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What's in the $2 Trillion Stimulus Package for Average Americans; Virtual Learning Tests U.S. Higher Education System; Italy Reports Decline in New Cases for a Fourth Day; The New Normal in the City That Never Sleeps. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired March 26, 2020 - 04:30   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and of course all of the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM, and I'm Rosemary Church.

Let's check the headlines for you this hour. Spain is now reporting more coronavirus deaths than China but Italy is reporting the most. Madrid is extending its state of emergency until mid-April. The Health Ministry says it's bought almost $500 million in medical supplies from China which should cover four to six weeks.

In the U.S. there were 233 new coronavirus deaths reported on Wednesday making it the deadliest day in the country so far. The U.S. now has more than 65,000 cases and the death toll is approaching 1,000. As the nation struggles to keep up with the pandemic, the U.S. Senate approved an historic $2 trillion stimulus plan to keep the economy going.

Well, the bill promises to pay many affected Americans more than $1,000, assuming it passes Congress and is signed by the president, which of course is expected. It could take another month before people receive any money.

CNN's Brian Todd explains what those payments would look like.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Americans are hearing there's $2 trillion in this rescue package, that it is the largest economic stimulus measure in modern American history. But of course what many of them are asking, how much money am I going to get and when am I going to get it?

So we have a basic breakdown for you. Let's start with if you are an American and you are single, if your adjusted gross income is $75,000 a year or less, you will get a full $1200 check from the U.S. government. But the more you earn, the less you're going to get. If your income is $80,000, you'll get a check for $950. If you make $85,000, you get $700. If your income is $90,000 a year, $450. If you make $95,000, it's $200. If you make $99,000 a year or more you get nothing. We should point out this is all based on tax returns for the year

2019. If you haven't done those tax returns yet, they're going to base it on your 2018 tax returns.

Now let's talk about married couples. Couples earning $150,000 a year or less are going to receive $2400 from the U.S. government. Couples making $160,000 a year get $1900. Couples earning $170,000 get a $1400 check. Those making $180,000 get $900. Couples getting $190,000 a year get $400. And couples earning $198,000 a year or more will get nothing.

We also have to talk about the child credits that many people are of course asking about. Parents with children who are 16 years old and younger, they will get $500 for each child. But that child credit also phases out if your income is higher. For one child a single parent who makes $109,000 a year or more will get nothing. For one child, married parents who are making $208,000 or more a year, they get nothing.

Now unemployment benefits. With this package, if you're earning -- if you're getting those benefits, those unemployment benefits, you're going to get $600 a week or -- excuse me, $600 a week more on top of what your state gives you for up to four months.

We should also talk about so-called gig workers like Uber drivers and Amazon Flex delivery people. They are going to be eligible to apply for these benefits but it's not clear how much more they are going to get.

One key question is, of course, when will all this get sent out. People want it as soon as possible of course. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and President Trump have been pushing to get this money sent out by early April. That's very likely not going to happen. The best estimates that we can come up with based on previous stimulus packages is that the money will not get out at least until May.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


CHURCH: And it isn't just the United States. Around the world other governments are rolling out huge unprecedented schemes to help those affected economically. In the United Kingdom the state will pay up to 80 percent of wages for staff who would have otherwise been laid off. That's up to a maximum of nearly $3,000 a month. There's also a three- month mortgage break for those who can't make their payments.

Italy has suspended loan and mortgage payments and given funds to businesses so they can pay their furloughed workers. In Spain, a $214 billion stimulus package will provide loans and aid to vulnerable people and back credit for companies.


Germany's massive plan, more than $800 billion, will help mostly businesses in the form of loans or by the state buying stakes in companies.

And Leslie Vinjamuri is the head of the U.S. and the Americas Program at Chatham House, and she joins me now from London.

Good to have you with us.


CHURCH: So how do you think the U.S. stimulus plan compares to other nations around the globe in the midst of this pandemic?

VINJAMURI: Well, it's an extraordinary, as we've seen, and historic package. Over $2 trillion aimed at helping people for direct cash payments, keeping businesses alive. It's a -- there's a focus across Europe, of course, also on fiscal stimulus. In some ways the United States has a lot further to go and it's moving in its unemployment benefits towards what Europe has had in place for quite a long time. More centralized coordination at the national level.

Remember that Americans -- our 50 states have very different unemployment policies and now what we're seeing is the government come in at the central level and try to really coordinate that and elevate it. So in some ways the United States is moving towards Europe, but I think the -- you know, the focus of these packages, both in Europe and in the United States, the fiscal stimulus, is partly at providing the need that people and businesses need so that when we come through this crisis, which is about the pandemic, the most important thing, right, is the health crisis.

When we come through this the goal is to be able to restart the economy. So to the extent, and I think we're seeing this in Europe and in the United States, that businesses can be kept alive, that employees can be furloughed and not laid off. I think that is the goal, but of course, there are a lot of people. Unemployment has risen dramatically in Europe and in the United States.

