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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Senate"

As Coronavirus Spread, Largest Stimulus in History United a Polarized Senate

WASHINGTON — As Senator Chuck Schumer walked the two miles from his apartment to the Capitol early Sunday morning, getting his steps in since the Senate gym had been shut down to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, he knew he and his fellow Democrats had a momentous decision to make.

After 48 hours of intense bipartisan negotiations over a huge economic stabilization plan to respond to the pandemic, Republicans were insisting on a vote later that day to advance the package. Mr. Schumer, the Democratic leader, suspected Republicans would present Democrats with an unacceptable, take-it-or-leave it proposition and then dare them to stand in the way of a nearly $2 trillion measure everyone knew was desperately needed. As soon as he arrived at the Capitol, the choice was clear: Democrats would have to leave it.

During an 8:45 a.m. conference call with staff, Mr. Schumer, of New York, was startled to learn that Republicans had boosted to $500 billion the size of a bailout fund for distressed businesses, but failed to meet Democrats’ request to devote $150 billion to a “Marshall Plan” for hospitals on the front lines of the virus.

What was worse, the corporate aid came with little accountability over dollars to be doled out unsupervised by the Treasury Department — a red flag to Democrats after the 2008 Wall Street bailout, and one that would be particularly hard to accept given President Trump’s disdain for congressional oversight.

Mr. Schumer told his staff that the proposal was a nonstarter, and he directed them to quickly spread the word that Democrats would oppose the bill as it was, according to several people involved in the discussions who, like more than dozen lawmakers and senior officials interviewed for this story, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the roller coaster negotiations that led to the passage of the largest stimulus measure in modern American history.

Then he called his colleagues — including Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a former presidential candidate who is influential on the left — to alert them to what he saw as a Republican ploy to muscle through a corporate giveaway. Within hours, Ms. Warren declared on Twitter that she would oppose the “giant slush fund” and urged other Democrats to join her. On a conference call later that day, Senator Patty Murray of Washington, not known for a temper, said she would be “a damn no” on the bill and urged her colleagues to do the same, which they did unanimously in a vote that sent futures markets plummeting.

It was a shocking and politically perilous decision in the middle of a paralyzing national crisis, a moment when lawmakers are traditionally expected to put aside differences for the good of the country, or face a political backlash.

The move was particularly infuriating for Republicans who had been willing to momentarily abandon their small-government zeal and agree to large additions to safety-net programs, including direct payments to Americans and a substantial increase in jobless aid, in the interest of sealing a quick deal with Democrats. Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, would later call it a “stupid vote,” but Democrats said it proved crucial.

“It showed McConnell that he was going to have to deal with us,” Mr. Schumer said.

The moment was a turning point for the rapid and fitful negotiations over the stimulus measure, which came together over a handful of frenzied days on Capitol Hill, as global markets convulsed with worry and lawmakers scrambled to agree before Covid-19 could infect their ranks and cripple Congress.

After days of intrigue, gamesmanship and partisan assaults, the Senate finally came together late Wednesday after nearly coming apart. As midnight was about to toll, lawmakers approved in an extraordinary 96-to-0 vote a $2 trillion package intended to get the nation through the crippling economic and health disruptions being inflicted on the world by the coronavirus.

The House is expected to approve it by voice vote on Friday, avoiding the need to force hundreds of lawmakers to jeopardize their own health and travel from homes around the county as tens of millions of Americans are required to shelter in place.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_170593182_22499ec8-4106-43b0-bed7-92fcf1bc2e96-articleLarge As Coronavirus Spread, Largest Stimulus in History United a Polarized Senate United States Politics and Government United States Economy Trump, Donald J Treasury Department Stimulus (Economic) Senate Schumer, Charles E Republican Party Pelosi, Nancy Mnuchin, Steven T McConnell, Mitch Democratic Party Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)
Credit…John Taggart for The New York Times

The bill came together despite a toxic dynamic between the two parties in the normally courtly Senate, where Mr. McConnell conceded from the start that quickly enacting a mammoth emergency government aid plan could be done only with the assent of Democrats.

In a private lunch the week before, where Republican senators dined in a larger-than-usual room to try to maintain social distance, Mr. McConnell told his colleagues that they would ultimately have to deal with “Cryin’ Chuck,” using Mr. Trump’s derisive nickname for the Democratic leader in an acid comment that caught the attention of some in the room.

“Sometimes the president has a good sense of humor,” Mr. McConnell said in an interview, acknowledging the dig. “It got a couple of laughs.”

But there was a more serious subtext: With Democrats in control of the House and Republicans wielding a thin majority in the Senate, Mr. Schumer would have to be accommodated in any final bill.

Mr. Trump had a hand in the agreement, if only by keeping his distance from the talks. At one point, Senator Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, and Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, called the White House to ask the president to weigh in on a dispute they were having about whether airlines should have to reimburse the government for aid.

Work it out yourselves, Mr. Trump told the pair on a conference call.

In the end, Democrats won what they saw as significant improvements in the measure through their resistance, including added funding for health care and unemployment along with more direct money to states. A key addition was tougher oversight on the corporate bailout fund, including an inspector general and congressionally appointed board to monitor it, disclosure requirements for businesses that benefited, and a prohibition on any of the money going to Mr. Trump’s family or his properties — although they could still potentially benefit from other provisions.

“We had to do the right thing,” Mr. Schumer said in an interview. “This bill was not going to be with us a matter of days, but for weeks, months and years. It is riskier to pass a really bad bill than to delay it.”

The giant and complex aid package known as Phase 3 was assembled and passed in remarkably short order given its scope — quick on the heels of two smaller but not insignificant aid packages.

Adding to the tense atmosphere as the measure hung in the balance, senators learned that one of their own — Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky — had tested positive for Covid-19 after going about his Senate business in proximity to his colleagues, even sneaking into the senators-only gym to swim laps in the pool. It was a surprising turn that crystallized the threat both to the nation and to the lawmakers as they remained at work on Capitol Hill.

The roots of the Senate fight dated to about 10 days earlier, when Mr. McConnell had ceded the task of finding consensus on an earlier relief measure to Mr. Mnuchin and Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The two spent so much time on the phone hammering out the deal — a bill that would provide hundreds of billions of dollars for provide paid leave, free coronavirus testing and food and health care aid to low-income Americans — that Ms. Pelosi arrived at a late-night news conference celebrating its passage missing a teal and gold earring, as it rolled under her desk during the many calls.

As the House was completing that package on March 13, Mr. McConnell canceled a recess set for the following week to give the Senate time to take it up. He then closed up shop for the weekend and flew home to Louisville with Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh of the Supreme Court, whose confirmation was the subject of a bitter Senate fight two years ago. They attended a ceremony installing a McConnell-backed federal judge, underscoring the leader’s well-known passion for judicial confirmations while giving the majority leader’s detractors a fat target. Democrats and their progressive allies accused him of not recognizing the urgency of the moment and taking a break, even though the House bill was not yet ready for Senate consideration.

Now the majority leader was determined to put his own stamp on the next economic aid plan, which was shaping up as far larger, and wanted to make sure Republicans controlled and got credit for the final product.

Republicans plunged ahead, pulling together their own ideas. On March 19, Mr. McConnell unveiled the Republican approach — a $1 trillion proposal that centered on $1,200 cash payments to working Americans to tide them over, guaranteed loans and large tax cuts for corporate America and a newly created program to provide grants to small businesses that kept their workers on the payroll.

Democrats had their own ideas, calling for a major infusion of cash to beleaguered hospitals and health care workers, more money for states and a major expansion of unemployment benefits — “unemployment on steroids” as Mr. Schumer called it — though they were not opposed to the cash payments. Democrats criticized the corporate aid in the Republican bill, saying they wanted restrictions on using the money for stock buybacks and raising executive pay among other conditions.

Democrats drew a particularly hard line on unemployment insurance, one Senate official said, with Mr. Schumer instructing his side to refuse to negotiate on the tax relief sought by Republicans until they had a deal on the jobless benefits. The idea was to boost the aid to the level of a laid-off worker’s pay, but when that proved logistically difficult, the two sides agreed on a $600 across-the-board supplement.

Lawmakers blew through a 5 p.m. Saturday deadline set by Mr. McConnell for getting their ideas into legislative form for a vote the next day. Still, as a handful of veteran Republican senators joined Mr. McConnell, Mr. Mnuchin and White House staff in Mr. McConnell’s office to assess the state of play, a sense of optimism prevailed. They believed they were on the cusp of a deal and that Democrats were comfortably on board.

“We all felt good, the people who were all working it out,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska and the chairwoman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Mr. McConnell issued a statement saying that because of the progress made, he had asked “chairmen to draft final legislative text that reflects their compromise products.”

The announcement alarmed Democrats, who were not yet satisfied with the deal, and Mr. Schumer’s spokesman issued a statement about 10:30 p.m. Saturday cautioning that there was “not yet an agreement, and we still have not seen large parts of the Republican draft.”

When Mr. Schumer saw it on Sunday morning, things went downhill fast. On her way into a meeting in Mr. McConnell’s office, Ms. Pelosi, who had returned from San Francisco in time to join the talks, threw cold water on the prospect for an agreement, saying that as far as she was concerned, the two sides remained apart.

