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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Education and Coronavirus; Global Pandemic; Congress Debating More Money For Small Businesses. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired April 14, 2020 - 16:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[16:31:53]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Sources tell CNN that the Small Business Administration is telling lawmakers that stimulus money, funding a special small business loan program, will run out by the end of the week.

Congress has not been able to agree on legislation to provide more funding. Democrats are insisting on provisions to get that money to more small businesses, as well as increased funding for states and hospitals.

CNN's Phil Mattingly talked to some small business owners who desperately need the money to save jobs for their employees.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For more than 40 years, Kelly Conklin's architectural woodworking shop was a constant.

KELLY CONKLIN, WOODWORKING COMPANY OWNER: This one came with a swiftness and severity that I don't think anybody could prepare for.

MATTINGLY: Until coronavirus forced Conklin to close his doors.

CONKLIN: What I think we need and what I don't see coming yet, first, my business needs a direct cash infusion.

MATTINGLY: Conklin has furloughed his 13 employees. One has come down with the virus. The emergency small business lending program in the $2 trillion stimulus could add weeks to his company's ability to survive.

But, more than a week after applying, he's heard nothing.

CONKLIN: It's now going on a week, and crickets, nothing. I have no idea whether the application is correct. I have no idea whether we're going to be approved for this.

MATTINGLY: And the clock is ticking.

CNN spoke to more than two dozen small business owners, finding varying degrees of frustration, anger and outright desperation, but also stories of business-saving success, each reflection of a government trying to build a relief program unprecedented in scale. Just last year, the Small Business Administration handled 60,000 loan

applications. In the last two weeks, they have approved more than one million. The lack of guidance and tech glitches hampered the experience for lenders and borrowers alike.

Andrew and Briana Volk did successfully receive money through the program, but now say they have more questions.

BRIANA VOLK, CO-OWNER, PORTLAND HUNT AND ALPINE CLUB: It's almost a full time job having to kind of figure out what's going on and if we're doing everything correctly.

MATTINGLY: The Maine couple owns Portland Hunt and Alpine Club. They have laid off all but one of their employees and are now grappling with how exactly to use the new money they have received.

ANDREW VOLK, CO-OWNER, PORTLAND HUNT AND ALPINE CLUB: We're used to taking on risk. We're used to taking on and dealing with complex situations.

But when the government is on the other side of the table and changing the rules on you on a daily basis, it's scary.

MATTINGLY: Still, with more than $240 billion of the $349 billion allocated for the program already committed, more money is now at the heart of a Washington political dispute, the urgent need underscoring that, when the program works, it is literally saving businesses.

TIM MILLER, AUTO REPAIR SHOP OWNER: I really feel blessed.

MATTINGLY: Tim Miller has four employees at his auto repair shop in Owasso, Oklahoma, four employees he paid out of his own pocket, as 98 percent of his revenue disappeared.

MILLER: You know, I didn't want to see my people suffer.

[16:35:05]

MATTINGLY: But just 72 hours after he submitted his application, the government funds were in his account.

For Miller, amid an economic and public health catastrophe, it means there's a little bit of something everyone could use right now.

MILLER: This relieved a lot of stress. I was able to tell my employees that (INAUDIBLE) save money as well. And so that really took a lot of stress off of them. And it just meant -- it's just meant everything to get to get this money.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTINGLY: And, Jake, lawmakers really have days to try and figure out how to find a path forward for that additional funding.

The next big test, the Senate will convene on Thursday, Republicans sticking to their position that they only want to deal with money for the small business program. Democrats haven't budged off theirs as well. One thing is clear, however. When this program works, it does save small businesses.

And small businesses right now need the money more than anybody else. So the real question is, can lawmakers reach agreement to give more money, as the SBA is very quickly running out of funds, Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Phil Mattingly, thank you so much.

Let's bring in CNN business anchor Julia Chatterley to discuss.