CHURCH: Yes. And we will see those numbers in a few hours from now. Of course, the stimulus deal had fueled another rally on Wall Street, but how long might that last? If doctors and nurses fighting this virus on the front line don't get that personal protective gear in the time they need it, and they need it now and it's taken days to get this stimulus plan approved, we don't know how long it would take to get those funds to the hospitals that need them.

VINJAMURI: Well, that's exactly right. That focus in the stimulus package that was passed, some of that is on hospitals. But of course, there's much broader need in investment in production of protective equipment, of ventilators. And of course the markets are going to see that. You know, the bill that was passed is historic, it's extraordinary but it will not be enough. There will be more measures passed. It's about mitigation at the economic level, not about recovery.

And as we see what's happening in New York state, on the West Coast, the markets will watch that and the need to really rapidly increase our supply of the necessary equipment for America's hospitals cannot be understated.

CHURCH: And I want to ask you about that, because the big question, why do you think President Trump has not yet implemented the Defense Production Act and ordered companies to make this equipment given there is a global shortage and that's being felt intensely inside the United States particularly in New York. And, you know, earlier, you know, we're finding out that the British company Dyson has come up with a ventilator. It's making thousands of them for the British government and it's going to disperse them not only within Britain but across Europe as well.

Why can't that be done in the United States?

VINJAMURI: Well, first of all, in Britain of course there are competing models, right? There is Dyson which creating its own model. There are others that are creating a more -- the existing model. But there is a big push from the government.

But in the United States, Donald Trump, as we've seen, has been very reluctant to use his authority under the Defense Production Act. This would allow him to direct America's companies to produce. It would allow him to control the distribution.

Part of what we're seeing right now is intense competition, not only across countries around the world that need these ventilators. We're seeing this competition between states within the United States and really with the best -- with the best in the world, it's very difficult to get corporates to be able to coordinate absent that federal direction. It's absolutely essential, and the president is being called on by governors, by companies across the United States to really use that authority.


VINJAMURI: His reluctance to do so is clearly driven by his unwillingness to really direct an economy.


CHURCH: A lot of people are wondering, what is he waiting for? I mean, because these medical workers need this equipment. They need it now.

Leslie Vinjamuri, many thanks to you for joining us. Appreciate it.

VINJAMURI: Thank you.

CHURCH: Well, the pandemic is also putting U.S. colleges and universities to the test now that many of them are resorting to virtual learning. Not every student is looking forward to it. How they're weighing in. That is next.


CHURCH: Well, the family of a former FBI agent who disappeared in Iran more than a decade ago says they believe he is dead. Robert Levinson was on an unauthorized mission for the CIA in 2007 and vanished after traveling to an island under Iranian control. He was last seen in 2010 appearing in a hostage video. His family says information from U.S. officials suggests he died in Iranian custody. President Trump says that things don't look good but he does not accept that he's dead.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Robert Levinson, who was outstanding, he's been sick for a long time, and he had some rough problems prior to his detainment or capture and we feel terribly for the family but --

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you accept that he is dead?

TRUMP: No, I don't accept that he's dead. I don't accept it. I mean, I'm telling you, it's not looking great, but I won't accept that he's dead.


CHURCH: Iran continues to insist Levinson has never been in Iranian custody.

Well, students of all ages are adapting to virtual learning, starting with colleges and universities across the United States, and it's bringing a new set of challenges including to the schools themselves.

Evan McMorris-Santoro takes a closer look.




EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Richard Friedman's Evidence Law class is pretty much the ultimate example of higher education under coronavirus. Instead of sitting in a classroom with each other, Friedman's second and third year law students at the University of Michigan log on for the Socratic Method.

FRIEDMAN: OK. So, Grace, can you hear me?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. There we go. Can you hear me?

FRIEDMAN: There we go. Good.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: There are a few hiccups.

FRIEDMAN: Tell me if you see the -- do you see the diagram?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I see a blue screen.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: But Friedman says his budding lawyers are getting the education they need while remaining socially distant. FRIEDMAN: I think in the end it will be close to the same. I'm still

calling on people, still getting their answers, still holding office hours. I'm still getting a good deal of interchange.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: But online instruction varies from professor to professor.

ALINA BUCKLEY, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA: I have some classes on Zoom, some on Microsoft. Some teachers are just posting videos of them doing the PowerPoints.

CAITLIN FELTS, CHAPMAN UNIVERSITY: A lot of my teachers in class are really engaging and I really enjoy going to their classes so it's going to be really different just seeing them on a screen.

BLAKE MORAIN, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: I think UVA has done a really good job of helping the teachers and also helping us. They've been really good about the communication and how the class is going to work.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Alina Buckley, Caitlin Felts, and Blake Morain are all sophomores at colleges and universities across the country. Campus life as everyone knows it is over for the rest of the year.

BUCKLEY: Yes, I loved all my classes, all my teachers. I love going and talking to them after class. But I can't do that now really.

