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Senate Passes Small Business Package; Small Business Demands Fixed Program; Wuhan After Coronavirus; Texas Moving to Reopen State. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired April 22, 2020 - 09:30   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Well, tomorrow, House lawmakers are expected to vote on a $484 billion, that's half a trillion dollars, relief package to help struggling small businesses. This, of course, the second in such measure. This measure will also help hospitals and healthcare providers that are stretched thin with expenses and lost revenue. There's also some money for testing in there.

CNN business chief correspondent Christine Romans joins us now.

Christine, the key criticism of the first round of small business help was, one, that a lot of not small businesses got the money.


SCIUTTO: Ruth's Chris among them. But also that small businesses that did not have existing relationships with big banks did not get it as quickly or did not get it at all. Is that going to be corrected this second time around?

ROMANS: That will be the big test of this stimulus, quite frankly. Another $310 billion to fill up the tank on that PPP program for small businesses. And $60 billion has been set aside specifically for smaller lenders. The idea being that those smaller lenders then have smaller customers on main street that they can service.

There's also something called the Economic Injury Disaster Loans. $60 billion has been put in there. These are loans up to $10,000 for right away. And farmers are actually -- qualify for those now too.

You mentioned the $75 billion for hospitals and also a down payment, as Democrats are calling it, on -- on testing, $25 billion there.

But the question here, this $310 billion, it just must get into the hands of these main street businesses quickly and easily. That was a real problem in the last round. And, look, this money, Jim, is not going to last very long. It's a matter of days. The demand is so big for this money.

So the key here is that these people who are already in line, with their big banks or small banks or credit unions, that they can get this money quickly so they can stay in business.

One criticism I've been hearing too from a lot of small business owners who are really justifiably frustrated and anxious here, they -- they have to spend a lot of money right now to stay in business. Imagine if you're a -- a small restaurant or a retailer, you're (INAUDIBLE) the way you operate for curbside pickup or whatever it is to transform your business. And these loans are meant to be forgiven only if you spend 75 percent of them on keeping your workplace intact. So they're kind of worried a little bit here about being saddled with extra debt if they end up having to use this money for other reasons, if they can even get their hands on it. So just a lot of frustration for small business owners.


And oversight questions, right?

ROMANS: Exactly.

SCIUTTO: I mean they're say -- you're -- a lot of them are self- certifying opening for misuse, of course.

Christine Romans, thanks very much.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: So, my next two guests are small business owners who earlier this month create a way to connect with other small business owners across the country after they say the government's initial PPP plan and rollout was flawed from top to bottom.


Their words.

Today, according to, they've now connected with 17,000 business owners. The group is demanding some big changes this time around.

With me now, Rita and Duncan MacDonald-Korth. They're married. They each own their own small businesses in Miami. Duncan runs, it's a financial news site. Rita run Presentura (ph), a home and luxury gift retailer.

Hi, guys, can you hear me?

RITA MACDONALD-KORTH, CO-CREATOR, COVIDLOANTRACKER.COM (via telephone): Hi. Thank you very much for having us.

HARLOW: Hi. Of course. Sorry we had some technical difficulties, but we're glad we have you on the phone.

Your businesses, let me just begin with you, Duncan, are down -- you said revenue declines of 85 percent to 90 percent in mid-March.


HARLOW: You were not able to get loans. So what is your demand this time around now that it's being funded again?

D. MACDONALD-KORTH: Well, I think the new package has to make sure that the businesses that really need this most get it. And so that means the smallest of smaller businesses because, obviously, we've all seen that a lot of the bigger side of the small businesses has done very well so far in the first round.

HARLOW: You know, Rita, I know you tried to go through Citibank and Citibank has said they'll hold on to applications for processing for 30 days in case additional funding becomes available. What happened when you applied through Citi?

R. MACDONALD-KORTH: Well, first of all, the portal -- the online portal didn't open for a weeks later, eight days later, from the initial date. And then we applied. We then submitted all the documentation and then by that time most of the funds -- funds run out. So we just never got any funding. And then they just told us that our application was safe.

HARLOW: Your petition, Duncan, online, more than 13,000 people have signed the petition part and it demands a trillion dollars for the total funding of PPP. Secretary Mnuchin was asked about that on CNN this weekend. He said he doesn't think it's going to take that much, an additional $300 billion he thinks is going to be sufficient. Obviously you guys don't.

