Coronavirus Live Updates: Trump Pauses Issuing of Green Cards; Senate Passes Aid Package – New York Times

0 0

Trump announced a pause in issuing green cards but backed off plans to also halt guest worker programs.

President Trump said on Tuesday that he would order a temporary halt in issuing green cards to prevent people from immigrating to the United States, but he backed away from plans to suspend guest worker programs after business groups exploded in anger at the threat of losing access to foreign labor.

Mr. Trump, whose administration has faced intense criticism in recent months for his handling of the coronavirus crisis, abruptly sought to change the subject Tuesday night by resuming his assault on immigration, which animated his 2016 campaign and became one of the defining issues of his presidency.

He cast his decision to “suspend immigration,” which he first announced in a late-night tweet on Monday, as a move to protect American jobs.

But it comes as the United States economy sheds its work force at a record rate and when few employers are reaching out for workers at home or abroad. More than 22 million Americans have lost their jobs in the economic devastation caused by the virus and efforts to contain it.

Mr. Trump said that his order would initially be in effect for 60 days, but that he might later extend it “based on economic conditions at the time.”

While numerous studies have concluded that immigration has an overall positive effect on the American work force and wages for workers, Mr. Trump ignored that research on Tuesday, insisting that American citizens who had lost their jobs in recent weeks should not have to compete with foreigners when the economy reopens.

“By pausing immigration, we will help put unemployed Americans first in line for jobs as America reopens — so important,” Mr. Trump said. “It would be wrong and unjust for Americans laid off by the virus to be replaced with new immigrant labor flown in from abroad. We must first take care of the American worker.”

Lawyers at the Department of Justice were still studying whether the president had the legal authority to unilaterally suspend the issuance of green cards, an order that caught officials at the Defense Department and the Department of Homeland Security off guard, according to people familiar with the announcement.

The decision not to block guest worker programs — which provide specific visas for technology workers, farm laborers and others — is a concession to business groups, which assailed the White House on Tuesday.

Jason Oxman, the president of the Information Technology Industry Council, a trade group, said in a statement earlier in the day that “the United States will not benefit from shutting down legal immigration.”

As late as Monday night, after Mr. Trump’s tweet, top White House officials said they believed the president’s order would apply to some of the guest worker programs while exempting others.

By Tuesday afternoon — amid the business backlash — officials conceded that designing an order that applied to some guest workers but not others would be overly complicated, and they abandoned it.

The Senate on Tuesday passed a $484 billion coronavirus relief package that would replenish a depleted loan program for distressed small businesses and provide funds for hospitals and coronavirus testing, approving yet another huge infusion of federal money to address the public health and economic crisis brought on by the pandemic.

The measure was the product of an intense round of bipartisan negotiations between Democrats and the Trump administration that unfolded as the small business loan program created by the stimulus law quickly ran out of its initial $349 billion in funding. The program ran dry before many companies were able to have their applications approved, collapsing under a glut of appeals from desperate businesses struggling to stay afloat.

The money is just a fraction of the amount that Congress will consider in the weeks to come, as lawmakers contemplate spending another $1 trillion or more on a sweeping government response.

The House is expected to pass the bill on Thursday, and President Trump has indicated he will sign it.

The Senate passed Tuesday’s measure by voice vote — a necessity since most senators were not present because the chamber had been in a prolonged recess — though two Republican senators, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah, spoke against it beforehand.

Mr. Paul, a libertarian, said he had returned to Washington “so that history will record that not everyone gave in to the massive debt Congress is creating” with the multiple rounds of coronavirus relief it had enacted over the past six weeks.

The agreement would provide $320 billion to replenish the Paycheck Protection Program, which offers guarantees for forgivable loans to small businesses if a majority of the money is used to retain employees.

About a fifth of the funding for the small-business loan program, $60 billion, would be set aside for smaller lenders, in line with Democrats’ request to steer resources to businesses that typically have trouble accessing loans.

