White House Eyes Payroll-Tax Cut, Worker Relief as Virus Takes Hold in US

WASHINGTON (CN) — President Donald Trump said Monday the White House plans to work with Congress starting this week on a payroll tax cut and relief for hourly workers in response to the spread of the coronavirus.

Trump did not provide details of specific legislative proposals on Monday afternoon, but said White House officials will go to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to meet with House and Senate Republicans on the proposals. He teased a Tuesday afternoon press conference with more details on the proposals.

President Donald Trump with Vice President Mike Pence. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

In addition to the payroll tax cut, which has long been rumored as a response to the outbreak, Trump said the White House is eyeing relief for hourly workers to help them stay home if they feel sick without fear of missing a paycheck.

“We’ll be working with companies and small companies, large companies, a lot of companies, so that they don’t get penalized for something that’s not their fault,” Trump said. “It’s not their fault, it’s not our country’s fault. This was something that we were thrown into and we’re going to handle it and we have been handling it very well.”

Trump made the comments at a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House on Monday afternoon, to which he was a surprise late addition.

Democrats had countered reports that the Trump administration was eying payroll tax cuts in response to recent economic losses by calling for other legislative proposals, including paid sick leave and boosts to unemployment insurance.

In a letter sent to House Democrats on Monday afternoon, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said she will be meeting with House committee chairs on Monday night to discuss possible responses.

Congress last week passed an $8.3 billion spending bill to combat the coronavirus that included authorization for billions of dollars in federal loans for small businesses.

“It is clear that further legislative action will quickly become necessary as the epidemic spreads and the impacts on workers and families in our communities deepen,” Pelosi wrote.

Pelosi also said there is no need yet for Congress to leave Washington due to the outbreak.

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