Mr. Mnuchin opened the meeting by asserting that “essentially, it seems to me that we’ve reached a bipartisan agreement,” but Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer balked and began outlining a number of issues that needed work in order to gain their support: expansion of unemployment insurance, additional funding for state and local governments, more aid to hospitals.

When Ms. Pelosi, who is Catholic, quoted Pope Francis and his prayer to “enlighten those responsible for the common good,” Mr. Mnuchin responded, “You quoted the pope, I’ll quote the markets,” she later recounted in televised interviews this week.

Mr. McConnell insisted that they would move ahead with a scheduled procedural vote later in the day. But as she left the room, Ms. Pelosi informed them that she would be introducing her own version shortly.

Republicans seized on Ms. Pelosi’s entry into the talks, claiming that the speaker had forced Democrats to abandon a compromise they had helped write.

“We tried to go forward on a totally bipartisan basis, and then leadership got ahold of it,” Mr. McConnell said in an interview.

Republicans were further outraged when they saw the draft House bill, a $2.5 trillion measure that included an array of progressive policies well beyond the scope of emergency aid, saying Democrats were trying to use the crisis to advance a liberal agenda. They seized on a comment by Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the No. 3 House Democrat, who said on a private conference call with Democrats that the pandemic presented “a tremendous opportunity to restructure things to our vision” — a comment Mr. McConnell brought up repeatedly.

As uncertainty swirled on Sunday in the Capitol over the fate of the legislation, Mr. Paul announced that he had tested positive for the disease. Senators were alarmed. The virus they were fighting was circulating among them.

Democrats quickly broke up their lunch and continued their discussion by conference call, and two Republican senators who had had contact with Mr. Paul, Mitt Romney and Mike Lee, both of Utah, quarantined themselves. It created another incentive for the Senate to bridge its divide as soon as possible to allow members — nearly half of them over 60 — to exit the capital.

And with members of the House falling ill and quarantine orders going into effect around the country, it was becoming clear that lawmakers from that chamber would not be returning to Washington to consider the plan. The emerging compromise would have to be acceptable enough to Democrats and Republicans that it could pass without a recorded vote.

In the Senate, Democrats’ vote to block the measure set off Republican rage, but also intensified round-the-clock negotiations to find an agreement. White House officials scrambled for a deal that would calm the markets.

“Failure could be catastrophic,” Eric Ueland, the legislative affairs director and a former top Senate aide, said as he shuttled offers and counteroffers between Mr. McConnell’s office and Mr. Schumer’s suite a short walk away on the second floor of the Capitol.

Tensions reached a breaking point on the Senate floor on Monday as Republicans assailed Democrats for holding up the aid even as Mr. Schumer and Mr. Mnuchin — now “Chuck and Steven” to one another — narrowed their differences just down the corridor. Democrats voted again to block the measure.

“This is disgraceful,” exclaimed Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, in a lecture blasting the delay after Mr. Schumer objected to allowing her to speak.

After daylong negotiations on Tuesday, the two sides finally announced an agreement after midnight Wednesday and the final product drew praise and support at the White House from Mr. Mnuchin and Mr. Trump, who said the administration had been treated fairly by the Democrats.

But there was a final bit of drama as staff put the finishing touches on the 880-page bill. A group of Republican senators including Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Ben Sasse of Nebraska objected to granting workers the extra $600 a week in unemployment benefits, arguing that it would encourage layoffs and discourage workers whose wages would be lower than the aid level from seeking jobs.

“They are very upset that somebody who is making 10, 12 bucks an hour might end up with a paycheck for four months that is more than they received last week — Oh, my God, the universe is collapsing,” said Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont and a contender for the Democratic presidential nomination. He also said that the bill was too slanted to big corporations, but that it was worthy of support.

A bid by Mr. Sasse to remove the extra jobless aid was defeated, though widely supported by Republicans. He summed up the sentiment of many in his party when he said of Mr. Sanders: “I appreciate his candor in admitting that this is kind of a big crap sandwich.”

In the end, however, no senator wanted to reject it. Every one of them voted “yes.”

Jim Tankersley and Catie Edmondson contributed reporting.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Coronavirus relief bill: What it means for business

Westlake Legal Group merlin_170977653_b9f99360-056c-4f8a-b2d5-8e508d418402-facebookJumbo Coronavirus relief bill: What it means for business Wages and Salaries United States Economy United States Unemployment Treasury Department Small Business Senate Layoffs and Job Reductions Federal Reserve System Federal Aid (US) Executive Compensation Energy and Power Credit and Debt Carnival Corporation Boeing Company

The $2 trillion coronavirus rescue package that the Senate passed on Wednesday will fundamentally transform the U.S. government by placing thousands of businesses and millions of workers on federally funded life support.

The government will pay the wages of some workers who remain on their companies’ payrolls. It will sustain other workers who have lost their jobs with checks that are as large as — or even larger than — what they were earning before they were laid off. And it will cushion some of the country’s largest corporations from bankruptcy, with taxpayers taking shares in those companies as collateral.

Rarely before has the government involved itself so deeply in the business of business. Amid a historic drop-off in economic activity, the bill temporarily transfers financial responsibility from private industry to the federal government, allowing the United States to control the levers of capitalism and potentially decide who wins and who loses. The level of intervention this week far outstrips the financial scope and breadth of recovery efforts during the 2008 financial crisis.

That is a controversial proposition in normal times but one lawmakers deemed necessary now, as companies large and small, from airlines and big banks to nail salons and brew pubs, face unprecedented hardship. The ripple effects have already sent millions of Americans into unemployment.

“We went to bed as America and woke up the next morning looking like social democratic Europe,” Erik Gordon, professor at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, said. “We’ve made fun of Europe propping up their failing steel companies and car companies, and when push comes to shove we’re going to outdo them.”

The government’s intervention will come in a variety of ways, including direct payments to individuals and businesses, generous loans in which the government agrees to backstop losses and equity stakes in companies. But there are strings attached, such as limits on executive pay and provisions that require companies receiving assistance to maintain employment levels at 90 percent of what they were.

Midsize companies, or those with between 500 and 10,000 employees, get to borrow at an interest rate that is not higher than 2 percent annually, and don’t have to repay principal or interest for six months. The midsize companies cannot “outsource or offshore” jobs from the start of the loan until two years after it has been repaid.

Businesses with 500 or fewer employees will get loans directly from banks to cover more than two months of payrolls and some other operating expenses, with the government paying off the balance so long as the companies either do not lay off workers or rehire ones they’ve already let go.

The government will inject more than $60 billion into the airline industry, including $25 billion in grants to pay employees of passenger airlines and $4 billion for those who work at cargo airlines. About $17 billion has been set aside largely for Boeing, which, because of two deadly crashes, was troubled before the virus brought many commercial flights to a standstill.

Not all businesses will be eligible for help, and not every eligible company will agree to the government’s terms. And some industries, including cruise lines and energy companies, were left on the sidelines.

The major cruise companies appear not to qualify for loans because they are domiciled outside the United States and their employees are spread across the world.

“We didn’t seek or expect a cash bailout, and it doesn’t appear anyway that we would qualify under the terms,” said Roger Frizzell, a spokesman for Carnival Corporation. “We have a significant employee presence in the U.S., but a majority of our employees are on ships, not in any location, certainly not based in the U.S.”

The legislation also does not include $3 billion that the Trump administration requested to buy crude oil for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Such a purchase could have helped lift demand for oil, and thus its price, which in the United States has tumbled to less than $25 a barrel in recent weeks. Solar and wind businesses were upset that lawmakers did not make it easier for them to benefit from tax credits for renewable energy.

The epicenter of the intervention will be the Treasury Department, where Secretary Steven Mnuchin will oversee nearly a third of the $2 trillion in economic relief funds that Congress is approving.

The money will be held in two pots: $350 billion will be devoted to loans and loan guarantees for small businesses. And $500 billion will be divided among airlines and companies that are critical to national security, including Boeing, and will prop up the Federal Reserve’s new emergency lending facilities, which are intended to inject nearly $4 trillion into the economy.

Mr. Mnuchin said on Thursday that the distribution of the money would be fully transparent. “When we do take actions, either through our direct program or throughout programs with the Fed, there will be disclosures to the American public much faster than they would normally occur,” he said on CNBC.

Businesses will also have to cede some control to the federal government in exchange for lifelines. Companies that borrow money are forbidden to repurchase their stock or pay dividends during the loan and for a year after it is repaid. They must not cut staffing by more than 10 percent through the end of September.

Loans to small businesses, with 500 employees or fewer, are limited to $10 million. Loans to cover salaries of over $100,000 wouldn’t qualify for forgiveness, and businesses must demonstrate that they had not recently laid off employees, or a smaller amount of the loan would be subject to forgiveness.

Businesses would not have to repay loans covering up to eight weeks’ worth of payroll expenses. That means that once businesses receive their loans, a new clock will begin to tick: They’ll have to use the money within two months to avoid repaying it; they also can’t pay any employee more than $10,000 in those two months if they want that amount to be forgiven.