The bill would also add $60 billion for the Small Business Administration’s disaster relief fund — divided into $50 billion in loans and $10 billion in grants — and farms and other agriculture enterprises would be made eligible. There would also be $75 billion for hospitals and $25 billion for coronavirus testing.

The federal aid has not been sufficient to keep more than 22 million Americans from filing for unemployment. And the first round of loans issued through the small business program bypassed many smaller businesses, who watched their larger competitors get help.

Small restaurants have been particularly hard hit. Now in the second month of compulsory closings, many owners of independent restaurants and bars across the country are starting to despair of getting the help they need to come back.

Shake Shack, a national chain, came under fire this week for taking millions of dollars of stimulus money that was meant to help small businesses. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he was pleased that Shake Shack had announced that it would be returning its Paycheck Protection Program loan and said other big companies that received money should not expect to keep those funds.

“The intent of this was for businesses that needed the money,” Mr. Mnuchin said. “The intent of this money was not for big public companies that have access to capital.”

Mr. Trump, asked about the Shake Shack loan at his news briefing, took the opportunity to lash out at another recipient of federal aid: Harvard University. The president joined mounting criticism of Harvard’s receipt of $8.6 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act he signed into law on March 27.

“Harvard’s going to pay back the money,” Mr. Trump said at his news briefing. “And they shouldn’t be taking it.”

But Harvard said Tuesday that Mr. Trump appeared to misunderstand the source of the funds.

“Harvard did not apply for, nor has it received any funds through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses,” said Jason Newton, a Harvard spokesman. “Reports saying otherwise are inaccurate. President Trump is right that it would not have been appropriate for our institution to receive funds that were designated for struggling small businesses.”

Harvard instead was one of hundreds of American universities to receive stimulus money through a $14 billion allocation distributed by the Education Department to help offset the financial hit of the coronavirus and support low-income students. Harvard’s share was calculated according to a formula that depends heavily on a college’s number of students and share of poor students.

“It was purely mechanical,” Terry Hartle, a senior vice president at the American Council on Education, a trade group, said Tuesday. “Harvard got that money because that’s the way the formula allocated it.”

An unprecedented bust in the oil market worsened on Tuesday as traders were gripped by fear that crude output remained far too high and storage was quickly running out.

The futures contract for West Texas Intermediate crude to be delivered in May fell on Monday into negative territory — a bizarre move that has never happened before. In other words, some traders were willing to pay buyers to take oil off their hands.

But other benchmarks of the price of crude remained much higher (closer to $20 per barrel), suggesting that the negative price was partly a result of how oil is traded, with different prices set for crude that will be delivered at different points.

The rest of the oil market also crashed on Tuesday. The West Texas Intermediate contract for June delivery sank more than 50 percent to below $10 a barrel, and Brent crude, the international benchmark, was down about 21 percent.

Demand for oil is disappearing; despite a deal by Saudi Arabia, Russia and other nations to cut production, the world is running out of places to put all the oil being pumped out, about 100 million barrels a day. At the start of the year, oil sold for more than $60 a barrel.

The decision by Gov. Brian Kemp to begin restarting Georgia’s economy drew swift rebukes on Tuesday from mayors, public health experts and some business owners, with skeptics arguing that the plan might amplify another wave of coronavirus outbreaks.

Mr. Kemp said Monday that he would allow certain businesses, including gyms, nail and hair salons, bowling alleys and tattoo parlors, to begin operating as soon as Friday. Under Mr. Kemp’s approach, which he said he approved because he believed the situation had sufficiently stabilized, dine-in restaurants, theaters and other entertainment venues could resume operations on Monday.

But some Georgia mayors, barred from issuing their own restrictions, urged residents to ignore the reopenings and stay at home.

“I am beyond disturbed,” Savannah’s mayor, Van R. Johnson, said on CNN, of the governor’s decision.

When Mr. Kemp announced his easing of restrictions, he explicitly stated that they would apply statewide, and that “local action cannot be taken that is more or less restrictive.”

But Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, said at a briefing Tuesday that she believed decisions should be judged “community by community” when she was asked about Mr. Kemp allowing hair salons and tattoo parlors to open.

