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Staggering 26 Million Americans File for Unemployment Over Five-Week Span. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired April 23, 2020 - 16:30   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: On top of the health crisis by coronavirus, this country's economic crisis just got a even worse today. The Labor Department now reports 4.4 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits for the first-time last week alone. It's about the same number of people who live in the entire state of Kentucky.

Over the last five weeks now, the U.S. has now lost at least 26 million jobs. That's a fraction of those who are hurting right now economically.

Let's bring in CNN business anchor Julia Chatterley.

Julia, roughly one in three people in Michigan, Kentucky, Hawaii that filed for first time benefits over the past five weeks. And that really doesn't even necessarily capture the true sense of how many people don't have a source of income right now.


JULIA CHATTERLEY, CNN BUSINESS ANCHOR: It doesn't. You're completely right. I mean, what we're talking about now and it's unbearable to think about, one in six workers in the United States have either lost their job, been furloughed or are worried for their jobs. I think the better way to understand the distress of this is looking at the proportion of lower income families have seen someone lose the job or have seen someone have their pay cut.

And a recent survey this week said that's around half, just over half of lower income families. Once again, in this crisis, the poorest the weaker members of society are being hit the hardest.

TAPPER: And today, the House is passing the new economic relief that has $310 billion for small business loans. The Treasury Department also updated its guidance, so the big businesses don't cash in.

Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin warned there would be severe consequences if big businesses do that. Are there?

CHATTERLEY: I think the most severe consequence here remains being named and shamed. We are back to our Shake Shack principle from yesterday. They were shamed and named. They gave the money back. They got money from somewhere else.

And this is the key. What the treasury is now saying is, if you are going to take this PPP money, you have to prove that you couldn't have gotten the money somewhere else. So many big companies, that's actually going to be quite difficult.

But here's the kicker: so big companies that took money in round one at this program, they now have two weeks to get that money back. No questions asked. I've spoken to two advisers to big companies today. And they say there's now too much uncertainty, don't touch the cash. This could be a win for the little guys.

TAPPER: Governors say that they also need relief from the government. This legislation doesn't include that most of the states hurting, New York, Washington, California, Michigan, Illinois, the most have Democratic governors. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, said he was not going to go along what he called a blue state bailout, suggesting states consider filing for bankruptcy if they're having financial problems.

What do investors think of this?

CHATTERLEY: They see it as a negotiating position by the Republicans ahead of future stimulus deals, and probably not a great one. Firstly, we've seen cities in the past declare bankruptcy. We've never had a state do it, and the legalities of even saying aren't simple. But there are bigger thing here. And the state colors do matter.

Some of the states would overspend coming into this crisis. Illinois has a huge pension deficit as well to think about. But I think COVID- 19 is being seen as a game changer here for spending. And that's color blind and many of these states need help.

The final factor to consider here, if you let one state go bankrupt, it will raise the borrowing costs for all of these states, and that will hamper the recovery for nation and voters with it -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. CNN business anchor Julia Chatterley thank you, as always. We'll see you tomorrow.

As more states consider reopening, some businesses, health experts worry that that will put employees in harm's way.

We are joined by Jay Timmons. He's the president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers.

Jay, you're on the White House economic task force. You've spoken to President Trump directly. You're worried about states opening too soon. Tell us what you would

like to see.

JAY TIMMONS, PRESIDENT & CEO, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF MANUFACTURERS: Well, actually, I think each state is going to have to make that decision based on medical evidence and evidence from their healthcare experts. What I'm most concerned about is when states are in a quarantine phase or a stay-at-home phase, when we have these demonstrations and these protesters at state capitals that are being very irresponsible, going out without masks, uncovered, sometimes with kids. They are going to infect, potentially infect our frontline essential workers, like our manufacturers.

TAPPER: Are you getting enough guidance for all the people in your organization in the National Association of Manufacturers, whether it's from the White House or the CDC or OSHA, whoever, are you getting enough guidance on basic safety for these employees?

TIMMONS: So, we finally were able to get guidance from the CDC and, in fact, we had to ask the vice president to intervene. He did so in a very effective way. We have spent a great deal of time over the past two months, making sure our facilities are, in fact, safe and healthy for our employees.

A lot of manufacturers, as you can imagine, are on the job now, making PPE and medical supplies, cleaning agents and food. So they really are essential employees right on the front lines. We think that we're going to be able to share some of our experiences with other sectors of the economy as they begin to re-open, because there is going to be a massive need, Jake, for PPE moving forward. Every sector is going to need it.