Lawmakers also placed restrictions on compensation and pay increases for executives, moves intended to address one of the criticisms about bailouts during the 2008 crisis. But pay limits will not necessarily do away with multimillion-dollar paydays for corporate bosses.

Executives who made more than $3 million in 2019 could be awarded $3 million, plus half of any sum in excess of $3 million. As a result, a chief executive who earned $20 million in 2019 would be allowed compensation of $11.5 million. The restrictions would apply from the time the federal support began to one year after it ended.

Even as the government takes on an outsize role in overseeing companies, Mr. Mnuchin maintained that it should not be in the business of dictating what private companies did.

“We don’t believe in mandating and regulating certain big businesses,” he said.

And big business, despite its need for help, has seemed unwilling to cede too much control to the government. On Tuesday, Boeing’s chief executive, David Calhoun, suggested that he wasn’t interested in the government’s taking an equity stake in the company, despite the beleaguered state of the aerospace giant.

“I don’t have a need for an equity stake,” Mr. Calhoun said in an interview on Fox Business Network. “If they forced it, we’d just look at all the other options, and we have got plenty.”

Boeing, which had lobbied for government aid, was not specifically named in the bill. It nonetheless signaled its approval of the stimulus package on Wednesday night. “The bill’s access to public and private liquidity, including loans and loan guarantees, is critical for airlines, airports, suppliers and manufacturers to bridge to recovery,” Boeing said in a statement.

The House is now expected to take up the legislation, and President Trump has signaled that he would sign it quickly into law.

Many of the provisions are intended to offer lifelines to companies and workers over the coming months, as the country struggles to contain the pandemic and braces for a recession. But the long-term consequences of a $2 trillion bailout of the American economy are unknown.

“This is going to be hard to unravel,” said Mr. Ross, the University of Michigan professor. “Industries that are propped up stay propped up for a long time.”

Reporting was contributed by Niraj Chokshi, Jesse Drucker, Emily Flitter, Clifford Krauss and Ivan Penn.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

coronavirus

Westlake Legal Group coronavirus coronavirus United States Trump, Donald J Stimulus (Economic) Senate New York City Fauci, Anthony S Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

Here’s what you need to know:

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_170977980_706701e2-e2b2-46b7-b334-dcf92cab4a1b-articleLarge coronavirus United States Trump, Donald J Stimulus (Economic) Senate New York City Fauci, Anthony S Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)
Credit…Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times

The Senate voted unanimously on Wednesday to approve a sweeping, $2 trillion fiscal measure to shore up the United States economy as it weathers the devastation of the coronavirus pandemic, advancing the largest fiscal stimulus package in modern American history.

The House was expected to quickly take up the bill on Friday and pass it, sending it to President Trump for his signature.

The legislation would send direct payments of $1,200 to Americans earning up to $75,000 — which would gradually phase out for higher earners and end for those with incomes more than $99,000 — and an additional $500 per child. It would substantially expand jobless aid, providing an additional 13 weeks and a four-month enhancement of benefits, extending them for the first time to freelancers and gig workers and adding $600 per week on top of the usual payment.

The measure would also provide $350 billion in federally guaranteed loans to small businesses and establish a $500 billion government lending program for distressed companies reeling from the impact of the crisis, allowing the administration to take equity stakes in airlines that received aid to help compensate taxpayers. It would also send $100 billion to hospitals on the front lines of the pandemic.

The bill was the product of intense bipartisan negotiations among Republicans, Democrats and the White House. Three senators were absent from the late-night roll call because of the novel coronavirus. Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, has contracted Covid-19, while two Utah Republicans, Senators Mitt Romney and Mike Lee, were in self-isolation out of an abundance of caution after spending time with Mr. Paul. Senator John Thune of South Dakota, the second-ranking Republican, also missed the vote because he wasn’t feeling well and had left Washington to return home out of an abundance of caution, a spokesman said.

Video

transcript

‘People Are Dying’: 72 Hours Inside a N.Y.C. Hospital Battling Coronavirus

An emergency room doctor in Elmhurst, Queens, gives a rare look inside a hospital at the center of the coronavirus pandemic. “We don’t have the tools that we need.”

[Machine beeping] “The frustrating thing about all of this is it really just feels like it’s too little, too late. Like we knew — we knew it was coming. Today is kind of getting worse and worse. We had to get a refrigerated truck to store the bodies of patients who are dying. We are, right now, scrambling to try to get a few additional ventilators or even CPAP machines. If we could get CPAP machines, we could free up ventilators for patients who need them. You know, we now have these five vents. We probably — unless people die, I suspect we’ll be back to needing to beg for ventilators again in another day or two. There’s a mythical 100 vents out there which we haven’t seen. Leaders in various offices, from the president to the head of Health and Hospitals, saying things like, ‘We’re going to be fine. Everything’s fine.’ And from our perspective, everything is not fine. I don’t have the support that I need, and even just the materials that I need, physically, to take care of my patients. And it’s America, and we’re supposed to be a first-world country. On a regular day, my emergency department’s volume is pretty high. It’s about 200 people a day. Now we’re seeing 400 or more people a day. At first, we were trying to isolate patients with cough and fever and be more careful around them, but we weren’t necessarily being extra careful around all the other patients. And then we started to realize that patients who were coming in with no fever but abdominal pain actually had findings on their X-rays and chest CTs that were consistent with this coronavirus, Covid-19. So someone in a car accident gets brought in and we get a CT scan of them, and their lungs look like they have coronavirus. We were seeing a lot of patients who probably had Covid, but we didn’t realize. Ten residents and also many, many of our nurses and a few of the attending physicians got sick. The anxiety of this situation is really overwhelming. All of the doctors, it’s hard for us to get tested even if we want to, even if we have symptoms. We’re exposed over and over again. We don’t have the protective equipment that we should have. I put on one N95 mask in the morning. I need to have that N95 mask on for every patient I see. I don’t take it off all day. The N95 mask I wore today is also the N95 mask I wore on Friday. We’re always worried that we’ll be out of N95 masks. What’s a little bit scary now is the patients that we’re getting are much sicker. Many of the young people who are getting sick don’t smoke, they’re healthy, they have no co-morbidities. They’re just young, regular people between the ages of 30 and 50 who you would not expect to get this sick. So many people are saying it’s going to be OK, everything’s fine, we have what we need. And if this goes on for a month or two or three or five like it did in China, and we’re already this strained, we don’t have what we need. I don’t really care if I get in trouble for speaking to the media. I want people to know that this is bad. People are dying. We don’t have the tools that that we need in the emergency department and in the hospital to take care of them, and — and it’s really hard.”

Westlake Legal Group nyc-hospital-2020-videoSixteenByNineJumbo1600 coronavirus United States Trump, Donald J Stimulus (Economic) Senate New York City Fauci, Anthony S Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)
An emergency room doctor in Elmhurst, Queens, gives a rare look inside a hospital at the center of the coronavirus pandemic. “We don’t have the tools that we need.”CreditCredit…Colleen Smith

At Elmhurst Hospital Center in Queens, Dr. Ashley Bray performed chest compressions Tuesday on a woman in her 80s, a man in his 60s and a 38-year-old who reminded the doctor of her fiancé. All had tested positive for the coronavirus. All eventually died.

Elmhurst, a 545-bed public hospital, has begun transferring patients not suffering from coronavirus to other facilities as it moves toward becoming a facility dedicated entirely to the outbreak. Doctors and nurses have struggled to make do with a few dozen ventilators. Calls over a loudspeaker of “Team 700,” the code for when a patient is on the verge of death, come several times a shift. Some have died inside the emergency room while waiting for a bed.

A refrigerated truck has been stationed outside to hold the bodies of the dead. Over the past 24 hours, New York City’s public hospital system said in a statement, 13 people at Elmhurst had died.

“It’s apocalyptic,” said Dr. Bray, a general medicine resident at the hospital.

All of the more than 1,800 intensive care units in New York City are expected to be full by Friday, according to a FEMA leadership briefing obtained by The New York Times. Patients could stay for weeks, limiting space for newly sickened residents.

The urgent update from the Peace Corps landed abruptly in the email inboxes of volunteers on March 15: It was time to evacuate.

Miguel Garcia, a 27-year-old volunteer leader in the Dominican Republic, had a job to do. He had 24 hours to get 32 volunteers scattered across the country to Santo Domingo, the capital. Several were about eight hours away in hard-to-reach communities.

“Panic took over, and I was just mindlessly doing things,” Mr. Garcia said. “It wasn’t until I came home to an apartment that needed to be packed that it all hit me. I showered in cold water for about 45 minutes and cried, overwhelmed by all of the people I needed to communicate with and say goodbye to.”

For the first time in its nearly 60-year history, the Peace Corps has temporarily suspended its operations, evacuating more than 7,000 volunteers from posts in more than 60 countries because of the coronavirus pandemic.

An independent agency of the U.S. government created by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, the corps sends volunteers abroad to help with social and economic development projects. They dig wells, teach in schools and train people in everything from sewing to healthy breastfeeding.

In an open letter, Jody Olsen, the director of the Peace Corps, said the move was meant to protect volunteers and prevent them from being stranded during the pandemic. Within hours, volunteers were packing their bags, saying their farewells and rushing to designated meeting places as airlines canceled flights and countries began closing borders.

