In the press conference held yesterday afternoon, President Trump announced to the American people the strides his administration has made in both combating the spread of novel coronavirus and alleviating the country from financial strain.
During the White House briefing, Trump was level-headed, direct, and used a somber yet optimistic tone to remind the people that we are six days into a fifteen-day effort to slow the spread of the virus.
A great deal of progress has been made in the last 24 hours. President Trump’s administration worked hand-in-hand with the Federal Reserve, HUD, and the Department of Education, as well as the Coronavirus Task Force, led by Vice President Mike Pence, FEMA, and the FDA to eradicate the virus, relieve the increasing burden on the hospital system, and address the economic hardships that have landed heavily on the shoulders of the American people.
Among the list of steps that the administration has taken to reduce the strain on the economy, the president reported that the April 15 tax deadline has been successfully pushed to July 15. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, will not pursue foreclosures on FHA-insured mortgages and all evictions from HUD housing rentals are suspended at this time. The Department of Education has agreed not to enforce standardized testing requirements, which means that students will not have to take the S.A.T.s. This measure is in accordance with the CDC’s guidelines which limit gatherings to less than ten people in an aggressive effort to slow the spread of novel coronavirus. Federally-held student loan payments can be deferred for 60 days without penalty to the borrower.
While these measures are to take effect immediately and will help Americans conserve vital income to stay afloat during these uncertain times, what will happen to the family that isn’t living in HUD housing if they fall behind on their rent? What about all of those students who took out private loans to attend college? These are important questions and the answers will affect millions of Americans. In New York State, there have been rumors that the monopoly electric company, NYSEG will not turn off electricity even if bills become overdue and other private companies are tossing around equally accommodating ideas, but will they come to fruition? When so many businesses are slowing down in order to obey the recommended—and also mandated—guidelines issued by the CDC and the Coronavirus Task Force, can these private companies really afford to take the financial hit?
Whether they can or can’t, there are limits to President Trump’s power and those limitations restrict his administration to reshape the federal sphere and not much beyond that, though his strong recommendations are heeded. Here in New York State, Governor Cuomo calls the shots and though he has been acting in swift accordance with the recommendations he has received, there are limits on his power, as well. Neither Cuomo nor the president have enacted martial law, but are we headed in that direction? In order to slow the spread of the virus and end the pandemic altogether, will our leaders resort to seizing private land, property, and businesses?
This isn’t an alarmist question, but a rational one that citizens ought to be asking. Every law that passes during this crisis will not only set a precedent for future breakouts but will also solidify into both state and federal legislature new rules and regulations that we the people will have to live under. When Governor Cuomo instilled the order that businesses must reduce their on-site workforce to 25% or less, he effectively caused companies—not all but some—to reduce their income potential. When he shut down fitness centers, movie theaters, and casinos, he directly robbed employees and employers from earning the income they were accustomed to. From a purely literal standpoint, is this really so different from actually seizing land via martial law? And if it isn’t, then the government is legally and ethically responsible for compensating those businesses and individuals, but will they?
Negotiations have been ongoing to address the precise amount of money that the federal government is prepared to allocate to its citizens. The economic stimulus bill has not been finalized, but the figure to be immediately disbursed to private citizens has been said to be roughly $1,000 per person, and other larger figures have been proposed to cover each citizen during the duration of the crisis. Is this an attempt to satisfy the martial law stipulation that states the government must compensate for seizures and if so, are these figures fair?
President Trump went on to mention at the same press conference that he has signed an executive order invoking the Defense Production Act, which will give the federal government the power it needs to produce and secure much needed medical supplies to hospitals. In broad terms, the Defense Production Act of 1950 empowers the federal government with the authority to direct private companies to meet the needs of the national defense. While its imperative that medical supplies and high-grade masks are produced and supplied to our hospital system at this time, and though Trump made the right decision in invoking the act to battle the pandemic, will it come with a built-in cost that will impact the country in the long run?
The president referred to COVID-19 as an “invisible, horrible enemy”. The list of achievements his administration accomplished in the span of mere days was stellar. Perhaps most importantly, our president’s tone and parting message before he invited VP Pence to take the lectern was one of national solidarity, optimism, and faith. “We will be successful, very successful, hopefully sooner than people would think,” was his final statement. “This is a time of shared national sacrifice, but it’s also a time to treasure our loved ones and to take stock of what is most important. Our faith, our families, our neighbors, and our great country
Wise words from a strong leader. The American people have pulled together and made it seven days through a fifteen-day strategy to slow the spread of novel coronavirus. We will have to wait and see what the next eight days bring.