You also specifically want this plan to have tranches of money that hit particular businesses. And what you saw laid out overnight in this deal, does it -- does it accomplish what you think will help small businesses most?

D. MACDONALD-KORTH: Short answer is no. I think there are positive aspects in there. I think the money allocated to be distributed through small banks is a very good step, as we can see in our data in covidloantracker that they were very good at getting money out, but it doesn't do a good enough job, at least in what I've seen, in making sure that a large portion of the new round goes specifically to very small businesses, say under 50 employees.

HARLOW: Yes, I think there is going to be an optics issue where I think this time around the bigger public companies aren't going to apply for this money. Something just tells me that.

Rita, we have a few seconds left. Just tell people about covidloantracker. Basically your way of connecting all these small businesses.

R. MACDONALD-KORTH: So a few weeks ago we were desperately trying to find some updates and information about the PPP loan process and we couldn't find anything. And so we created a site with a survey that asked fellow small businesses to share their experiences. It's a Crowd sourced data and self-reported data.

D. MACDONALD-KORTH: There's no more important time to fill it out than right now as the new process begins. So please join us.


R. MACDONALD-KORTH: There's nothing else (INAUDIBLE).

HARLOW: All right, so people can go to

Look, we wish so many, all these small businesses out here, luck in getting money this time around.

Thanks -- thanks, Rita. Thanks, Duncan. Appreciate it and good luck to you guys.

D. MACDONALD-KORTH: Thank you very much.

R. MACDONALD-KORTH: Thank you very much.

HARLOW: Of course.

Up next, CNN takes you inside of Wuhan, China, months, three months after it was put on lockdown. Our David Culver is there. That's next.



SCIUTTO: This morning, the government of China is denying a "New York Times" report that American officials say Chinese agents spread false information across the U.S. causing panic about a potential country- wide lockdown in the early days of the Covid pandemic.

HARLOW: Our David Culver returned to Wuhan, China, where this all began, and he joins us now.

What is it like there?

DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Poppy and Jim, it's a bit surreal on a personal level to be back in the same place that three months ago we got the call around (INAUDIBLE) the place was going on lockdown. We didn't know what kind of lockdown that would look like, only to realize after what was 76 days it was unprecedented and it was brutal. I mean people were sealed inside their homes. They are now just starting to trickle out with more and more freedom with each passing day.

But there is still talking to people around here, a noticeable cautious optimism. They're not breathing easy. They're hopeful, but they're hesitant to think that this thing has passed.

I caught up with one American who told me that he's really worried about what could be coming next.


CULVER: This makes you happy to see all this. CHRISTOPHER SUZANNE, AMERICAN IN CITIZEN LIVING IN WUHAN: It makes me

happy, but it -- I don't want to see people get complacent. We are -- like we are afraid that there is going to be this second wave. I think everybody here knows --

CULVER: You think it's coming?

SUZANNE: Absolutely.


CULVER: Really worried about that second wave. And it's for that reason that we see some extreme measures, even stepping into a hotel. I want to show you what it's like walking into an elevator in the hotel where we're at and you step in and this is not too unusual here, but you've got markings on the floor with where you're supposed to be standing.


Four cordoned off sections. So you're not to be touching or near anyone. They have a little tissue there, so you can touch the button.

Walking into the hotel, that's a whole procedure in and of itself. You go in and they have a pesticide-like spray bottle full of what you assume to be sanitizer of some sort, from head to toe, each time you walk in, they spray you, spray your luggage, spray your shoes, make sure that you're not carrying with you anything that would be unwanted.

And, of course, what's standard here is temperature checks. I mean we probably get them a dozen times a day.

Traveling here in and of itself was an experience. It took weeks to plan for us to take this trip because, as foreigners, it's very difficult to travel around within China because there's real concern, Jim and Poppy, about the imported cases. So they are very skeptical of what we might be bringing with us.

SCIUTTO: Maybe a vision of what coming back looks like for the U.S. as well.

David Culver, good to have you there in China. Thanks very much.

Well, as the city of Houston waits to hit its peak in the coronavirus crisis, the state's governor says he will be putting out his plan to reopen soon. Is that a good idea? We're going to speak to the mayor of Houston, next.