Julia, this small business loan program, we have been discussing it for weeks now. It could run dry by the end of the week, according to the SBA. But it's the bank's issuing the loans. What is their timeline, the banks?

JULIA CHATTERLEY, CNN BUSINESS ANCHOR: They're saying it's going to happen even sooner. Jake.

What I'm hearing is, the money could run out by close of play tomorrow. So we're talking Wednesday evening. Then all the lending stops, and everybody's waiting on Congress to come up with more money. We have talked about how critical this is for small businesses. You heard it there. Time's up.

TAPPER: And the $1,200 stimulus checks that individuals are getting, they're now hitting bank accounts. I read an interesting story in "The American Prospect" that indicates that if a person has a negative balance, the bank can just confiscate the funds from the government, even if the customers need it for food. Is that true?

CHATTERLEY: It is true. And this was such an important spot.

There are no protections in place for this money based on a bank overdraft or fees. Now, I spoke to one of the biggest banks in the country today. They said they will keep this money whole. But that's not a broad bank promise at this stage.

So people have to be very careful. The other thing here as well is debt collectors. There are no protections in place for this either. Now, what the U.S. Treasury need to do is apply the same rules that apply to Social Security benefits. Two months of those are protected.

But so far, that's not been a decision made by the U.S. Treasury. So people have to be very careful and work out whether they're better off waiting some weeks for a paper check. It's not great, Jake.

TAPPER: And, Julia, airlines are balking at the bailout offer from the U.S.; 70 percent would be a grant. The rest would be a loan that would have to be repaid.

This airline group represents American, Delta, Southwest, United. They say they're examining the terms to see if it achieves the original intent to protect jobs.

But, I mean, is this going to be the best deal the airlines can get? CHATTERLEY: In a word, yes.

Here's the deal. The government wants to protect workers. The airlines ultimately need to survive. Net-net, that means tougher loan terms from the government. The government could end up owning tiny little pieces of the four largest airlines in this country.

The deal being made here ultimately is that, at some point, you and I will fly again, that these will recover, and the U.S. taxpayer should benefit. But the biggest story here, I think, Jake, is that no government wants to be accused of bailing anything out six months before a presidential election.

There's a warning in there somewhere.

TAPPER: Yes, indeed.

Julia Chatterley, always great talking to you. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Joe Biden with a huge, although hardly unexpected endorsement today. Former President Barack Obama officially putting his support behind his former vice president in a video message explaining why he says Biden is the right man for the moment, and taking some not-so-subtle shots at President Trump and his administration.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Joe gets stuff done. Joe helped me manage H1N1 and prevent the Ebola epidemic from becoming the type of pandemic we're seeing now.

Joe has the character and the experience to guide us through one of our darkest times and heal us through a long recovery. And I know he will surround himself with good people, experts, scientists, military officials, who actually know how to run the government, and care about doing a good job running the government, and know how to work with our allies, and who will always put the American people's interests above their own.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Hmm. Sounded like he was suggesting something there.

Coming up, a notable absence. As the world battles coronavirus, it's been more than a month since one world leader has been seen in public. Who is it?

[16:40:03]

That story next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: In our world lead today: European countries are starting to take the first steps to try to get back to some semblance of normal life.

Small shops in Austria are opening today. Nursery and primary schools in Denmark are scheduled to open tomorrow. Certain businesses in Italy are reopening, such as this bookstore in Palermo, along with laundromats and stationery stores and clothing stores for babies and children, despite most restrictions remaining in place until May 3.

We have reporters around the world joining us now to discuss what's going on in their part of the world.

[16:45:01]

CNN's Scott McLean joins me now from Madrid.

And, Scott, the death toll in Spain just surpassed 18,000, but some 30,000 nonessential workers are going back to their jobs today. Help us understand that.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Yes.

And Spain's not the only country. Really, after weeks of hibernation, there are several European countries now cautiously venturing out of their dens after seeing their coronavirus curve starts to flatten out.

