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White House weighs new panel to map post-virus economic recovery

Jennifer Jacobs and Jordan Fabian, Bloomberg News on

Published in Business News

WASHINGTON -- The White House is considering whether to create a working group focused on reviving the U.S. economy after the coronavirus pandemic eases, and whether the panel should include representatives from the private sector.

The discussions are in their early stages, according to three people familiar with the matter. Administration officials including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner and the director of the National Economic Council, Larry Kudlow, may be involved, the people said.

Meadows has also asked Trump's daughter and senior adviser Ivanka Trump to join the group, one person said. All of the people spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions are ongoing.

The Washington Post on Wednesday described the group as a second coronavirus task force. People familiar with the planning said the group could be longer-lasting, similar to a commission.

No final decisions have been made about the group's leadership and membership, the people said, and the administration is weighing whether to invite business executives and outside economists to take part.

Kevin Hassett, the former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers who recently returned to the White House to advise on virus-related matters, may also serve on the panel.

 

The new group would be separate from the coronavirus task force led by Vice President Mike Pence, even though it may include some of the same members. It would focus on addressing the needs of businesses as they recover from coronavirus-related closures and the steps needed to safely open shuttered sectors of the economy.

The current task force is still focused on daily issues of health and safety, such as virus testing capacity, prevention, vaccine trials, medical equipment and other dire needs, but is slowly starting to shift its focus to the economy, as well, aides said.

"President Trump's policies took this economy to record-setting historic highs for all Americans but this unforeseen, unprecedented crisis has hurt many workers and businesses," Judd Deere, a White House spokesman, said in a statement. "The president wants to see this economy open again so people can get back to work, but scientific data will drive the timeline on those decisions because his No. 1 priority is to protect the safety and well-being of the American people."

The administration's top infectious disease expert, Anthony Fauci, slashed U.S. projections for the death toll from the virus on Thursday, saying in an NBC News interview that about 60,000 Americans may die in the outbreak. The White House had projected last week the death toll would be 100,000 to 240,000, even with rigorous social-distancing measures in place.

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