In interviews, volunteers described shock, confusion and heartbreak as they arrived back home in the United States.

“The situation in Morocco went so fast,” said Elizabeth Burke, 54, who had been in the country for less than a year, teaching English and working at a sewing cooperative. “It went from Moroccans not being aware of the coronavirus and what was going on to a complete shutdown.”

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Wednesday that he was seeing indications that the virus could keep returning as a “seasonal, cyclic thing,” like the flu.

One of the key questions about the virus has been whether its spread would slow or stop in warm weather and return in cold weather, and Dr. Fauci suggested that it may follow that seasonal pattern.

“What we are starting to see now in the southern hemisphere,” he said, referring specifically to southern Africa, “is that we are having cases that are appearing as they go into their winter season. And if, in fact, they have a substantial outbreak, it will be inevitable that we need to be prepared that we will get a cycle around the second time.”

That makes it all the more important that scientists “have a vaccine available for that next cycle,” as well as “a menu of drugs that we have shown to be effective and shown to be safe,” he said.

In states hit hard by the coronavirus, like New York and California, governors and mayors have mandated the closure of all but the obviously essential stores, like supermarkets and pharmacies. And the Department of Homeland Security has laid out guidelines for businesses across the country to follow when deciding whether to stay open, even in regions not known to be hot spots for the virus. The agency is careful to note that its definition of a “critical” work force is not an official standard, leaving it up to corporations to decide for themselves.

Given this latitude, retailers have kept thousands of stores open, even as health experts warn that the virus is likely to spread more widely across the country in the coming weeks.

At some Guitar Center stores, employees are still allowing customers to try out models of guitars. Dillard’s, a department store chain popular in the South, is still welcoming shoppers looking for clothing and makeup. And Michaels, the arts and crafts chain, says it is keeping many of its stores open to provide supplies to parents teaching their homebound children. “We are here for the makers,” the retailer said in an email to one concerned customer.

That some retail stores are staying open while other businesses have closed reflects the piecemeal approach to combating the pandemic in the United States. There are emergency orders limiting business to essential retailers in about half the country, but much of the South and West has no such government restrictions.

Coronavirus-related anxiety is real and likely impacting many aspects of your life, from your eating habits to the way your children are acting. There is also a grief that comes along with the loss of our daily routines and rituals. Here are some tips to help you get through these tough times.

Reporting was contributed by Julie Davis, Emily Cochrane, Nicholas Fandos, Michael Corkery, Sapna Maheshwari and Mariel Padilla.

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Congress and White House Strike Deal for $2 Trillion Stimulus Package

Westlake Legal Group 25dc-virus-cong-1-facebookJumbo Congress and White House Strike Deal for $2 Trillion Stimulus Package United States Politics and Government United States Economy Trump, Donald J Treasury Department Senate Schumer, Charles E Republican Party Mnuchin, Steven T McConnell, Mitch Democratic Party Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

WASHINGTON — Senators and Trump administration officials reached an agreement early Wednesday on a sweeping, roughly $2 trillion stimulus measure to send direct payments and jobless benefits to individuals as well as money to states and businesses devastated by the coronavirus pandemic.

The legislation, which is expected to be enacted within days, is the biggest fiscal stimulus package in modern American history, aimed at delivering critical financial support to businesses forced to shut their doors and relief to American families and hospitals.

Struck after midnight, the deal was the product of a marathon set of negotiations among Senate Republicans, Democrats and President Trump’s team that nearly fell apart as Democrats insisted on stronger worker protections and oversight over a new $500 billion fund to bail out distressed businesses.

The deal was completed after a furious final round of haggling between Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, and Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the minority leader, after Democrats twice blocked action on the measure as they insisted on concessions.

Mr. Mnuchin and Eric Ueland, the White House legislative affairs director, were on Capitol Hill late Tuesday and early Wednesday, shuttling between the Republican and Democratic leaders’ offices as they hammered out final details.

Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, announced the deal on the Senate floor about 1:30 a.m. Eastern.

“At last, we have a deal,” he said, adding, “In effect, this is a wartime level of investment into our nation.”

Lawmakers and aides were still drafting portions of the bill early Wednesday morning. “I’m hopeful that over the next few hours, we’ll finish what’s left and be able to circulate it early in the morning,” Mr. Ueland told reporters on Capitol Hill.

A vote was expected in the afternoon, Mr. McConnell said, after the Senate reconvenes at noon.

The compromise was a package whose sheer size and scope would have been unthinkable only a couple of weeks ago. Its cost amounts to several hundreds of billions of dollars more than the entire United States federal budget for a year, and administration officials said they hoped that its effect on a battered economy would be exponentially greater, as much as $4 trillion.


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“This is not a moment of celebration, but one of necessity,” Mr. Schumer said as he took careful note of the changes his party had secured in the legislation. “To all Americans I say, ‘Help is on the way.’”

The resulting measure is an attempt to sustain the workers and businesses that are losing income as vast sections of the American economy are shutting down under quarantine orders and to help the economy rebound quickly once the pandemic abates.

It includes direct support for companies large and small that have lost all or most of their customers in recent weeks, and direct payments to low- and middle-income families. The package also includes measures meant to encourage companies to keep employees on their payrolls even if their businesses have shuttered temporarily — and it increases aid to workers who are laid off anyway or have had their hours and wages cut back.

“We have either, clear, explicit legislative text reflecting all parties or we know exactly where we’re going to land on legislative text as we continue to finish,” Mr. Ueland said.

The president, after lobbing insults at Democrats late Monday evening for their demands in the final stages of negotiations, called on lawmakers to approve the deal by the end of the day.

“Congress must approve the deal, without all of the nonsense, today,” Mr. Trump said on Twitter on Tuesday. “The longer it takes, the harder it will be to start up our economy. Our workers will be hurt!”

Mr. Mnuchin, preparing to leave Capitol Hill early Wednesday, described the measure to reporters as “a terrific bill.”

“I’ve spoken to the president many times today,” he said, “and he’s very pleased with this legislation and the impact that this is going to have.”

The measure will be the third legislative action taken by Congress this month to address the pandemic. Mr. Trump previously signed both a $8.3 billion in emergency aid and a sweeping package providing paid leave, free testing and additional aid for families affected by the pandemic into law.

The House is in recess, with some of its members sick or in quarantine and concerned about flying back to Washington. Leaders were considering approving the mammoth proposal by unanimous consent, a tactic usually reserved for minor, uncontroversial measures.

“What I’m saying is we want to do it as soon as possible. The best way to do that as soon as possible is to have agreement on the legislation,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, appearing on CNN. “We’re doing U.C. to make the biggest possible difference in the shortest period of time.”

In the final measure, lawmakers agreed to a significant expansion of unemployment benefits that would extend unemployment insurance by 13 weeks and include a four-month enhancement of benefits, officials familiar with the unfinished agreement said. Democrats said that it would allow workers to maintain their full salaries if forced out of work as a result of the pandemic.

In the interim, lawmakers also agreed to provide $1,200 in direct payments that would apply equally to workers with incomes up to $75,000 per year before phasing out and ending altogether for those earning more than $99,000. Families would receive an additional $500 per child.

After complaints from Democrats, a $500 billion fund — $425 billion for the Federal Reserve to leverage for loans in order to help broad groups of distressed companies and $75 billion for industry-specific loans — will now have far stricter oversight, in the form of an inspector general and a 5-person panel appointed by Congress, lawmakers said. Companies that accept money must also agree to halt any stock buybacks for the length of the government assistance, plus an additional year.

Democrats also secured a provision that will block Trump family businesses — or those of other senior government officials — from receiving loan money under the programs, Mr. Schumer said in a letter to Democrats.

Both Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer, on separate calls laying out the deal for their Democratic colleagues, said they had secured $130 billion for hospitals, $55 billion more than originally agreed to, people familiar with the calls said, as well as $150 billion for state and local governments.

“Like all compromises, this bill is far from perfect,” Mr. Schumer said early Wednesday on the Senate floor. “But we believe the legislation has been improved significantly to warrant its quick consideration and passage.”

The agreement also includes $350 billion that would establish lending programs for small businesses, but only for those who keep their payrolls steady through the crisis. Small businesses that pledge to keep their workers would also receive cash-flow assistance structured as federally guaranteed loans. If the employer continued to pay its workers for the duration of the crisis, those loans would be forgiven.

Lawmakers in both chambers have also acknowledged that it is likely other legislative measures will be needed in the coming months to counter the consequences of the pandemic.

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Democrats Near Deal With White House on Stimulus Package

Westlake Legal Group democrats-near-deal-with-white-house-on-stimulus-package Democrats Near Deal With White House on Stimulus Package United States Politics and Government United States Economy Unemployment Insurance Treasury Department Stimulus (Economic) Senate Schumer, Charles E Pelosi, Nancy Mnuchin, Steven T McConnell, Mitch Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)
Westlake Legal Group 24dc-virus-cong2-facebookJumbo Democrats Near Deal With White House on Stimulus Package United States Politics and Government United States Economy Unemployment Insurance Treasury Department Stimulus (Economic) Senate Schumer, Charles E Pelosi, Nancy Mnuchin, Steven T McConnell, Mitch Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

WASHINGTON — Congressional leaders and Trump administration officials closed in on a deal on Tuesday on a roughly $2 trillion economic stabilization plan to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, after agreeing to Democratic demands to add oversight requirements for a $500 billion government bailout fund for distressed companies.

