hoped to reach a deal later Monday.
Republicans accused Democrats of trying to add unrelated items to the bill, such as measures favoring renewable energy and unions. Democrats fired back that Republicans were trying to exclude rape-crisis centers from benefiting from a financial-assistance lifeline.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Mr. Schumer met on Monday morning, after speaking in the middle of the night to find a way around the impasse, which turned on Democratic concerns that the legislation would help businesses more than the public.
Emerging from the meeting, Mr. Mnuchin told reporters: “we knocked off a bunch of things on the list already and we’re closing out issues.” The contents of the mammoth package were in flux, with Democrats pushing for more money for hospitals, direct aid to states, and more generous unemployment benefits.
For individual Americans, the centerpiece of the bill is a measure that would provide a one-time payment of $1,200 per person and $500 per child, with the payments cut off at a certain income level. The measure would also expand unemployment benefits, providing for 39 weeks of assistance, up from the 26 weeks that most states offer.
Among the most controversial items is the $500 billion designated to help distressed businesses, either by making loans directly or backstopping any losses in lending facilities launched or expanded by the Federal Reserve. Of the total, about $75 billion would go directly to distressed industries such as air carriers and equipment suppliers, with the rest available via the Federal Reserve.
Democrats worry that the money, under the control of the Treasury secretary, could become a political tool to reward favored companies, given that President Trump has openly expressed support for particular industries like the cruise industry. Democrats also want to set stricter conditions on the financial aid, including to encourage companies to retain workers.
The number of confirmed cases in the U.S. surpassed 32,000 on Sunday, a 10-fold increase from a week earlier, and for senators, the virus hit home, with Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, becoming the first to announce a positive test for Covid-19. Two other GOP senators who had closely interacted with Mr. Paul said they would quarantine, narrowing the Republican majority in the Senate.
A big portion of the funds—currently estimated at $75 billion—would go to distressed companies, including in the areas of travel and critical infrastructure, according to a draft of the legislation. In addition, air carriers, air cargo providers and major aviation suppliers would be eligible to receive funds, potentially benefiting corporations such as Boeing Co., Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and General Electric Co.
The Fed launched two facilities last week, each with $10 billion of support from the Treasury, using broad authority the central bank can invoke to lend during emergencies. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Sunday that the new funding could support $4 trillion in lending programs.
The most recent version of the bill seeks to ensure that those without any income can receive $1,200 per adult and $500 per child in one-time payments from the government.
Some provisions in the bill affecting small businesses would represent direct aid to businesses, like loans that would be forgiven if businesses meet requirements for keeping workers on the payroll.
Mr. Trump said he was optimistic a deal would still be reached after saying that he had ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency to supply New York, California and Washington with thousands of hospital beds. The federal government would also provide the three states with hundreds of thousands of masks and surgical gowns, and deliver more respirators to them.
New York state has emerged as the center of the crisis in the U.S., with 15,777 confirmed cases reported Sunday—about 4,000 infections more than a day earlier and thousands more than any other U.S. state.
States around the country were increasing efforts to acquire essential equipment for doctors and health-care employees, while also tightening restrictions on people’s movement
State lockdown measures imposed across the U.S. vary in the scope and severity of the limits on where people may travel, work and shop away from their homes.
No state is completely preventing people from going outside or to work, but some measures were more drastic than others. California Gov. Gavin Newsom effectively banned residents from socializing outside their homes, while New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo went further in cordoning off the elderly and sick populations.
Gov. Newsom has ordered everyone in California to stay home except to get food, care for a relative or friend, obtain health care or go to an “essential job.” People working in critical infrastructure sectors may continue to go to their jobs.
• People outside must keep at least 6 feet of distance from each other.
• Dine-in restaurants, bars and nightclubs, entertainment venues, gyms and fitness studios are closed.
• Gas stations, pharmacies, grocery stores, convenience stores, banks and laundry services remain open.
• Days after closing Las Vegas casinos, Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered a shutdown of “non-essential businesses,” including movie theaters, massage parlors, brothels, nightclubs, hair and nail salons and gyms.
• Effective 8 p.m. Sunday, all businesses that weren’t deemed essential must shut down their in-office personnel functions.
Gov. Tom Wolf ordered “non-life-sustaining businesses” in Pennsylvania to close their physical locations immediately.
• Gov. J.B. Pritzker commanded residents to stay at home, leaving only for essential travel and activities such as health and safety reasons, getting supplies and caring for others.
• The Illinois directive says, “non-essential business and operations must cease,” a requirement with many exceptions. Nonessential businesses still may allow employees to work remotely and process payroll and employee benefits, among other limited activities.
Texas. Gov. Greg Abbott’s directive instructs all Texans to avoid social gatherings in groups of more than 10 people starting Saturday morning.
• Gov. Phil Murphy ordered all New Jersey residents to stay home but with a host of exceptions, including for getting takeout food, seeking medical or emergency services and exercising or engaging in outdoor activities with family. Gatherings such as parties, celebrations or other social events are canceled.
• Gov. Ned Lamont ordered nonessential businesses to eliminate their in-person workforces by Monday at 8 p.m. through April 22nd, exempting a broad range of retail, manufacturing, legal and financial services sectors.
• Gov. John Bel Edwards issued a general stay-at-home order effective Monday at 5 p.m.
• Residents are instructed to stay home unless obtaining food, medicine or medical care, exercising, going to and from the home of a family member or a place of worship, or commuting to an essential job.
• Gov. Michael DeWine and state officials announced a stay-at-home order beginning Tuesday and remaining in effect at least until April 7.
• People may leave their homes for health and safety reasons, to obtain supplies and services, for outdoor activity, to take care of others or to perform essential jobs, like a grocery store clerk, food manufacturer, bank employee, journalist, attorney or first responder.
• Gov. John Carney issued a “shelter-in-place” order effective Tuesday at 8 a.m.
• People still may leave their homes to obtain health care or necessary supplies, to engage in outdoor activities like walking, running, biking or fishing, to care for elderly persons, to travel back to a Delaware residence from out of state and for other limited reasons.