MORAIN: I've never taken a philosophy course in my life before this one so I'm kind of in over my head. And I'm sitting around people who have taken courses. And people really pushed me. And when they say things it just gets my ears turning.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Students know why this is happening, but they're worried about what they're going to lose.

FELTS: I definitely think that this is a much lesser experience than what I would be getting if I was on campus.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Administrators also know this will be a challenging semester. Some institutions are offering partial refunds for housing. Many are letting students choose to take classes without letter grades.

JENNY DAVIDSON, PROFESSOR, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Columbia has actually decided that all grading will be passed down for the semester. I think that that's a great alternative. And I hope that colleges all over the country are going to commit to making that move. To me it really seems unconscionable for us to do anything else.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Professors are doing what they can to make this easier, but students remain afraid of a lost semester.

BUCKLEY: I want to get a job after college. I don't want to stay for a fifth year. You know, like I want to stay on track but if it's going to end up meaning that I get a lower GPA, and then I can't get a job that I want just because this happened, and I know it's like, hopefully companies and like employers will understand.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Evan McMorris-Santoro, CNN, New York.


CHURCH: It is a new world for all students across the globe.

And people in Italy are hoping that the worst is behind them, And at last there is some relatively hopeful news that this epidemic may have perhaps turned a slight corner.

CNN contributor Barbie Nadeau joins me now from Rome.

So, Barbie, what are you able to tell us? Because everyone desperately wants some positive news on this.

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, you know, there is cautious optimism here. We've seen four days in a row of a slight decrease in positive cases. Now we've seen the death rate, of course, continue to rise, but the fact that fewer people are testing positive and they're doing a lot more testing gives people hope that the lockdown is working. We are in our third week of a draconian lockdown where it's very difficult to leave your house, and people want to know that that is finally paying off. And we've got our fingers crossed that in fact it is, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Very important, Barbie Nadeau, bringing us that little bit of positive news there from Rome. We do appreciate it. And stay safe.

We'll take a short break here. Still to come, New York City has gone silent as the public self-isolates. Now empty sidewalks and an eerie stillness of a new normal. That is next on CNN NEWSROOM.



CHURCH: Well, from the (INAUDIBLE), if only, if only the world acted sooner. If only we were more prepared, the head of the WHO suggests maybe some of that heartbreak we've seen and we've been feeling still to come could have been prevented. But even at this late point, it's not too late.


TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, DIRECTOR GENERAL, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: This virus is public enemy number one. It's a dangerous virus, and we have been saying to the world that the window of opportunity is narrowing and the time to act was actually more than a month ago or two months ago. That's what we have been saying. But we still believe that there is opportunity.

I think we squandered the first window of opportunity, but we are saying today, my message, I made it clear that this is a second opportunity which we should not squander.


CHURCH: And we can do that. All of us can do that. And because of the coronavirus traffic at landmarks around the world has come to a halt as cities shut down.

These images drive home how serious the world is treating this pandemic. In Athens, Greece, where soldiers are guarding the Monument of the Unknown Soldier. The Golden Jubilee foot bridge in London is nearly empty to pedestrians as well. The streets of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil are quiet with nearly no vehicles on the road. And another scene in London at a deserted Trafalgar Square. It is a new world we live in.

The city that never sleeps. The hustle and bustle of New York City is nowhere to be heard. Now the bright lights of Broadway have dimmed and the Big Apple is resting up so its doctors and nurses can fight for millions of lives.

Here's our Jeanne Moos with a "Postcard from New York."



JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The first thing I notice these days when I open my eyes in my Manhattan apartment is that there is no traffic noise because there is no traffic. No commuters from New Jersey. No trucks. No beeping horns.

Don't be afraid of anyone. No one to be afraid of on 42nd Street.

(On camera): Hear a cliche when things are crowded people say, oh, it's like Grand Central? This is Grand Central at rush hour. Central but not so grand.

Guys, do you mind if I take a picture of your sign? It's OK?


MOOS (voice-over): "(EXPLETIVE DELETED), coronavirus? I drink mine with a shot of lime disease." Guys asking for money on street work coronavirus into their pitch, you know it's entered the nation's bloodstream.

"Staying apart is the best way to stay united. Thank you, health care workers. Tough times don't last, tough people do."

(On camera): So this is a line for Whole Foods in this town. They're letting people a couple at a time. And notice how far apart everyone stands in line. Have you ever seen a line like this before?

(Voice-over): Even Ralph Kramden, Jackie Gleason from "The Honeymooners" is wearing a mask, which makes sense. He was a bus driver.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, that's crazy. MOOS: Social distancing honeymooners style.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you see me coming down the street, get on the other side.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you come down the street there ain't no other side.


CHURCH: And thank you so much for your company. Do stay home and stay safe. I'm Rosemary Church. More CNN NEWSROOM with Robyn Curnow after this short break. Stay with us.