And manufacturers are going to be the ones to make that happen.

TAPPER: Well, as you note, a lot of your members are on the front lines of the coronavirus response efforts -- manufacturing, the PPE, and more. How have manufacturing plants helped with the needs of doctors and people on the front lines of this battle?

TIMMONS: You know, just trying to quantify, trying to figure out exactly where all the PPE is in this country and, in fact, around the world, getting it to those hospitals, getting it to those hot zones around the country has been our number one priority over the course of the last couple of months.

And manufacturers have stepped up in extraordinary ways. And they have -- they have had to do so in pretty difficult conditions. I'm so proud of our manufacturing workers for being there on the front lines. Just like our medical professionals, just like our grocery clerks, like our first responders, manufacturers have been there doing exactly what you are talking about, producing those supplies necessary nor the response effort.

And it will be necessary for the recovery as states open up, one by one, sector by sector, we're going to need tons of millions of millions of pieces of PPE. That's what we're in the process of doing right now.

TAPPER: We had the former head of OSHA on the show yesterday during the Obama administration, obviously, both politically and in terms of you being with the manufacturers, his concern being strictly with employees, I am sure you don't see eye-to-eye on a lot of issues. But he did raise the issue of sometimes employees are going to have to

go back to work. And they're going to be afraid that by walking into a factory, walking into, you know, any sort of business, not just manufacturers, they're going to be risking their lives. He said the current OSHA is basically AWOL.

What -- what is your take on this whole issue? Because, obviously, people need to work. Manufacturers need employees. By the same token, there are legitimate fears of going into a place of business.

TIMMONS: Yes, we all want to get this economy open again. We all want people to get back to work and be able to grow our economy, and whatever that new normal state is, we want to all be a part of it.

But you're exactly right, and I would tell you this -- our number one priority, number one, top of the list is the safety and the health of our manufacturing employees. So, we're work overtime to make sure a lot of protocols are in place. We got guidance from the CDC on how to make sure that the work someplace safe, can be sanitized, how employees can work at a distance from each other to make sure they are safe and healthy.

But we do need those OSHA guidelines. There is no question about that. In the recovery phase after we've moved from response into recovery, we're going to need some pretty, pretty tight guidelines from OSHA. There is no question about that.

We're also going to need so see some liability reforms, because not only manufacturers, but employers, all across the economy are going to be doing everything they can to do the right thing to keep their employees safe. And we don't -- frankly, we don't need jackpot justice trial lawyers trying to take advantage of a difficult situation.

The other thing, talking about recovery, we'd like to see the next tranche of legislation have tax-free bonus or tax-free treatment of bonuses that so many manufacturers and others are giving to those essential employees right now to work. They need to be rewarded. And employers need to be recognized for stepping up to it.

TAPPER: All right. Jay Timmons, thank you so much. I'm glad that beautiful family in that pick behind you, I am glad everyone is doing well. Thank you so much for joining us today.

TIMMONS: And thanks to yours.

TAPPER: Up next, we are live in Wuhan, China, where coronavirus originated. That major city also now beginning to reopen with fears of a resurgence.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Business owners here in the United States are wondering what life might be like when things finally open again, at least in part.

Perhaps there's something to be learned from what's going on right now in Wuhan, China, as continues CNN continues to report from the place where coronavirus began, the former epicenter.

CNN's David Culver has a special look for us now at how small businesses now opening are struggling to survive in Wuhan's new normal.


DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Wuhan's mild spring weather luring people outside. They do not need much convincing, after enduring the most extreme of lockdowns.

CNN found folks enjoying the company of neighbors or soaking in the stillness, all the while still wearing face masks, a reminder that the original epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak is not in the clear.

Two weeks after Wuhan lifted its lockdown, a drive through commercial streets shows many storefronts still shuttered, the shops staying open finding a new way to serve customers.

(on camera): You can only go up until the box up front. They've got a little table set up. You order with somebody who either comes to the door or you can do it through an app. The idea is, you are not to go into the store.

All of this, still open business, but also keep the social distance.

(voice-over): But for some small business owners, there is no reopening in sight.


MR. WANG, SHOP OWNER (through translator): For private businesses like us, there's almost no subsidies.

CULVER: We talked with Mr. Wang. CNN agreed not to use his full name, as he wanted to avoid any trouble with local officials.

