Ivanka Trump on $2 trillion coronavirus relief: Our mandate is to ‘swing for the fences’

The $2 trillion fiscal stimulus package recently signed into law by President Trump includes over $350 billion in loans to small businesses currently facing financially devastating losses due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Ivanka Trump, President Trump’s daughter and senior advisor, has played a key role in advocating for small businesses during this pandemic. She joined Yahoo Finance from her office at the White House via Skype for an exclusive interview to talk about how the administration is working to keep small businesses afloat.

“Small businesses employ close to 50% of the American workforce, and obviously are the most vulnerable from a cash flow situation,” she said.

The $2 trillion fiscal stimulus sets aside over $350 billion in loans for small businesses. “We want to just bridge people until the world reopens,” she said.

“The president had a mandate, which was to think big and swing for the fences,” Trump told Yahoo Finance. “And with these unprecedented times and with a forced closure of what was the healthiest economy ever, we thought big and this is $2.2 trillion of relief that's going directly to workers, frontline responders and small businesses.”

Ivanka Trump, the daughter and assistant to President Donald Trump, listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House, Friday, March 20, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Ivanka Trump, the daughter and assistant to President Donald Trump, listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House, Friday, March 20, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Before the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S., the economy was on a strong footing. Wages were growing fast for low-income workers, and the unemployment rate was near record lows. “We want to get people through this horrible health crisis that was no fault of their own,” said Trump.

The loans will work as grants as long as small businesses retain their workers as they deal with keeping up with their rent payments, utility and other bills. “Every state's a little bit different in terms of what they're deciding to do in terms of mandatory shutdown, but [we’re] making sure that they can keep their workforce employed, and don't create vulnerabilities on the other end.”

Helping small businesses

While the federal government is stepping up its support for small businesses, individuals and the private sector also have a key role to play, Ivanka Trump says. She encourages people who have the means to think of creative ways of supporting local businesses: for example, pre-paying for services they know they’ll use in 6 to 12 months.

“I did it on a personal level with my local dry cleaner and my local florist, just to sort of assist in a small way during this time. So it's really heartening to see...people, you know, buying local produce ...to support farms...and then freezing it,” Trump said.

Graphic by David Foster/Yahoo Finance
Graphic by David Foster/Yahoo Finance

The Trump administration has been trying to get money into the hands of small businesses as quickly as possible. Trump said that as soon as April 3, business owners will be able to go to their banks and apply for the loans made available by the stimulus. (The Small Business Administration's website includes a link to the application form for borrowers and information about the program for both lenders and borrowers.)

“Go to your local bank directly, the SBA is there to backstop it, but that's the quickest way that this transaction will happen and starting Friday, we'll be ready to roll,” Trump said.

Extending paid sick leave benefits to employees at small businesses is a cornerstone of the $2 trillion fiscal stimulus package. Businesses that have fewer than 500 employees will be offered tax breaks or waivers for extending sick leave to their workers.

“We recognize that the people most likely not to have access oftentimes work for smaller businesses. And it's not because the smaller businesses don't want to provide it — they simply can't afford it,” said Trump.

Social distancing at the White House

Trump said she is currently working from home as often as possible and adhering to the federal social distancing guidelines.

“I'm doing as much telephonically as possible,” she said. “I’ve got three young kids who are growing more restless by the day, which I'm sure...pretty much every parent around the country is going through.”

Juggling working from home and caring for kids who are out of school is a tough balancing act for millions of parents during this era of social distancing. “It's a unique time but I'm trying to reframe all of it through the lens of the joy of having this family connectivity even if it's sometimes toxic,” she said.

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