Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer talks to CNN's Wolf Blitzer about the effort to pass a bipartisan stimulus package to relieve the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
"We need a Marshall Plan for hospitals," Schumer said. "All the hospitals I speak to in New York are desperately short of equipment... you know, the gowns and everything else that protect them."
"If we don't do this, large numbers of smaller hospitals, hospitals in rural areas will simply close down."
Schumer said the Democrats' plan for coronavirus financial aid is "workers first."
"One of the centerpieces of it iswhat we would call unemployment insurance on steroids," he said. "If you can't work because your business is closed for all the obvious reasons, you will get your full pay from the federal government and it will - this unemployment insurance on steroids will cover all workers."
So where do the talks stand right now on this new huge economic stimulus package?
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: Well, I've had two good meetings this afternoon with Secretary Mnuchin. They've lasted about an hour and 15 minutes total. We went - we went over a lot of details, on a lot of the issues that we hope will be in the package and I'm very optimistic that we can get something done.
We're not there yet but we're working all night and we're making very, very good progress. You know, we Democrats want a package that stands for two things. First, workers first, not helping and bailing out big corporations, focusing on the workers, the average American family who's suffering.
And second apropos of what you were just talking about, we need a Marshall Plan for hospitals. All the hospitals I speak to in New York are desperately short of equipment. It's not just - it's beds, it's not just masks, P.P.E. Personal Protective Equipment, you know, the gowns and everything else that protect them.
The ventilators when somebody's really sick with coronavirus that they need so we have proposed $100 billion to go to our hospitals for equipment, for more beds and to help bring in more nurses and doctors. There's shortage - shortages of them too and these hospitals are hurting.
If we don't do this, large numbers of smaller hospitals, hospitals in rural areas will simply close down.
BLITZER: Yes, I know you're doing incredibly important work.
SCHUMER: And the other things - and the other thing Wolf, the other part of this package is what we call workers first. One of the centerpieces what we would call unemployment insurance on steroids. If you can't work because your business is closed for all the obvious reasons, you will get your full pay from the federal government and it will - this unemployment insurance on steroids will cover all workers.
It'll cover part time workers, it'll cover workers who were independent workers, it'll cover the freelancers and you will be able to stay on this for 4 months and when the end of it occurs, since you'll be getting your pay but you'll be furloughed by the employer, you can go back to work.
And so the second point of this - the first is it gets money out to where it's needed but the second is it will allow these businesses that are now closed to quickly re-establish themselves.
BLITZER: Which is really important. Is the Republican leadership in the Senate and the White House, are they both on board?
SCHUMER: This is an idea that I proposed to them a while ago and we're making good progress. We haven't dotted the Is and crossed the Ts but conceptually, I think we're there. Yes.
BLITZER: Well, that's encouraging. Earlier today, the President's economic adviser Larry Kudlow suggested the package could be more than $2 trillion, is that accurate?
SCHUMER: Well, he said that and there's so many needs out there and when you see, when you read that we might have 20 percent unemployment, that GDP - or 10 percent unemployment, that GDP would go down 20 percent.
That's $4 trillion to $5 trillion. This kind of large package is needed and we not only need money for the hospitals, we not only need this unemployment insurance, we need money to get - keep small businesses going and help them go through it even if their personnel are paid for by the unemployment insurance.
They have rent, they have elect - they have the insurance, they have electricity bills and things like that. We need to prevent foreclosures. We cannot if you can't pay your mortgage for a few months, the bank shouldn't foreclose on your home. We need some abstinence from evicting renters who might not be able to pay their rent.
That's something we're looking for. We're looking also when they bailout corporations, we want the workers to come first. If a corporation is getting money because they need something and airlines is the industry they're talking about, they've got to keep their employees.
They've got a not cut the pay of their employees and they should not do stock buybacks, increases in compensation for the top executives. We need to have this be workers first up and down the line.
One other thing we're looking for, paid family medical leave, paid sick leave and we'd like to forgive student loans for the period of time this crisis persists so if you owe $1000 this month, you won't have to pay it and it'll be forgiven.