Negotiators were hammering out the final details of the plan, which is aimed at delivering critical financial support to businesses forced to shut their doors and relief to American families and hospitals reeling from the rapid spread of the disease and the resulting economic disruption. With lawmakers and White House officials expressing optimism for an agreement, the measure could be enacted within days.

A crucial breakthrough came when Democrats won concessions from the Trump administration to add strict oversight over the $500 billion corporate aid fund, including installing an inspector general and a panel appointed by Congress to monitor it. The vast majority of the fund would go to the Federal Reserve to cover loans.

The measures are similar to those put in place as part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the centerpiece of the Wall Street bailout enacted in 2008 to respond to the financial meltdown.

Markets around the world rallied on the news that after several days of often contentious talks that left the fate of the stimulus measure in doubt, it appeared to be coming together. The S&P 500 rose more than 9 percent, its biggest gain since 2008. Stocks in Europe climbed as well, while major markets in Asia posted increases that ranked among their biggest in weeks. Shares of hard-hit industries most likely to receive aid, such as casinos and cruise lines, soared.

At the White House, Larry Kudlow, the top economic adviser, said there had been “great progress” on the measure, which he said was “urgently needed to bolster the economy, provide cash infusions and liquidity and stabilize financial markets to get us through a difficult period.”

“This package will be the single largest Main Street assistance program in the history of the United States,” Mr. Kudlow added, although the vast majority of the money in the measure would go to large corporations.


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The emerging compromise was a package whose sheer size and scope would have been unthinkable only a couple of weeks ago. Its cost amounted to several hundreds of billions of dollars more than the entire United States federal budget for a year, and administration officials said they hoped that its effect on a battered economy would be exponentially greater, as much as an additional $4 trillion.

Democrats had balked at a version of the stimulus measure drafted by Republicans that they were concerned would give Mr. Mnuchin too much latitude in deciding which companies could receive the funds, and allow him to delay revealing the recipients until six months after the loans were disbursed. They said it would have created a secretive government slush fund controlled by the president and his top advisers, rather than a closely monitored program accountable to taxpayers.

“We have been pushing hard that any contract that the federal government makes with a company to give it loans, that we know of that contract in a very short period of time, that we can examine it,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said on the Senate floor, as he said the two sides were closing in on a deal. “We in the Senate, those in the House, the press and the American people will know if these things are on the level.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said there was “real optimism that we could get something done in the next few hours” after Democrats won crucial concessions from the Trump administration.

Ms. Pelosi, of California, told Democrats on a private conference call that two remaining issues included a Democratic push to expand food assistance benefits and a disagreement over how much money should be allocated for pensions.

But the parties were whittling down remaining disputes, including how much funding to distribute to hospitals across the country. Both Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer, in a separate call with Senate Democrats, said they had secured $130 billion for hospitals, $55 billion more than originally provided, people familiar with the calls said, as well as $150 billion for state and local governments.

Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, who spent Monday hurling scathing criticism at Democrats for refusing to agree to allow the package to move forward, opened the Senate floor on Tuesday with a more upbeat message.

“Now at last, I believe, we’re on the five-yard line,” he said, taking swipes at Democrats for dragging out the process. “It’s taken a lot of noise and a lot of rhetoric to get us here.”

Mr. McConnell said he hoped the Senate would “get back on track” and pass a relief package, adding that the “clock has run out” for debating a plan that could help save American jobs and companies on the brink of collapse.

The measure would also provide $1,200 direct payments to taxpayers, substantially increase jobless benefits and send money to states struggling to weather a huge public health and economic disaster. Mr. Schumer said Republicans had agreed to extend unemployment insurance for an additional month at Democrats’ insistence, for a total of four months. The two sides had previously agreed to expand the program considerably, to include self-employed and part-time workers who traditionally have not been eligible, and to cover 100 percent of wages to the average worker.

Under the newly negotiated terms, those already on unemployment before the crisis would also see their benefits extended 13 weeks beyond when they are currently set to run out, according to a Democratic aide familiar with the talks.

The growing confidence on Capitol Hill was a jarring contrast with the rancor that has reigned in the Senate for days, as Democrats twice blocked efforts to advance the plan until they could secure stronger protections for workers and restrictions for bailed-out businesses. Republicans complained that they were turning their backs on substantial compromises and holding up desperately needed aid.

But even as partisan bickering consumed the normally staid Senate on Monday, Mr. Schumer and Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, huddled repeatedly to hammer out their disagreements. And Mr. McConnell and Ms. Pelosi were kept closely informed of the talks.

Any agreement struck and approved in the Senate would still have to secure support from the Democratic majority in the House, which introduced its own $2.5 trillion legislative package on Monday. That package is full of progressive policy agenda items like emissions limits for bailed-out airlines, pay equity and workplace diversity requirements for companies that received aid as well as a new requirement for at least 15 consecutive days of early voting in federal elections.

The House is in recess, with some of its members sick or in quarantine and concerned about flying back to Washington. Democratic leaders were considering approving the mammoth proposal by unanimous consent, a tactic reserved mostly for minor, uncontroversial measures. They appeared to have the agreement of top Republicans, who worked on Tuesday to anticipate whether any of their conference members would object.

Some lawmakers have expressed reservations about approving legislation of such magnitude without a recorded vote, particularly before being able to read the details of the agreement themselves.

On the two-hour call with House Democrats, Representative Pramila Jayapal, Democrat of Washington State, said rank-and-file lawmakers needed more information if they were going to be expected to provide consent, both about the legislation and the largest points of contention, according to two officials familiar with the call, but unauthorized to discuss it publicly. Representative Tom Malinowski, Democrat of New Jersey, said he was uncomfortable with the precedent that would be set if lawmakers continued to approve trillions of dollars in federal spending without recorded votes.

Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 House Democrat, said during the discussion that it was possible that Congress would consider at least two more measures to respond to the pandemic after clearing the stimulus measure, which would give lawmakers additional chances to win provisions that were not included.

The extraordinary circumstances may be enough to persuade lawmakers to put aside their reservations and agree to the package quickly. Representative Ben McAdams, Democrat of Utah and one of three lawmakers who have tested positive for Covid-19, issued a statement on Tuesday from his hospital bed asking his colleagues to approve it.

Sheryl Gay Stolberg contributed reporting.

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Push for Cash in Rescue Package Came From Unlikely Source: Conservatives

Westlake Legal Group merlin_170785032_6f49774a-673b-4129-aea9-7b46ab2aeb6d-facebookJumbo Push for Cash in Rescue Package Came From Unlikely Source: Conservatives United States Politics and Government United States Economy Tea Party Movement Stimulus (Economic) Senate Romney, Mitt Republican Party Income Cotton, Tom Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) club for growth

WASHINGTON — The idea to funnel cash directly to millions of Americans to help them weather the economic disaster ravaging the globe amid the coronavirus pandemic got its jump-start not from the liberal left, but from a more unlikely source: the most conservative reaches of the Republican Party.

Recognizing a looming calamity for anxious people who are losing their incomes because of a government-ordered shutdown of much of the nation’s economy, some senators who would normally be expected to block a direct federal payout to the poorest Americans, potentially costing $500 billion or more, instead got behind it early.

It is a striking populist turn for a party that has been dominated for a decade by small-government activists, who rose to political prominence in the wake of the Wall Street bailout and are now determined to steer federal help to the most vulnerable of their constituents.

“This is a public health crisis of the likes that has not been seen in a century,” said Senator Tom Cotton, a deeply conservative Republican from Arkansas and one of the chief proponents of getting cash in the hands of hurting Americans as quickly as possible. “Our government at every level has to take responsibility for caring for our people and caring for their health and their material well-being as well.”

It was hardly the expected Republican response, given staunch party resistance to the Obama administration’s 2009 stimulus program following the 2008 financial crisis and a Republican history of rescuing big businesses and then leaving it to those employers to take care of the rest.

But there was Mr. Cotton on Fox & Friends last week, pushing the idea of a quick cash infusion to counter the economic devastation of the coronavirus outbreak. A few hours later, Senator Mitt Romney, the Utah Republican, proposed on Twitter that “every American adult should immediately receive a one-time check for $1,000.” The idea was first met with skepticism and even incredulity.


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But as it became clear there was bipartisan opposition to President Trump’s push for a payroll tax holiday, Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, got onboard and the cash idea quickly transformed from pipe dream to reality, to the centerpiece of Senate Republicans’ roughly $1 trillion rescue plan. The optics were jarring, since it is Republicans who usually accuse Democrats of being too quick to throw taxpayer money around.

“Senate Republicans want to put cash in Americans’ hands,” Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and majority leader, said on the Senate floor as colleagues of both parties worked behind closed doors to hammer out the details of an economic stabilization plan that Mr. McConnell insisted must win Senate approval by Monday.

Not everyone was as enthusiastic about the cash payments. Some Republican colleagues balked, Democrats had reservations about the scope and distribution of the payments and conservative fiscal watchdog groups were aghast.