In Spain, it's hard to see part of its economy reopening, but you can definitely hear it. From virtually anywhere in Central Madrid today, you could hear the sounds of construction, as some 300,000 nonessential workers went back to their jobs over the last two days.

Some told us they were nervous. Most said they were happy to be there. One construction workers seemed to sum it up when he said what scares him more than the virus is not having enough to eat.

This move is controversial, though, considering that Spain is still seeing about 3,000 or 4,000 new coronavirus cases every single day, though today was the first time that the number of active cases actually shrunk.

Spain, as I mentioned, not the only country relaxing restrictions. In Austria, small shops are open, though not in two ski areas where the virus is still widespread. In Denmark, younger students will go back to school tomorrow, though the borders will remain shut. In Norway, they are also seeing some good signs there.

The prime minister saying she's cautiously optimistic, allowing kindergartners to go back to school next week. And one other point to make, Jake, and that's that the IMF says that Spain's economy will shrink by some 8 percent this year. Spain needs all the economic help that it can get.

TAPPER: All right, Scott, thank you.

In the U.K., the death toll has now surpassed 12,000, the country remaining on lockdown, with no indication of when restrictions might be lifted.

CNN's Max Foster joins me now.

Max, the U.K. government says the actual number of deaths in England and Wales are actually 15 percent higher than what's being reported by health officials?

MAX FOSTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so these are figures coming through to us about deaths that didn't happen in hospitals, so care homes and hospices, for example. They take longer to come through.

So, as you say, it does suggest that we could be 15 percent off the -- on the figures that we have been receiving out of the U.K. every day. The other thing that's coming through on these new official confirmed figures is that one in five deaths currently in the U.K. can be attributed to the virus, showing how deadly it can be.

One good bit of news is that the lockdown does appear to be working. People are adhering to it. And hospital admissions have actually plateaued here, so the government very keen to keep that lockdown going.

And the negative of the lockdown, of course, is the economic damage. We're getting some assessments on that as well. The Office for Budget Responsibility, an official, but independent body, says that, if there's a three-month lockdown Jake, it could take 35 percent off the economy.

TAPPER: Yes. Max Foster, thank you so much.

A bizarre situation in Nicaragua. President Daniel Ortega has not been seen or heard from by the public in more than a month in the midst of a global crisis.

Human Rights Watch criticizing President Ortega's lack of any sort of response to the pandemic.

CNN's Matt Rivers joins us now from Mexico.

And, Matt, perhaps even more bizarre, the vice president is President Ortega's wife, and she has told the country, everything's fine and coronavirus is not a problem.

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, she's really become the public face of the response, or the lack thereof, from the Ortega administration.

The last time that Daniel Ortega was seen in person was on February 21 in a military parade. The last time he was seen at all was on a virtual conference call, a video conference call, with other Central American leaders a little over a month ago.

And since then, it's been crickets. No one has any idea where he is. The government publicly says he's still running things behind the scenes, but it's obviously prompted why spreads speculation that there's something wrong with him perhaps. He has health issues. He's 74 years old. CNN has reached out multiple times, not heard anything back from the

Nicaraguan government. Meanwhile, the government has done virtually nothing to stop this outbreak from spreading. Schools are open. Businesses are open. The borders remain open, as opposed to other Central American countries.

And yet the vice president, in her Easter address to the nation, said that people should basically keep doing things as they normally do, worship as they normally do. And I even saw a post on a government-run Web site that promoted discounts at a fish market in the capital city of Managua, Jake.

TAPPER: That's just insane. All right, Matt Rivers, thank you so much.

Coming up: more on the coronavirus pandemic.

We're going to take a quick break. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:54:29]

TAPPER: Because of coronavirus. Nearly all schools in the United States have been closed for about a month.

As CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro reports, this has transformed learning for students across the country.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To put it in some context, it's the moonshot. I mean, it's akin to the landing a man on the moon.