“I believe people in Atlanta would understand that if their cases are not going down, that they need to continue to do everything that we said — social distancing, washing your hands, wearing a mask in public,” she said. “So if there’s a way that people can social distance and do those things, then they can do those things. I don’t know how. But people are very creative.”

Mr. Trump said that he planned to speak with Mr. Kemp on Tuesday evening.

Mr. Kemp is not alone among governors in seeking to relax restrictions. South Carolina is pressing ahead with a partial reopening on Tuesday — two weeks after restrictions were put in place — of retail shops that had been deemed “nonessential,” such as sporting goods, book and craft stores. Beaches were also allowed to reopen in the state, which has recorded nearly 4,000 cases and more than 100 deaths.

The governors of Ohio and Tennessee have also taken early steps toward reopening their states. Mr. Kemp, though, was the target of some of the most ferocious criticism on Tuesday.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms of Atlanta, the capital and the site of a recent surge in cases, told ABC News that she would keep asking “people to continue to stay home, follow the science and exercise common sense.”

An informal coalition of influential conservative leaders and groups, some with close connections to the White House, has been quietly working to nurture protests and apply political and legal pressure to overturn state and local orders intended to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

The groups have tapped their networks to drive up turnout at recent rallies in state capitals, dispatched their lawyers to file lawsuits, and paid for polling and research to undercut the arguments behind restrictions that have closed businesses and limited the movement of most Americans.

Among those fighting the orders are FreedomWorks and Tea Party Patriots, which played pivotal roles in the beginning of Tea Party protests starting more than a decade ago, and a law firm led partly by former Trump White House officials. The effort picked up some influential support on Tuesday, when Attorney General William P. Barr expressed concerns about state-level restrictions potentially infringing on constitutional rights.

While polls show a majority of Americans are more concerned about reopening the country too quickly, those helping orchestrate the fight against restrictions predict the effort could energize the right and potentially help President Trump as he campaigns for re-election.

Noah Wall, the advocacy director for FreedomWorks, described the current efforts as appealing to a “much broader” group. “This is about people who want to get back to work and leave their homes,” he said.

Jay Timmons, the head of the National Association of Manufacturers, one of America’s largest business lobbying groups, had another word for the protesters: idiots.

“These people are standing so close together without any protection — with children, for God’s sakes,” Mr. Timmons said in an interview. “And they have no concern, and it’s all about them, and it’s all about what they want.”

Leaders of Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled Legislature on Tuesday filed a lawsuit seeking to block a statewide stay-at-home order issued by the Democratic governor, who closed schools and businesses.

The legal fight adds a new note of partisan rancor in a roiling national debate that has seen Mr. Trump, conservative protesters and some states lawmakers push for a faster reopening of shuttered state economies. Wisconsin’s Republican leaders filed the lawsuit after Gov. Tony Evers’s administration extended a statewide stay-at-home order through May 26, citing a need to prevent increases in coronavirus cases.

The lawsuit comes just weeks after the Republican-controlled Legislature refused to postpone the state’s April 7 primary election or expand mail-in voting, leading to scenes of hundreds of masked voters standing in line for hours outside polling places. At least seven people in Milwaukee contracted the coronavirus after participating in the elections, public health officials said on Tuesday.

Robin Vos, the speaker of the Wisconsin State Assembly, and State Senator Scott Fitzgerald, the majority leader, said in a statement on Tuesday that the governor’s orders had exceeded his legal authority and churned up “immense frustration.”

“The governor has denied the people a voice through this unprecedented administrative overreach,” they said. “Wisconsinites deserve certainty, transparency and a plan to end the constant stream of executive orders that are eroding both the economy and their liberty.”

Two new studies using antibody testing to assess how many people have been infected turned up numbers higher than some experts had expected.

Both studies were performed in California: one among residents of Santa Clara County, south of San Francisco, and the other among residents of Los Angeles County. In both cases, the estimates of the number of people infected countrywide were far higher than the number of confirmed cases.