David McIntosh, the head of the free-market Club for Growth, said Republicans seemed to have borrowed the idea from Andrew Yang, the former Democratic presidential candidate who proposed a $1,000 universal monthly income — an idea that, Mr. McIntosh noted, was subjected to ridicule by Republicans just a few weeks ago.

“It is panic-driven — panic on Capitol Hill,” Mr. McIntosh said. “There is no indication it would work or make a difference. They are throwing up any idea.”

Under the Senate Republicans’ original bill, individuals could receive one-time checks of a maximum of $1,200 or $2,400 for married couples, plus $500 per child. Those earning more money would get a bigger check, and the payment would phase out for those earning more than $75,000, ending entirely for taxpayers with more than $99,000 in income or families earning $198,000. The initial Senate measure would also reduce the payments to $600 for people with no income tax liability but at least $2,500 in earnings.

But those provisions came under attack from lawmakers in both parties and were quickly being overhauled in favor of a program that would send the full amount to those at lower income levels. Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri and another ultraconservative, was among those pushing for that change.

Republican resistance to the cash payments came from Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who said it was more practical to use unemployment insurance to supplement income. Other Senate Republican said privately that they were not convinced that the cash payout would be all that effective, but they were not about to jump in front of a moving legislative train and look like they were denying relief to struggling constituents.

On the Democratic side, progressives were pushing for more generous payments on a monthly basis during the crisis and higher eligibility levels. But Democratic leaders were reluctant to face accusations that they had pushed for checks going to the affluent. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, also wanted to make sure due consideration was given to other Democratic priorities, such as a significant expansion of unemployment insurance and aid to states and hospitals.

Some Democrats acknowledged they were taken aback by the willingness of Republicans to embrace such spending.

“I’m more worried about the deficit than most Republicans,” said Representative Tom Malinowski, Democrat of New Jersey, who favors targeted cash payments.

Senate Republicans were determined to go big with the economic assistance plan after Mr. McConnell allowed the Trump White House and congressional Democrats to largely take the lead on the first two emergency relief packages, leaving some of his party’s senators frustrated. The strategy opened the door to expansive legislative proposals as Senate Republicans sought to put their own stamp on the pandemic response.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Romney said that given his business background, he was aware of the potential hardship for sidelined employees and focused on cash assistance to speed aid, rather than trying to rely on a more complicated system of existing unemployment programs and tax breaks.

“He kind of just put it out there without a lot of detail, knowing there would be a conversation about it,” Liz Johnson, Mr. Romney’s spokeswoman, said. “Consensus grew around it literally overnight.”

This isn’t the first time the government has sent out checks under a Republican president. President George W. Bush did so twice in 2001 and again in 2008 during that years’s economic downturn, to mixed reviews. But this is the first time since the inception of the Tea Party movement, which stirred a backlash in 2010 against government intervention and bailout programs.

The Club for Growth endorsed Mr. Cotton in his first Senate run in 2014, and Mr. McIntosh said he was surprised by the senator’s strong support of the cash payment plan, since he usually backs “what will work.”

His prominent support represents a risk to Mr. Cotton, who has been discussed as a possible Republican presidential candidate in 2024, if the proposal is later found to be wasteful and ineffective. But he seems confident of the approach based on his understanding of economic conditions in his home state and the threat posed to virtually every American by the economic halt.

“Growing up where I did, folks were frequently working paycheck to paycheck,” he said. “I certainly don’t hear the perspective you would hear if you were a rich guy in New York or Washington or another big city and everyone you know works at a big financial firm or a Fortune 500 company.”

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Push for Cash in Rescue Package Came From Unlikely Source: Conservatives

Westlake Legal Group merlin_170785032_6f49774a-673b-4129-aea9-7b46ab2aeb6d-facebookJumbo Push for Cash in Rescue Package Came From Unlikely Source: Conservatives United States Politics and Government United States Economy Tea Party Movement Stimulus (Economic) Senate Romney, Mitt Republican Party Income Cotton, Tom Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) club for growth

WASHINGTON — The idea to funnel cash directly to millions of Americans to help them weather the economic disaster ravaging the globe amid the coronavirus pandemic got its jump-start not from the liberal left, but from a more unlikely source: the most conservative reaches of the Republican Party.

Recognizing a looming calamity for anxious people who are losing their incomes because of a government-ordered shutdown of much of the nation’s economy, some senators who would normally be expected to block a direct federal payout to the poorest Americans, potentially costing $500 billion or more, instead got behind it early.

It is a striking populist turn for a party that has been dominated for a decade by small-government activists, who rose to political prominence in the wake of the Wall Street bailout and are now determined to steer federal help to the most vulnerable of their constituents.

“This is a public health crisis of the likes that has not been seen in a century,” said Senator Tom Cotton, a deeply conservative Republican from Arkansas and one of the chief proponents of getting cash in the hands of hurting Americans as quickly as possible. “Our government at every level has to take responsibility for caring for our people and caring for their health and their material well-being as well.”

It was hardly the expected Republican response, given staunch party resistance to the Obama administration’s 2009 stimulus program following the 2008 financial crisis and a Republican history of rescuing big businesses and then leaving it to those employers to take care of the rest.

But there was Mr. Cotton on Fox & Friends last week, pushing the idea of a quick cash infusion to counter the economic devastation of the coronavirus outbreak. A few hours later, Senator Mitt Romney, the Utah Republican, proposed on Twitter that “every American adult should immediately receive a one-time check for $1,000.” The idea was first met with skepticism and even incredulity.


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But as it became clear there was bipartisan opposition to President Trump’s push for a payroll tax holiday, Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, got onboard and the cash idea quickly transformed from pipe dream to reality, to the centerpiece of Senate Republicans’ roughly $1 trillion rescue plan. The optics were jarring, since it is Republicans who usually accuse Democrats of being too quick to throw taxpayer money around.

“Senate Republicans want to put cash in Americans’ hands,” Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and majority leader, said on the Senate floor as colleagues of both parties worked behind closed doors to hammer out the details of an economic stabilization plan that Mr. McConnell insisted must win Senate approval by Monday.

Not everyone was as enthusiastic about the cash payments. Some Republican colleagues balked, Democrats had reservations about the scope and distribution of the payments and conservative fiscal watchdog groups were aghast.

David McIntosh, the head of the free-market Club for Growth, said Republicans seemed to have borrowed the idea from Andrew Yang, the former Democratic presidential candidate who proposed a $1,000 universal monthly income — an idea that, Mr. McIntosh noted, was subjected to ridicule by Republicans just a few weeks ago.

“It is panic-driven — panic on Capitol Hill,” Mr. McIntosh said. “There is no indication it would work or make a difference. They are throwing up any idea.”

Under the Senate Republicans’ original bill, individuals could receive one-time checks of a maximum of $1,200 or $2,400 for married couples, plus $500 per child. Those earning more money would get a bigger check, and the payment would phase out for those earning more than $75,000, ending entirely for taxpayers with more than $99,000 in income or families earning $198,000. The initial Senate measure would also reduce the payments to $600 for people with no income tax liability but at least $2,500 in earnings.

But those provisions came under attack from lawmakers in both parties and were quickly being overhauled in favor of a program that would send the full amount to those at lower income levels. Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri and another ultraconservative, was among those pushing for that change.

Republican resistance to the cash payments came from Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who said it was more practical to use unemployment insurance to supplement income. Other Senate Republican said privately that they were not convinced that the cash payout would be all that effective, but they were not about to jump in front of a moving legislative train and look like they were denying relief to struggling constituents.

On the Democratic side, progressives were pushing for more generous payments on a monthly basis during the crisis and higher eligibility levels. But Democratic leaders were reluctant to face accusations that they had pushed for checks going to the affluent. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, also wanted to make sure due consideration was given to other Democratic priorities, such as a significant expansion of unemployment insurance and aid to states and hospitals.

Some Democrats acknowledged they were taken aback by the willingness of Republicans to embrace such spending.

“I’m more worried about the deficit than most Republicans,” said Representative Tom Malinowski, Democrat of New Jersey, who favors targeted cash payments.

Senate Republicans were determined to go big with the economic assistance plan after Mr. McConnell allowed the Trump White House and congressional Democrats to largely take the lead on the first two emergency relief packages, leaving some of his party’s senators frustrated. The strategy opened the door to expansive legislative proposals as Senate Republicans sought to put their own stamp on the pandemic response.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Romney said that given his business background, he was aware of the potential hardship for sidelined employees and focused on cash assistance to speed aid, rather than trying to rely on a more complicated system of existing unemployment programs and tax breaks.

“He kind of just put it out there without a lot of detail, knowing there would be a conversation about it,” Liz Johnson, Mr. Romney’s spokeswoman, said. “Consensus grew around it literally overnight.”

This isn’t the first time the government has sent out checks under a Republican president. President George W. Bush did so twice in 2001 and again in 2008 during that years’s economic downturn, to mixed reviews. But this is the first time since the inception of the Tea Party movement, which stirred a backlash in 2010 against government intervention and bailout programs.

The Club for Growth endorsed Mr. Cotton in his first Senate run in 2014, and Mr. McIntosh said he was surprised by the senator’s strong support of the cash payment plan, since he usually backs “what will work.”