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (voice-over): Actually, school during a pandemic might even be harder than that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is our Apollo 13 moment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Houston, we've had a problem.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're mission control. We're Houston. And now our moonshot might not be landing them on the moon. It's getting them home safe.

[16:55:05]

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Anyone who has a student in their house knows how important teachers have been in this crisis.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have never been more relevant. We have never been more foundationally essential to the community, to the economy, to a family.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Their job has evolved.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wow. I'm still doing the explosions, but I'm doing the explosions at home.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: People like Washington, D.C., public high school chemistry teacher Holly Ikan (ph) are doing their best.

But school systems are discovering that virtual learning can't replicate classroom instruction. So, across the country, policy-makers are dropping the focus on academic performance.

BETSY DEVOS, U.S. EDUCATION SECRETARY: Students may not be able to take federally mandated standardized tests this spring.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos dropped testing requirements this year. She says it's wrong to expect students to perform at their best right now.

School systems in New York and New Jersey have canceled statewide testing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our chancellor has said that their grades can't be hurt in any way.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Coronavirus policies vary across the country. At least 15 states have canceled classroom education for the rest of the year. In Chicago, students' grades cannot be lowered by distance learning. They can only stay the same or be improved.

In Michigan, students who were on track to advance on March 11 will remain on track and be promoted to the next grade.

In Florida, the governor has taken it all one step further.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Parents may, at their discretion, choose to keep their child in the same grade for the 2021 school year.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: One of the largest school systems in the country is the Los Angeles Unified School District. Administrators are still deciding what to do about grades.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The part that we're trying to have educators emphasize is engaging with the student. If they're engaging, they're learning. We will get to the grades later.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Many colleges have switched to pass/fail grading. So a lot of private high schools.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In this wireless world, we're not all connected. So, the first thing we got to do is connect everybody.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: The biggest challenge of pandemic school is universal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have been begging school boards, state legislators that fund our schools, the federal government, look, a tablet, a laptop, Wi-Fi, it's not a luxury.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: There are nearly 51 million public school students in the United States. According to the U.S. Senate, 12 million of them don't have broadband Internet at home.

And even those that do are stressed out, and sometimes aren't logging on. Many teachers say attendance has been a problem during virtual school.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We do everything we can. We send e-mails and make phone calls.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: In the age of coronavirus, school is about a lot more than a report card.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're part of the structure of student and families' lives. Schools are at the center of every community. What happens every day in a school is reading, writing, arithmetic in support for that child.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Real tough for a lot of students and their parents.

This just in: Defense Secretary Mark Esper said today that the Pentagon will be reissuing guidance for the military that will extend the orders that stopped the movement of most service members and their families to new postings around the world.

Esper said any decision to allow more movements will be -- quote -- "driven by science" and that this policy will continue to be reviewed every two weeks.

The White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing starts in just minutes.

Yesterday, we saw a frenzied President Trump on the defensive about his administration's response, refusing to answer reporters' questions about what the administration did on -- February.

Our coverage on CNN continues right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And we're following breaking news.

We're standing by for a briefing from the White House Coronavirus Task Force. You're looking at live pictures coming in from the Rose Garden right now. That's where the briefing will be taking place.

President Trump is expected to announce an economic task force that he calls opening the country council.

That comes as the U.S. death toll from the pandemic now surpasses 25,000 people, with almost 600,000 confirmed cases here in the United States.

Worldwide, there are nearly two million cases and more than 124,000 confirmed deaths.

We're also following the escalating battle between President Trump and groups of governors on both coasts over who has power to reopen individual states.

Mr. Trump claims he has absolute authority -- his words -- absolute authority. But, a short time ago, the California governor, Gavin Newsom, outlined a six-point plan to reopen his state.

I will talk about it in a moment with the director of the California Department of Public Health.

Meanwhile, there's a troubling new warning from scientists.

[17:00:00]