U.S. President Donald Trump said yesterday night that he is asking the Congress to boost funding by an additional 50 billion dollars to support small businesses suffering economic disruptions due to the novel coronavirus disease outbreak.
Addressing the nation from the Oval Office at the White House, Trump said "this is not a financial crisis, this is just a temporary moment of time that we will overcome together as a nation and as a world."
Trump said he is instructing the Small Business Administration to exercise available authority to provide capital and liquidity to firms affected by the coronavirus, in order to provide extra support for American workers, families and businesses.
The president said he would also direct the Treasury Department to "defer tax payments, without interest or penalties, for certain individuals and businesses negatively impacted," beyond the April 15 filing deadline, in an attempt to provide more liquidity to the economy.
"To ensure that working Americans impacted by the virus can stay home without fear of financial hardship, I will soon be taking emergency action, which is unprecedented, to provide financial relief," Trump said. "This will be targeted for workers who are ill, quarantined, or caring for others due to coronavirus."
In the Oval Office speech, the president also called on the Congress to provide Americans with "immediate payroll tax relief," although a few lawmakers, both Democratic and Republican, have voiced opposition against the proposal.
The president's remarks came as the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, and volatile trading continued on Wall Street earlier in the day, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing down more than 1,400 points amid coronavirus fears.
As of Wednesday night, there were over 1,300 confirmed cases and 38 deaths in the United States, according to a tracking tool developed by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.
More and more companies have asked employees to work from home, while several universities, including Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), have announced decisions to move to online classes over coronavirus concerns.
In response to the latest development, Trump also announced that the United States will suspend all travel from European countries except Britain for 30 days in order to contain the spread of coronavirus. ■