His prominent support represents a risk to Mr. Cotton, who has been discussed as a possible Republican presidential candidate in 2024, if the proposal is later found to be wasteful and ineffective. But he seems confident of the approach based on his understanding of economic conditions in his home state and the threat posed to virtually every American by the economic halt.

“Growing up where I did, folks were frequently working paycheck to paycheck,” he said. “I certainly don’t hear the perspective you would hear if you were a rich guy in New York or Washington or another big city and everyone you know works at a big financial firm or a Fortune 500 company.”

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Mnuchin Proposes $1,000 Checks in $1 Trillion Coronavirus Plan

Westlake Legal Group mnuchin-proposes-1000-checks-in-1-trillion-coronavirus-plan Mnuchin Proposes $1,000 Checks in $1 Trillion Coronavirus Plan United States Politics and Government United States Economy Unemployment Insurance Trump, Donald J Treasury Department Stimulus (Economic) Senate Republican Party Recession and Depression Pelosi, Nancy Mnuchin, Steven T McConnell, Mitch Layoffs and Job Reductions Law and Legislation House of Representatives Federal Aid (US) Democratic Party Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)
Westlake Legal Group 19dc-virus-cong1-facebookJumbo-v2 Mnuchin Proposes $1,000 Checks in $1 Trillion Coronavirus Plan United States Politics and Government United States Economy Unemployment Insurance Trump, Donald J Treasury Department Stimulus (Economic) Senate Republican Party Recession and Depression Pelosi, Nancy Mnuchin, Steven T McConnell, Mitch Layoffs and Job Reductions Law and Legislation House of Representatives Federal Aid (US) Democratic Party Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

WASHINGTON — The White House and lawmakers scrambled on Thursday to flesh out details of a $1 trillion economic stabilization plan to help workers and businesses weather a potentially deep recession, negotiating over the size and scope of direct payments to millions of people and aid for companies facing devastation in the coronavirus pandemic.

Senate Republicans, racing to put their imprint on the crisis response, unveiled a package that would provide hundreds of billions of dollars in loans to big corporations and small businesses, large corporate tax cuts and checks of up to $1,200 for taxpayers. The plan would also place limits on a paid-leave program enacted this week to respond to the crisis.

But the 247-page measure, the product of a feverish round of negotiations among Republicans, was all but certain to face opposition from Democrats who have pressed for more generous paid-leave benefits and targeting help to workers and families rather than large corporations.

The details emerged as Washington grappled with the dimensions of an extraordinary government rescue effort that is likely to last for many months. At the White House, President Trump said he would be open to having the government take equity stakes in companies that require federal help, a move that would be unpopular with shareholders and would give the government more oversight over businesses.

But he also injected new uncertainty into the government’s response, suggesting it was not his responsibility to meet the needs of health care workers on the front lines of combating the disease. A day after he said he would use the Defense Production Act — a Korean War-era law that allows presidents to force American industry to ramp up production of critical equipment and supplies — Mr. Trump told reporters that he would rather rely on states to deliver equipment to health care workers.

“The federal government’s not supposed to be out there buying vast amounts of items and then shipping,” Mr. Trump said. “You know, we’re not a shipping clerk,” he said, adding that governors “are supposed to be doing it.”

On Capitol Hill, Republicans presented a bill that would offer bridge loans of up to $10 million each to small businesses, extend hundreds of billions of dollars in loans to large corporations in distressed industries and send checks as large as $1,200 per adult to individuals earning less than $99,000 per year. The payments would phase in for earners up to $75,000 — meaning lower earners would get smaller checks — and then phase out again at $99,000. Those who did not earn enough to pay income tax would receive much less: $600.

The proposal is different from one pitched on Thursday by Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, who said the administration wanted to send two waves of $1,000 checks to every American, one in April and one in May should the crisis persist.

The Senate bill also includes a raft of temporary changes to the tax code that would reduce the tax liability of large corporations, many of them overriding provisions in the 2017 tax overhaul that were meant to raise revenue to offset corporate rate cuts.

It would place new limits on a paid-leave program that Congress passed and Mr. Trump signed into law this week, shielding small business owners from any costs of paid leave for workers affected by the virus — and limiting how much pay those workers could receive if they are forced to stay home.


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A preliminary estimate by the Tax Foundation in Washington shows that the bill would cost at least $1 trillion. The small-business loans alone would be $300 billion, according to documents circulated on Thursday by Senate Republicans.

Mr. McConnell called for negotiations to begin with Senate Democrats on Friday, adding that Mr. Mnuchin, Larry Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council, and Eric M. Ueland, the administration’s director of legislative affairs, would join them on behalf of the administration.

But little more than an hour after its release, the top House and Senate Democrats indicated that the legislation did not meet their standards.

“To earn Democratic support in the Congress, any economic stimulus proposal must include new, strong and strict provisions that prioritize and protect workers, such as banning the recipient companies from buying back stock, rewarding executives and laying off workers,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, said in a joint statement.

Calling the legislation a “significant next step,” Mr. McConnell vowed that the Senate would not leave until the rescue package had been approved, and said there could be a possible fourth relief package to follow as Congress seeks to address an extraordinary series of events.

But several of the Republican proposals are likely to be nonstarters for Democrats in both chambers, whose support is needed in order for the package to become law.

“Hopefully each side will give,” said Mr. Schumer of New York, the minority leader, speaking minutes after Mr. McConnell introduced the proposal. “We’ll come up with a good plan, we’ll send it to the president, and we will help to begin the long path to eradicate this awful virus.”

House Democrats, scattered across the country during an indefinite recess, have also been exchanging their own proposals over conference calls from their districts. Ms. Pelosi, who has spoken repeatedly with Mr. Mnuchin in recent days, has said her committee leaders were discussing the possibility of expanding unemployment insurance eligibility, refundable tax credits and funds for small businesses to ensure that workers continue to be paid.

One of the sticking points for members of both parties was the scope of the direct payment program, with some Republican senators pushing to strengthen unemployment insurance and loans for small businesses.

“Direct payments make sense when the economy is beginning to restart — it makes no sense now because it’s just money,” Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, told reporters. “What I want is income, not one check. I want you to get a check you can count on every week, not one week.”

Others said it should be structured so that the lowest earners got the most help — not the other way around.

“Relief to families in this emergency shouldn’t be regressive,” Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, said in a tweet. “Lower-income families shouldn’t be penalized.”

While there is general agreement about the need to speed economic help to millions of Americans, House Democrats are also debating the contours of their own proposal, including how to target the direct payments and the level of government intervention. During a private conference call on Thursday, they debated where to set the income cap on individuals who could receive government checks, according to three people familiar with the discussion who insisted on anonymity to describe the private call.

Representative Richard E. Neal of Massachusetts, the Democratic chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, which would have some jurisdiction over the issue, suggested capping the direct payments to individuals with incomes between $50,000 and $75,000, according to two people familiar with the discussion. Other lawmakers advocated raising the limit to individual incomes of $130,000, while others suggested universal payments.

And some Democrats believe the government should intervene more directly and take on payroll or other expenses for small businesses, arguing that could be a more targeted and effective way to keep them afloat and people employed.

Ms. Pelosi has said publicly and privately that she will consider including provisions that would expand eligibility for unemployment insurance, as well as using refundable tax credits to expedite funds directly toward people affected by the outbreak.

It is also likely that the House will address a request from the administration to distribute emergency aid to agencies on the front lines. Representative Nita M. Lowey of New York, the Democratic chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, told her colleagues on Thursday that her committee is expected to allocate between $100 billion and $150 billion, more than doubling the request, according to a person familiar with the remarks, and include it in the emerging package.

“Supplemental appropriations are an essential part of a whole-of-government strategy to address this pandemic, and it is irresponsible for Senate Republican leadership to omit these needed resources from its proposal,” said Evan Hollander, a spokesman for the House committee.

Earlier this month, Congress approved a first, $8.3 billion round of emergency money for federal health agencies, and this week it finalized a second measure — whose cost has yet to be tallied — to provide paid leave, jobless aid and food and health care assistance, as well as free coronavirus testing. Mr. Trump has signed both.

Time is of the essence in the talks. The news Wednesday night that two House lawmakers had tested positive for coronavirus after voting early Saturday has added pressure for senators to cut a swift deal on the package and depart Washington indefinitely.

The fiscal relief package unveiled Thursday is only one part of the administration’s plan, which some analysts now anticipate topping $1.5 trillion before the negotiations are completed. Mr. Mnuchin said the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve were working in lock step and were prepared to do whatever was possible to provide liquidity to American companies so they could weather the crisis without laying off workers. The Federal Reserve said late Wednesday night that it would offer emergency loans to money market mutual funds, its latest in a series of steps to keep the financial system functioning and prop up the economy.

“What we’re really focused on is providing liquidity to American businesses and American workers,” Mr. Mnuchin said on the Fox Business Network on Thursday. “This is an unprecedented situation.”

He said he had advised the president to purchase oil, which is at historically low prices, and fill up America’s strategic reserve.

Economists are bracing for a deep recession. Analysts at J.P. Morgan said this week that the United States economy could contract by 14 percent in the second quarter of this year.

