Trump infuriates business groups by halting COVID-19 talks

Trump infuriates business groups by halting COVID-19 talks
© Getty Images

Business groups were infuriated by President TrumpDonald John TrumpStephen Miller: Trump to further crackdown on illegal immigration if he wins US records 97,000 new COVID-19 cases, shattering daily record Biden leads Trump by 8 points nationally: poll MORE's decision Tuesday to halt negotiations on COVID-19 aid, warning that many employers in the industries hardest hit by the coronavirus recession won't survive another month without knowing if help is on the way. 

Trade associations stopped short of blaming Trump by name, but their strongly worded criticisms served as an implicit rebuke of the president's tactics.

Chip Rogers, CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, said it was "unacceptable and inconceivable" that the talks were called off.


"Millions of jobs and the livelihoods of people who have built their small business for decades are just withering away because our leaders in Washington are prioritizing politics over people. America’s hotel industry is on the brink of collapse," Rogers said.

Even though Trump later tweeted that he would support stand-alone bills for airlines, small businesses and to provide stimulus checks for Americans, his comments did little to alleviate concerns that massive layoffs would move forward while others close up shop for good.

“What the president tweeted last night would be within the definition of what we would call the bare minimum of the stimulus necessary,” said David French, National Retail Federation senior vice president for government relations.

Time is the biggest enemy right now, with less than four weeks until Election Day and businesses barely making ends meet.

The National Restaurant Association warned that even a week of stalled negotiations would lead to more restaurants shutting their doors. 

“The twists and turns of these negotiations make for great theater here in Washington, but every week of further inaction means that hundreds of additional restaurants will shut their doors in communities nationwide,” said Sean Kennedy, the restaurant group’s executive vice president for public affairs.


The trade group has been lobbying for tax credits and another round of funding for the Paycheck Protection Program.

The International Franchise Association said its members are also in a precarious position, with business closures likely across various sectors without additional relief in the near future.  

“Thirty-six thousand franchise small businesses won’t survive the winter without additional relief. Trading a broad, bipartisan bill now for the vague goal of something better after the election is like quitting a game in the third quarter,” said Matt Haller, the trade group’s senior vice president of government relations and public affairs.

An estimated 32,700 franchised businesses have already closed due to the coronavirus recession. Nearly 22,000 of those businesses were closed temporarily and about 11,000 businesses closed permanently.

“Quite frankly, the country needs real leadership and not political partisan arguments leading up to the election,” said Tori Emerson Barnes, executive vice president of public affairs at U.S. Travel Association.

She said 1 million more jobs in the tourism industry will be lost by December without government aid.

U.S. Travel added that it was “woefully shortsighted” to end the negotiations.

Trump’s offer to support stand-alone bills for individual aspects of a broader coronavirus package has been dismissed by Democrats, with Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: McConnell says Congress will take up stimulus package at start of 2021 | Lawmakers see better prospects for COVID deal after election Overnight Health Care: House Dem report blasts Trump coronavirus response | Regeneron halts trial of antibody drug in sickest hospitalized patients | McConnell says Congress will take up stimulus package at start of 2021 McConnell says Congress will take up stimulus package at start of 2021 MORE’s (D-Calif.) office noting that Republicans recently blocked a stand-alone measure that would have provided relief to airlines through the Payroll Support Program, which allocated $25 billion in aid as part of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act passed in March.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazioPeter Anthony DeFazioDemocrats, GOP fighting over largest House battlefield in a decade Trump says talks on COVID-19 aid are now 'working out' Trump gambles with new stimulus strategy MORE (D-Ore.) on Friday was unsuccessful in his attempt to pass legislation that would extend the program by six months. 

Pelosi’s office said that in the Speaker’s recent conversation with Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinDemocrats call Trump's COVID-19 response 'among the worst failures of leadership in American history' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump, Biden set for weekend swing state sprint Mnuchin says he learned of Pelosi's letter to him about stimulus talks 'in the press' MORE, the secretary inquired about a stand-alone airlines bill.

“The Speaker reminded him that Republicans blocked that bill on Friday & asked him to review the DeFazio bill so that they could have an informed conversation,” a spokesperson tweeted.

The Treasury Department did not respond to The Hill’s request for comment.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a pro-business lobbying group that has clashed with Trump at times during his presidency, blamed Washington overall for the failure to provide relief. 

“Washington’s failure to enact additional COVID relief will be felt on Main Streets and at kitchen tables across the United States,” Neil Bradley, Chamber executive vice president and chief policy officer, said on Tuesday.

The halted negotiations mean some companies are going ahead with layoffs that they thought they could postpone in hopes of a COVID-19 deal.

American Airlines and United Airlines started to furlough tens of thousands of employees last week, a move their CEOs said could be reversed if Congress can extend support.

But for other much smaller businesses, postponing layoffs is not an option, especially when the greater concern is staying afloat.

The Independent Restaurant Coalition said more neighborhood restaurants will go out of business due to these stalled negotiations. Restaurants are facing new costs to winterize their space after months of outdoor seating allowed many owners to keep their doors open to sit-down customers.

"If Congress and the president walk away from negotiations, even more of our neighborhood restaurants will go out of business,” the group said. “We cannot afford five or six more weeks of decreased revenue, more debt, and uncertainty about colder weather.”