James S. Brady Press Briefing Room Washington D.C. March 21 1:00 P.M. EDT
Thank you very much. A lot of things going on, and we're going to be going over to the Hill, and we're having a lot of meetings. And, from the financial - this is a medical situation, not a financial situation. The financial, though, is moving along very nicely.
I want to thank you for being here and update you on the progress we've made after a week of extraordinary mobilization in our war against the virus. Governors, mayors, the businesses, charities, and citizens are all working with urgency and speed toward one common goal, which is saving American lives.
We're in communication with foreign countries. It's now at 148 foreign countries. Can you believe that? One hundred - you talk about a spread. You talk about a violent spread. One hundred and forty-eight countries. Not even believable.
This has been a week of national action and of great national solidarity. People are getting along. We're getting along with Republicans and Democrats and independents and liberals and conservatives. And actually, it's a very nice thing to see. We're all one beautiful, big American family, and that's taking place right now.
Last night, I proved a major disaster declaration for the State of New York. I worked very closely with Governor Cuomo. And is the first time in our nation's history that a President has used the Stafford Act to declare a major disaster in response to a public health crisis. Never happened before. I'm considering other areas where we may or may not be doing that. And I'm working very closely with Gavin Newsom, Governor of California, and others; we may be doing the same thing, depending on their needs, depending on what they're asking for.
It's been unprecedented action in New York, and we've had a tremendous federal response all over the country. And I want to thank all the people in the federal government and obviously in the state governments and local governments. We are working hard. Everybody is working hard. And the people standing alongside of me are working very hard, that I can tell you.
We've also reached agreements with Canada and Mexico on new travel rules at our northern and southern borders to halt the entry of the Chinese virus while continuing trade and commerce. And we've had very good talks, I've - with Prime Minister Trudeau, and today, this morning, with President López Obrador. And we talked about joint measures that we're taken to prevent the spread of the virus in our countries and to temporarily suspend nonessential travel. We had a great conversation this morning - the President of Mexico. And our close cooperation with Mexico and Canada will keep our people healthy, keep their people healthy, keep everybody safe.
Yesterday, I had a call with 12,000 small businesses - representatives of these businesses. That's the engine of our country. People don't realize that. You know, you read all about the big ones, but the - these small businesses, when you add them up together, are really the engine - economic engine of our country. And I assured them that my administration is doing everything within its very considerable - considerable power, frankly, to support them and their employees.
Nobody has ever done what we've done. Likewise, I had calls during the week with all sorts of representatives and systems, like the hospital system. We spoke to many of the hospital systems throughout the country - nurses and doctors, representatives representing hundreds of thousands of nurses and doctors; airlines and cruise ship companies.
The business roundtable, which was fully attended and it's all of the top CEOs of our country and beyond, frankly - the businessmen of - really, these a world - world-styled businessmen. These are businessmen that control the biggest companies in the world. Many of them have taken hits, and many of them are just, you know, going forward. They - their businesses have been - have been great. Some have been very badly affected, some haven't been affected at all, and, frankly, some are doing very well. They continue to do very well.
It's - Walmart, as an example, has been really helpful to us. Doug McMillon, the head of Walmart - really helpful to us. And I guess - I assume they're doing pretty well because people are certainly buying - buying more than even a clip at Christmas, by substantial numbers. Pretty amazing. But they're doing incredibly. They put on tremendous extra staff. You don't have empty shelves. A lot of things have happened that are very good.
Restaurants, fast food executives, grocery stores, all retailers - literally, all of them - in groups.
And we spoke with the G7 leaders at length, as you know. You probably know about that.
Spoke to many of the governors. Spoke almost all of the governors at conference calls and many of the governors individually.
And, very importantly, the religious leaders. We had a great conversation yesterday - the Vice President and myself - with the religious leaders of - of our country. Many of the religious leaders. And we've had a number of them, during the course of the last two weeks, actually. But yesterday, we had a very, very significant call with the religious leaders of our country.
I signed legislation providing American workers with paid sick leave and paid family medical leave at no cost to employers and free testing for those who need it. The testing is going very well and the Admiral will speak to that, along with Tony.
We're working quickly to pass additional legislation that will provide massive relief to small businesses and affected industries and give direct payments to our great workers and hardworking American families. There's never been anything like we're doing on the Hill right now. They're negotiating - Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer. They're all up there - Kevin McCarthy and Nancy Pelosi. They're all negotiating and everybody is working hard and they want to get to a solution that's the right solution. I think we're getting very close.
We've also announced that we've moved Tax Day from April 15 to July 15, which is a big deal, giving businesses and individuals extra time to file and pay without interest or penalty. So we've moved the date way back. And so it'll be July 15, instead of your traditional April 15. And, very importantly, you will have a lot of time, but you're not going to have interest penalties or any kind of penalties by filing at that later date.
HUD announced that foreclosures and evictions are suspended for single-family homeowners with FHA-insured mortgages for the next 60 days. And our great head of HUD, who's with us today, Ben Carson, is going to say a few words in a moment.
The Department of Education will not enforce standardized testing - which is another big deal - requirements for students in elementary through high school for the current school year. Not fair to do that, so we are waiving that. I would imagine it's probably the first time ever that has been waived, but I think it's only fair to the students and to the parents of the students.
It is also waiving interest and other things that we're discussing right now on federally held student loans and directed that borrowers be allowed to suspend their student loan payments without penalty for at least 60 days. And we'll be talking about student loans; going to help the students. They're under a great burden right now, so we will be talking about that further. But we're - we're waiving, during this 60-day period, various elements - very important elements - on student loans. Big subject.
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