The Treasury Department has not released updated economic projections, but Mr. Mnuchin said that he expected the beginnings of growth again in the third quarter and a “gigantic” rebound in the final three months of the year.

Economic data is beginning to trickle out, offering a grim preview of the damage that lies ahead. Official figures released on Thursday showed claims for unemployment insurance reaching their highest level in more than two years.

“The coronavirus outbreak is already starting to have a significant impact on the economy,” said Andrew Hunter, a senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics. “Timelier reports of state-level data point to an unprecedented surge in layoffs over the next couple of weeks.”

The Treasury secretary indicated that he and the Federal Reserve chair, Jerome H. Powell, would use all the tools at their disposal to allow that workers and businesses to subsist for the next few months.

Reporting was contributed by Nicholas Fandos, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Catie Edmondson and Katie Rogers.

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Sorry, but It’s Tax Time, and You Should Probably Read All This Stuff

I dread filing taxes. At best, after preparing my return, I learn that I’ll get a modest refund, one that isn’t worth all the trouble. At worst, I get news like I did last year.

Thanks to the 2017 tax overhaul, I discovered that the Internal Revenue Service hadn’t been gobbling up enough of my paycheck week by week. I owed the Treasury an unexpected bill. What fun!

Perhaps your experience has been better. You may love tax preparation or even profit from it, in which case, congratulations. It’s your special time of year. For everyone else, though, we offer condolences, plus a little more: help.

We can’t prepare your return or pay your bills. But we do have plenty of tips, answers to frequently asked questions and coverage of some of the biggest tax issues this year.

ImageWestlake Legal Group 05Taxquestions-illo-articleLarge Sorry, but It’s Tax Time, and You Should Probably Read All This Stuff Wirecutter, The United States Politics and Government Taxation Tax Preparers and Preparation Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (2017) Senate Pensions and Retirement Plans Internal Revenue Service Federal Taxes (US) Democratic Party

Credit…Nicolas Ortega

What’s the deal with the redesigned W-4? How did I screw up my withholding again? Did I hear something about expired tax breaks being extended? And how come … Read more »

One reason people have so many questions, Neil Irwin writes, is that America administers a huge swath of its social welfare programs via the I.R.S. Most other democracies just subsidize certain behaviors directly. Our heaps of special deductions, exemptions and credits are part of what makes filing taxes an intimidating gantlet for many Americans. Read more »

The leading Democratic presidential candidates and the top Democrats in Congress argue about many aspects of tax policy, but they agree on one thing, Jim Tankersley says. It is that taxes on the investment income of wealthy people need to increase, a position that the Trump administration roundly rejects. Read more »

At some point, it makes sense for many people to use an accountant, Ron Lieber argues. He outlines nine compelling situations. Read more »

They created fake returns for filers called Steve Straightforward, Frank and Frannie Family, and Erica Entrepreneur, and ran them through seven online services. Read more »

A change in the law late last year instituted some important changes for retirees, who can keep money in tax-sheltered accounts longer, if they don’t need the money immediately. But if you inherit a retirement account, the law reduces the time that you can shelter the money. As usual, though, there are some loopholes. Read more »

If you have a part-time job with Uber, or a series of freelance engagements, you face particular problems at tax time, writes Tara Siegel Bernard. There are special forms you need to use, benefits that you may qualify for and pitfalls to avoid. Read more »

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C.D.C. Officials Warn of Coronavirus Outbreaks in the U.S.

Westlake Legal Group 25VIRUS-CDC-facebookJumbo C.D.C. Officials Warn of Coronavirus Outbreaks in the U.S. your-feed-science United States Politics and Government United States South Korea Senate Respiratory Diseases National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases Masks Italy Iran Hubei Province (China) House of Representatives Homeland Security Department Health and Human Services Department Epidemics Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) China Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The coronavirus almost certainly will begin spreading in communities in the United States, and Americans should begin preparations now, officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Tuesday.

“It’s not so much of a question of if this will happen anymore but rather more of a question of exactly when this will happen,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a news briefing.

The news caps weeks of fear that the coronavirus spreading from China may become a pandemic, disrupting the global economy and political landscape in ways that are difficult to forecast.

Iran, South Korea and Italy are now grappling with clusters of infection, even as the epidemic in China’s Hubei Province seems to be slowing.

The emergence of these new hubs underscored the lack of a coordinated global strategy to combat the coronavirus, which has infected nearly 80,000 people in 37 countries, causing at least 2,600 deaths.

Officials at the C.D.C. said they did not know whether spread of the disease to the United States would be mild or severe. But Americans should be ready for a significant disruption to their daily lives, she added.

“We are asking the American public to prepare for the expectation that this might be bad,” Dr. Messonnier said.

  • What do you need to know? Start here.

    Updated Feb. 25, 2020

    • What is a Coronavirus?
      It is a novel virus named for the crown-like spikes that protrude from its surface. The coronavirus can infect both animals and people, and can cause a range of respiratory illnesses from the common cold to more dangerous conditions like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.
    • How contagious is the virus?
      According to preliminary research, it seems moderately infectious, similar to SARS, and is probably transmitted through sneezes, coughs and contaminated surfaces. Scientists have estimated that each infected person could spread it to somewhere between 1.5 and 3.5 people without effective containment measures.
    • Where has the virus spread?
      The virus, which originated in Wuhan, China, has sickened more than 80,000 people in at least 33 countries, including Italy, Iran and South Korea.
    • Who is working to contain the virus?
      The World Health Organization officials have been working with officials in China, where growth has slowed. But this week, as confirmed cases spiked on two continents, experts warned that the world is not ready for a major outbreak.
    • What if I’m traveling?
      The C.D.C. has warned older and at-risk travelers to avoid Japan, Italy and Iran. The agency also has advised against all non-essential travel to South Korea and China.
    • How do I keep myself and others safe?
      Washing your hands frequently is the most important thing you can do, along with staying at home when you’re sick.

In Washington, the secretary of health and human services told a Senate panel that federal and local health departments will need as many as 300 million masks for health care workers and additional ventilators for hospitals to prepare for an outbreak of coronavirus in the U.S.

“This is an unprecedented potentially severe health challenge globally,” Alex M. Azar II, the health and human services secretary, told a Senate subcommittee.

But lawmakers from both parties made it clear they were unconvinced the Trump administration was prepared for the outbreak that the C.D.C. is forecasting.

As Senator John Kennedy, Republican of Louisiana, pressed for an exact number on people expected to be infected, the acting secretary of Homeland Security Department, Chad F. Wolf, could not answer.

“I’m all for committees and task forces but you’re the secretary,” Mr. Kennedy responded. “I think you ought to know that answer.”

Trump administration officials overseeing the response to a potential coronavirus outbreak told lawmakers that the initial amount of money requested by the White House — $1.25 billion in new funds and $1.25 billion taken from other programs — would likely be just a first round.

“We’re really learning day by day and week by week of the contours of this disease,” Mr. Azar said.

Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington State, asked the health secretary whether he thought the United States currently had enough health masks in stock.

“Of course not,” he responded, “or else we wouldn’t be asking for more.”

Mr. Azar said that officials currently had 30 million N95 masks in the nation’s emergency stockpile, which typically cost less than $1.

Mr. Azar said he was alarmed by the human-to-human transmission of the virus in other parts of the world without an identifiable connection to confirmed cases, and what that could mean for how the virus may hit the United States in the coming months.

“We cannot hermetically seal off the United States to a virus,” Mr. Azar said. “And we need to be realistic about that.”

The World Health Organization said that the pace of confirmed new cases in China, which exceeded 2,000 a day a month ago, had dropped steadily, to a low of 508 on Monday.

The W.H.O. said the severe measures imposed by the Chinese authorities to isolate patients and the hardest-hit areas had likely prevented hundreds of thousands of additional infections.

But W.H.O. officials have also warned that the world is unprepared for a leap in infections, which could overwhelm medical resources in many countries. They also cautioned that new cases could suddenly resurge in China, as the government struggles to get people back to work.

[Like the Science Times page on Facebook. | Sign up for the Science Times newsletter.]

And there are persistent doubts about the accuracy of infection figures reported by China’s government, raising the possibility that the true magnitude of the outbreak remains underreported.

By Tuesday, South Korea had reported a total of 893 cases, the second most in the world, and the Centers for Disease Control in the United States warned Americans not to travel there.

Of the 60 new cases reported by South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 49 came from Daegu, the city at the center of the outbreak in that country.

In Iran, a spike in coronavirus infections — including the top health official in charge of fighting the disease — has prompted fears of a contagion throughout the Middle East.

In Italy, one of Europe’s largest economies, officials are struggling to prevent the epidemic from paralyzing the commercial center of Milan. And in New York, London and Tokyo, financial markets plummeted Monday and Tuesday on fears that the virus will cripple the global economy.

Dr. Messonnier said that she had sat down with her children and told them, “we as a family need to preparing for significant disruption of our lives.”

Americans “should ask their schools about plans for dismissal” and for conducting classes online in the event that the spread of illness becomes serious, she said.

“I contacted my local school superintendent this morning with exactly those questions.”

Rick Gladstone contributed reporting from New York.

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