BLITZER: It's amazing amount of -
SCHUMER: So we're asking for a lot of things. Yes, there's a lot of things we're trying to do but you know, this is a crisis unlike we've ever seen. It's affected everything and everywhere and we have to be there to help people who need help.
BLITZER: You know it's just a few weeks ago and you'll remember this, leader that the White House was proposing to $2.5 billion. You guys in the senate said maybe $8 billion. All of a sudden it became $1 trillion and now it's $2 trillion. Go ahead.
SCHUMER: We'll see. Kudlow proposed a $2 trillion. I think that - let's put it like this, we have to spend the money wisely but this idea that we shouldn't spend the money that's needed is wrong and we could get significantly as high as where Kudlow is at.
BLITZER: $2 trillion so -
SCHUMER: Well, we could get there. We may not get that high but it's going to be and certainly amply more than $1 trillion, a $ trillion and fourth.
BLITZER: And you think it'll be wrapped up by Monday?
SCHUMER: Well, I hope it is. We're having good bipartisan agreements. The initial bill leader McConnell put in didn't have any democratic input and we were worried that we just try to put it on the floor and not consult Speaker Pelosi because the House still has to pass this.
But actually, to my delight and surprise there has been a great deal of bipartisan cooperation thus far.
BLITZER: Yes, even the president was speaking very positively about you and -
SCHUMER: That doesn't happen very often.
BLITZER: Even Speaker Pelosi as well and you're speaking positively about them as well. You probably saw this NPR poll which showed that nearly one in five American households have already lost work as a result of this - this pandemic, this crisis.
How much can they expect in terms of direct checks, direct payments and when will we see those checks mailed?
SCHUMER: Well, that's one thing the president is proposing and I've - I'm very worried if it's just a one-time check. Let's say you get $1000. Well, that may take care of your rent and groceries and electricity for a month but what do you do the rest.
And that's why we're so excited about this unemployment insurance on steroids because that will keep you at your previous salary for a period of at least four months and that should keep you through - keep you at least economically whole through the crisis. A one-time check of $1000, I'm not opposed to that but that doesn't do the job.
BLITZER: How would you say - how would you say President Trump is doing in handling this truly enormous crisis?
SCHUMER: Well, look, I think he was slow to come to it and we'll look back and you know after this is over and there'll be a lot of lot of things that people will point out but for the moment, we're just trying to work together for the good of the country.
BLITZER: And let's hope you guys succeed. SCHUMER: But without - but by the way Wolf, without foregoing our principles, workers first and again, the package that the President proposed with that 1000 was regressive. We're not going to stand for that. We'll make some changes in that as well.
BLITZER: But these big huge corporations go bust, they employ you know hundreds of thousands, millions of workers. You got to keep those - those businesses operating, right?
SCHUMER: We do but if you give the money without requiring them to keep the workers on board, that would be a big mistake and we're pushing hard for worker protections and I think we're making some progress with the administration there as well.
BLITZER: So basically just so I understand, I know you got to run, you got a lot of work to do but a final question for you, senator. It's going to pass the Senate first and then go to the House? Is that is that the way you want to do it?
SCHUMER: Well, look, Speaker Pelosi and I preferred four corner negotiations where the leaders, Democratic and Republican of House and Senate sat together. McConnell didn't want to do it. So we're working together in the Senate.
But I'm consulting with Speaker Pelosi, hour by hour actually and we'll have to see if she in the House will go along with what the Senate produced but we are talking to each other and they know exactly what's in the package and much of what we want and what they want are very similar.
BLITZER: And she worked very closely with Steve Mnuchin, the treasury secretary to get the initial legislation passed.
SCHUMER: Yes, she did.
BLITZER: So things are working at least in the right direction. We'll stay in very close touch with your Leader Schumer. Thank you so much for what you're doing and thanks for spending a few moments, updating our viewers here in the United States and around the world.