In the Santa Clara County study, researchers tested 3,330 volunteers for antibodies indicating exposure. Roughly 1.5 percent were positive. After adjustments intended to account for differences between the sample and the population of the county as a whole, the researchers estimated that the prevalence of antibodies fell between 2.5 percent and a bit more than 4 percent.

That meant that between 48,000 and 81,000 people were infected in Santa Clara County by early April, the researchers concluded.

In Los Angeles County, researchers conducted antibody tests for two days at six drive-through test sites in early April and estimated that between 2.8 percent to 5.6 percent of the county’s adult population carried antibodies. If accurate, that would mean that 220,000 to 442,000 residents have been exposed.

By comparison, only 8,000 cases had been confirmed in the county at the time the testing was done.

Hobbled by government scandal and dysfunction at the start of the pandemic, Puerto Rico has performed an average of 15 tests a day for every 100,000 people, according to the Covid Tracking Project. That rate is lower than any state and more than 10 times less comprehensive than the testing effort in New York.

Public health experts fear the situation could leave the island uniquely vulnerable once it attempts to reopen. Puerto Rico has one of the strictest lockdowns in the country, which has kept hospitals from becoming overwhelmed with patients but has also required much sacrifice from Puerto Ricans enduring the 14th year of an economic recession.

“Everything has been delay and disorganization,” said Dr. Carlos Mellado, a physician in San Juan, the capital, who has been treating patients. “We’re still under a complete lockdown. People are starting to get desperate.”

The health department, which is being led by its third secretary since March 13, has been double-counting some test results. It is also embroiled in a $38 million contracting scandal over antibody tests that never materialized. Federal agencies are investigating.

More than in other places where testing has been insufficient, experts say that the huge lag has left Puerto Rico blind to where it lies on its infection curve.

The president and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, two New Yorkers who have alternately praised and quarreled with each other during the pandemic that has ravaged their mutual home state, met in person on Tuesday to try to resolve their differences on testing and financial relief.

After weeks of talking by telephone and through the news media, Mr. Cuomo traveled to Washington to sit down with the president at the White House and press for more federal assistance to expand testing for the virus and to help financially devastated state and local governments.

Mr. Cuomo emerged afterward and called it “a good conversation,” playing down the sporadic disputes between the two men.

“The president is communicative about his feelings and I’m communicative about what I think,” Mr. Cuomo told Nicolle Wallace on MSNBC. “But look, for the president and for myself, this isn’t about — this is not about anyone’s emotions, about anyone else. Who cares what I feel, what he feels. We have a tremendous job that we have to get done and put everything else aside and do the job. And that was the tone of the conversation.”

Earlier in the day Mr. Cuomo had announced 481 more fatalities in New York, lower than the daily tolls last week, bringing the overall total to at least 14,828. Total hospitalizations were “basically flat,” he said, and the number of intubations declined. New York would begin to allow elective treatment in hospitals in parts of the state that were less battered, he said.

Here’s some advice on managing your emotions during the lockdown.

As each week of the pandemic passes, it is not unusual to experience unexpected emotions. Here are some strategies that might be helpful in trying to cope.

Reporting was contributed by Tim Arango, Karen Barrow, Jo Becker, Katie Benner, Alan Blinder, Jonah Engel Bromwich, Emily Cochrane, Michael Cooper, Steve Eder, David Enrich, Lola Fadulu, Dana Goldstein, Anemona Hartocollis, Jack Healy, Andrew Jacobs, Miriam Jordan, Gina Kolata, Lisa Lerer, Patricia Mazzei, Allison McCann, Matt Phillips, Ben Protess, Alan Rappeport, Katie Rogers, Rick Rojas, Jim Rutenberg, Marc Santora, Katharine Q. Seelye, Eliza Shapiro, Michael D. Shear, Jim Tankersley, Katie Thomas, Kenneth P. Vogel and Jin Wu.

Cet article est apparu en premier (en Anglais) sur NEW YORK TIMES

Laisser un commentaire

Votre adresse email ne sera pas publiée.