After three months of sitting closed, the 35-year-old restaurant owner is struggling with rent. If a government relief check arrives, he says the assistance will likely come too late, especially if there's another spike in infections here.

WANG (through translator): Considering the possibility of a second wave, very likely, we will leave this business and find another job.

CULVER: Mr. Wang opened up about the mental health struggles of living under lockdown, sealed inside his home.

WANG (through translator): I was actually very scared at that time. When I saw the news that the pandemic was gradually under control, I felt less nervous. When I got bored at home, I just watched TV. I played on my phone and slept.

CULVER: And yet Mr. Wang, like many across the world, also had to deal with news that three of his loved ones contracted the virus, one of his extended family members passing away.

WANG (through translator): Of course, we were very sad. We couldn't see him for the last time when he died or even give him a farewell ceremony. It was a big regret in our heart. We will go to his grave after the pandemic to hold a simple ceremony for him.

CULVER: Likely thousands of similarly delayed remembrances to take place here in Wuhan over the weeks ahead, as others cautiously move forward with living, these the faces of those who endured a harsh lockdown, now navigating their way into an uncertain future.


TAPPER: And, David, you mentioned that business owner is hoping for a government check.

How many people are hoping for the same thing, and how likely is it going to happen?

CULVER: As you know, Jake, with official numbers, it's tough to get those and tough to verify the accuracy of things.

But let me just say, anecdotally, I mean, driving around, one of the things we wanted to confirm and the reason that we're here in part is because state media will portray things as though businesses are all coming back online, things are all reopening, and life here in Wuhan is simply resuming almost as it once was.

That's not what we're seeing. As we're driving, almost every other storefront, if not more than half the storefronts, are still shuttered, they're still closed. And some of the small business owners, like the gentleman you saw there, say they will not be getting any government assistance any time soon.

They say maybe it'll come down the line, but certainly not in time for when it will actually be effective for them to stay open. And it is interesting to see how many businesses simply seem to be in a place of insecurity and uncertainty when it comes to every reopening.

TAPPER: All right, David Culver in Wuhan, China, excellent report, as always. Thank you so much, sir.

Employees at facilities responsible for getting your food to your table, such as meatpacking plants, now sounding the alarm about outbreaks in the United States, fearing they may lose their jobs or infect their families.

Stay with us.


[16:57:45] TAPPER: Food processing facilities have emerged as new hot spots for coronavirus infection and spread, especially in the Midwest and South of the United States.

At least 28 plants reporting confirmed cases, some even deaths, but, as of right now, only nine of those plants are currently closed.

Tyson closed its largest pork plant in the small town of Waterloo, Iowa, yesterday. There are now 380 confirmed cases in that town, mostly related to the Tyson plant. Half of the cases in the county there are connected to the plant.

And the mayor of Waterloo is now accusing Tyson of closing the plant to late seniors.

CNN's Gary Tuchman joins me now from Waterloo, Iowa.

Gary, that Tyson's plant decided to close, but only after being urged to close by the health board; is that right?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake. And this is a very upsetting, nerve-wracking time here, not only for the people who work in this huge pork processing plant, but for their families, for this community of Waterloo, Iowa, for this county of Black Hawk County, Iowa, because the cases in this county have spiked.

And a lot of it is because of this plant. About 2,800 people work here, 182 positive COVID cases. But that is a very low number, because most of the people have no not been tested yet. Those tests are still to come. We imagine that the numbers will spike.

Now, we want to give you an idea of what Tyson is saying about the decision to close this yesterday. People here have been asking for days and weeks for the governor to close this. She did not close it. For Tyson to close it, and Tyson decided yesterday.

Tyson says: "While we understand the necessity of keeping our facilities operational, so that we can feed the nation, the safety of our team members remains our top priority. The combination of worker absenteeism, COVID-19 cases and community concerns has resulted in a collective decision to close."

Many of the employees very concerned. They don't think Tyson did enough while they were inside there.

Want to give you a look at what one employee told me about what he said to his company when he made a phone call last week.


TUCHMAN: You called H.R. and you said what?

ERNEST LATIKER, TYSON FOODS EMPLOYEE: I was concerned about the coronavirus being in the plant, and I was scared for me and my family.

TUCHMAN: And what did H.R. say to you? LATIKER: They told me, I was -- I was safe. And they told me that

everything was OK.

And they told me I will have a better chance of catching the coronavirus going out to Walmart than in Tyson. Come to work. You're safe.

TUCHMAN: And did you believe them?