White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett said that another round of coronavirus relief legislation might not be necessary, as Democrats push for Congress to provide more federal funding to cash-strapped state and local governments.
Congress has already passed trillions of dollars in unprecedented legislative relief in response to the pandemic, but the scale of the devastation that the crisis has inflicted has led lawmakers to consider another round of aid. Several states have started lifting their stay-at-home orders and reopening their economies, despite health experts advising otherwise and testing not yet being readily available.
“I think right now, because there’s been good news really, that the opening up is starting to happen faster than we expected, appears to be doing so safely, then there is a chance that we won’t really need a phase four,” Hassett said on Fox News Saturday morning.
Negotiations are underway over a fourth stimulus package – or “phase four” of the coronavirus response – and Congressional Democratic leaders have made clear that a top priority for them is funding for states and localities.
Speaking to reporters after his interview on Fox News, Hassett said that a potential phase four deal might be geared toward “growth and taking off and recovering, rather than just building a bridge to recovery.”
President Donald Trump said earlier in the week that he would consider funding for states in a potential “phase four” stimulus package, but that “we want to take a little bit of a pause” before passing such a package.
He argued that Republicans are in a much better negotiating position on funding for states, and if they agree to it, Republicans “have to get something for it.”
On Saturday, Hassett said that aid to states “will be a political issue that will be worked out” between Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill. He added that Trump “is absolutely opposed to bailouts.”
On prospects of the US economy reopening, Hassett predicted that “almost every state will be mostly open economically” likely by the end of May.
He said that economic numbers over the next few months will be “as bad as you’ve ever seen” and repeated some of his dire predictions about the economic impact of Covid-19 that he has made in the past week.
Hassett said that unemployment might reach 19% and GDP loss for the second quarter could be as high as 40%.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised during an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper last Sunday that state and local governments will receive relief funding “in a very significant way.”
Republicans have stipulated that more money for states must come along with liability protections for businesses and health care professionals from potential lawsuits.
Senators and their staff will return to Washington this week, but House lawmakers on Tuesday reversed their plans to return to Capitol Hill this week.
CNN’s Clare Foran and Ted Barrett contributed to this report.