NEW YORK DAILY NEWS/
President Trump on Wednesday signed a coronavirus relief bill that guarantees paid sick leave, free testing and unemployment assistance for thousands of Americans whose finances and health are in disarray because of the pandemic.
The infusion of cash into the U.S. economy will “help the nation respond to the coronavirus outbreak,” Trump said as he signed the bill Wednesday night. The $100 billion package had earlier cleared the Senate in an overwhelming 90-8 vote. The House passed the bill over the weekend in a similarly bipartisan vote.
Still, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle said the package was far from enough and got started right away on another bill that could top $1 trillion.
The White House wants that bill to earmark $500 billion for free money subsidies to millions of Americans, with the first checks to come April 6 if Congress approves.
The ramped-up appropriations come in addition to an $8.3 billion bill signed by Trump at the beginning of the month that provided coronavirus funds for first responders and vaccine development.
Earlier Wednesday, Trump signed an executive order under the Defense Production Act of 1950 to mandate that medical supply companies begin producing face masks, ventilators and intensive care unit beds at a rapid pace to meet growing demands at overcrowding hospitals across the country.
The arcane law has nearly only been invoked in wartime in the past.
“It’s a war,” Trump said of the virus in the White House briefing room.
In addition to the rarely-used declaration, Trump said he was instructing the Housing and Urban Development Department to suspend foreclosures and evictions in all public housing complexes, including New York City’s NYCHA, as hundreds of thousands of Americans lose their jobs and are forced into quarantine because of the virus.
He also announced that the U.S.-Canada border would shut down to all but essential travel, as both countries hunker down ahead of an expected onslaught of cases from a virus that has already infected nearly 8,000 people in the U.S. and killed dozens.
The dramatic actions, which came on the heels of last week’s national emergency declaration, prove a sharp contrast to Trump’s previously stubborn insistence that the virus would “go away” and that people should remain “calm.”
But Trump couldn’t go one day without drawing outrage from Democrats and other critics, as he kept calling the coronavirus the “Chinese virus” despite a chorus of complaints that the moniker is racist.
“It is not racist at all, not at all. It comes from China,” Trump said in the briefing room. “That’s why. It comes from China. I want to be accurate.”
He even suggested it’s fine with him to call the virus “Kung-flu” — as one administration official did anonymously in a recent report.
“It’s from China,” he said, waving off a question about the divisive label.
Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, disagreed vehemently.
“Any time public officials intentionally seek to alienate or marginalize any community is very dangerous,” Greenblatt told the Daily News. “Calling it ‘Chinese virus’ or ‘Kung flu’ goes against all the advice of scientists who say we should use its scientific name.”
The virus, which is believed to have originated in Wuhan, China, has spread uncontrollably across the world and was declared a global pandemic earlier this month. More than 200,000 people have been infected and nearly 10,000 have died.
As Congress prepared to move on to another relief package, some disagreements remained over who needs the most help.
Trump and Republicans are pushing for a sweeping stimulus bill that would offer subsidies for the hard-hit airline, hotel and cruise ship industries, in addition to the $1,000 checks they want to issue to every American citizen in a bid to bolster spending amid plummeting stock markets and a looming recession.