By press time in mid-March, President Donald Trump had signed into law an $8.3 billion stimulus package to help find a vaccine for the coronavirus and declared a national emergency, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin was trying to hammer out an additional $850 billion stimulus package to stem the economic and market carnage.
Policy analysts like Ed Mills of Raymond James opined in mid-March that a “potentially weeks-long effort for additional fiscal stimulus measures” would be underway, which may prolong market volatility.
(Since press time, the $2.2 trillion relief package, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, (CARES) Act, was signed into law.)
In the near-term, however, Trump declared on March 13 a national emergency, “outlined a public-private partnership to dramatically increase testing capacity, and announced oil purchases for the strategic petroleum reserve and the waiving of interest on federal student loans,” Mills stated.
The national emergency declaration will “open up access to up to $50 billion” for states, territories and localities “in our shared fight against this disease,” Trump said.
Trump said he was also urging states to set up emergency operation centers immediately and asked the nation’s hospitals to activate their emergency preparedness plans.
“Our overriding goal is to stop this virus,” Trump said.
Trump’s emergency order also will confer “broad new authority” to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, who will be able to “immediately waive provisions of applicable laws and regulations to give doctors, hospitals and healthcare providers maximum flexibility to respond to the virus and care for patients,” Trump said.
During a March 16 press briefing, Trump announced “new guidelines for every American to follow over the next 15 days,” which will “further toughen the guidelines and blunt the effect” of the coronavirus. With schools closed across the country, Trump urged “working to engage in school at home,” and told Americans to avoid gatherings with more than 10 people, as well as bars, restaurants and public food courts. Curfews also had been set in many states.
A coronavirus vaccine candidate “has begun the phase one trial,” Trump said, adding that the United States also is “racing to get anti-viral treatments” to reduce the symptoms and duration of the coronavirus.
Two days earlier, the House approved H.R. 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, legislation which, among other measures, offers free coronavirus testing, by and large, for everyone in the United States.
While the House-approved bill allows for free testing for the virus, expands unemployment insurance, paid sick leave for those affected, and subsidized meals for students eligible for free school lunches, the measures are “relatively small and offer modest support to those with economic problems,” according to Ray Dalio, legendary founder and co-chief investment officer of Bridgewater Associates “They will need to be much bigger.”