SCIUTTO: This morning, in the latest clash between a Republican governor and Democratic mayor on when and how safely to reopen, Houston's mayor is warning that the state's plan to reopen soon could be akin to, quote, running right in the midst of a storm. That is if widespread testing and contact tracing is not put into place.

So joining me now is Houston's mayor, Sylvester Turner.

Mayor, we appreciate you taking the time this morning.

MAYOR SYLVESTER TURNER (D-HOUSTON, TX): Thank you. Good morning. Good morning to you.

SCIUTTO: So in the simplest terms on this question of testing and reopening, is it safe to reopen cities like your own without widespread testing to see who exactly has been infected?

TURNER: Well, I think that's the -- that's the precursor to opening up our city. Quite frankly, to opening up this economy. The more the testing is widespread, robust. Actually the word that I've used is ubiquitous. That will give us a better sense of where the virus is and how -- and how pervasive, how prevalent it is within our community.

Look, Jim, we've gone through let's say Hurricane Harvey. Everyone remembers that. You can look on the radar and you knew where Harvey -- where the storm was, when it was going to hit, when it was going to exit.

For us, with this particular challenge, the radar happens to be testing. And it needs to be widespread and it needs to be robust.

SCIUTTO: The Texas lieutenant governor doubled down on his earlier argument for reopening as being -- reopening as being even worth the potential loss of life if you reopen too soon. I want to play his sound just briefly and get your reaction.

Have a listen.


DAN PATRICK (R), TEXAS LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: There are more important things than living. And that's saving this country for my children and my grandchildren and saving this country for all of us.


SCIUTTO: Would reopening Texas be worth the loss of life?

TURNER: No, I don't think it's an either/or. And I don't think you have to provide those type of choices. I simply think you just have to listen to what the doctors are saying, take their advice. If you do the testing and if you make it widespread, if you provide the supplies, the PPEs, then you don't have to sacrifice one group in order to save another.

Look, in the city of Houston, I think we've done well. We're the fourth largest city in the United States. We are one of the most diverse. And at this point in time, we've -- 34 people have passed.

Now, 70 percent of them have been people of color. But 34 people have passed. For the -- for the two consecutive days, yesterday and the day before, we're reporting zero deaths. So people are doing what we have asked them to do. They are staying home. They're working safe. If they are essential employees, they are wearing their face coverings. We want more to wear their face covering. They're engaged in social distancing. We shut down very early in this city. So the things that have been put in place are working.

But you have to be very careful if you open up too soon. You will undo all the sacrifices that people made, but you don't have to sacrifice the old in order to save those who are less young.

SCIUTTO: Yes. You know, it sounds simple to say, listen to the doctors. And to your credit, you made some tough decisions. You know, you shut down the Houston rodeo early in the face of a lot of resistance in the public and from state officials there.

How do you explain what is emerging as a pretty consistent difference here? Republican governors reopening, Democratic governors not. Republican governors reopening, Democratic mayors like yourself of cities and other states saying, no, it's not safe.

Why is that happening in this country today?

TURNER: Well --

SCIUTTO: Why aren't folks just listening to the health experts?

TURNER: Well, I think things are -- things are way too political than they need to be. This is a health care crisis. This is not a health care crisis for Democrats or a health care crisis for Republicans. This is a health care crisis. It has no respect of persons or parties or social or economic status.

Now, there are some indicators that are clear. People of color are being disproportionately impacted. But in this case, Jim, we're all on the same team.


TURNER: At least we're supposed to be on the same team. When it comes to opening up, for example, the state parks, I agree with the governor. When it comes to canceling the schools of classes for the rest of the school year, I agree with that. When it comes to curbside pickup for retail stores, I agree with that.


And when it comes to allowing some elective surgeries, which will start today, I agree with it.

But if you go much further than that, if you start opening up everything like what is taking place in Georgia, then I think you run into a serious problem of creating a resurgence of this virus when people have sacrificed so much already and we have some very positive results.

SCIUTTO: Yes. TURNER: So, I don't want it to be political. It shouldn't be, and we should all be on the same team moving forward with similar or same messages so that people are not confused.

SCIUTTO: Well, wise advice, and we are all on the same team. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, thanks very much.

TURNER: Thanks for having me.

HARLOW: Well, a new report out this morning really shifts the timeline of the coronavirus outbreak. Officials now saying the first known death in the U.S. was three weeks earlier than previously thought. What it all means, ahead.