House report is sharply critical of Treasury’s handling of payroll program

Ultimately, the subcommittee concluded that instead of preserving jobs, the Trump administration’s implementation of the Payroll Support Program “significantly weakened the Program’s impact on job preservation.”

The subcommittee’s assessment comes in stark contrast to how the program has played out for passenger airlines, which received the bulk of the more than $25 billion that was allocated to pay front-line workers. Airline and union leaders say the program saved tens of thousands of jobs until it expired Oct. 1 and have been aggressively pushing to extend it through the end of March.

“The Payroll Support Program has supported hundreds of thousands of aviation industry jobs, kept workers employed and connected to their healthcare, and played a critical role in preserving the U.S. airline industry,” the Treasury Department said in a statement. “Implementation focused first on the largest employers to help stabilize an industry in crisis and support as many jobs as possible for as long as possible. Treasury provided over 80% of the requested funds supporting over four hundred thousand jobs within 26 days of the enactment of the CARES Act.”

The subcommittee’s report also slammed contractors for laying off workers even as they sought to secure government aid.

“Documents uncovered during the Select Subcommittee’s investigation show that aviation contractors sought to avoid ‘unnecessary costs’ by terminating employees before executing [Payroll Support Program] agreements,” the report said.

The report found that aviation contractors laid off or furloughed nearly 58,000 employees before applying for assistance through the Payroll Support Program, 17 times the number reported by passenger carriers. At least 16,655 employees were laid off or furloughed between when the application period opened and when companies finalized their agreement with the Treasury Department.

The subcommittee said briefings with Treasury officials and contractors as well as its review of tens of thousands of documents found that the agency knew that companies were conducting layoffs, even as their applications for payroll support were pending, but failed to raise objections or require that furloughed employees be rehired once the funds were received. The subcommittee alleged that led companies to “urgently” fire employees before signing agreements.

“Treasury’s decision to allow layoffs while applications were pending, in conjunction with the delay in executing agreements, meant that many companies paused layoffs for far shorter than the six months Congress intended,” the report said.

The report noted that although Treasury officials have maintained they did not have the ability to lower payroll support awards to reflect the size of a company’s current workforce, the subcommittee argued that is not in keeping with the provisions of the Cares Act.

The report also said that in not imposing a deadline on when the funds had to be spent, Treasury gave companies little or no incentive to rehire workers.

“Many chose not to rehire workers and instead to use the funds to cover payroll for the remaining workers over a period of many months,” the report said.

The Payroll Support Program was created as part of the Cares Act to prevent massive

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McConnell avoids visiting White House over its handling of coronavirus

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell drew a stark contrast Thursday between his handling of coronavirus in the Senate and the approach taken by the White House, which has experienced an outbreak among senior officials and the president.

a man wearing a suit and tie: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell arrives to meet with reporters at the Capitol in Washington.

© J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell arrives to meet with reporters at the Capitol in Washington.

During an event in northern Kentucky, McConnell said that he had not gone to the White House in more than two months because of how it has addressed the coronavirus.

“I actually haven’t been to the White House since August the 6th because my impression was their approach to how to handle this was different than mine and what I insisted that we do in the Senate, which is to wear a mask and practice social distancing,” the Kentucky Republican said.

Video: Pelosi: U.S. Needs to Know When Trump Had Last Negative Test (Bloomberg)

Pelosi: U.S. Needs to Know When Trump Had Last Negative Test



McConnell, 78, added that he continues to speak frequently with President Donald Trump by phone.

McConnell’s remarks come as the White House has become a hotbed recently for the virus. Trump was hospitalized over the weekend after he contracted the disease, and several of his top aides as well as White House staff members have been infected.

While McConnell, a polio survivor, did not rebuke the president directly, he has repeatedly called for wearing masks, both in floor speeches and at events. Meanwhile, the president for months refused to wear a face covering, and even mocked Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden during the Sept. 29 debate for wearing the “biggest mask I’ve ever seen.”

The Senate is currently out of session, after three senators announced they tested positive for the virus over a 24-hour period. Two of the senators — Republican Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Thom Tillis of North Carolina — attended the White House’s Rose Garden ceremony announcing Trump’s decision to nominate Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. The event has been linked to recent cases. More than 30 White House staffers and other contacts tested positive.

The Senate is taking precautions to prevent the spread of the disease. Most senators, with a few exceptions, wear masks and committee hearings have taken on a “hybrid” format, where senators can choose whether to attend remotely.

But in the wake of recent cases, several senators, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer are calling for a more robust testing regime in the Senate. Both Speaker Nancy Pelosi and McConnell rejected an offer earlier this year from the White House for rapid tests and so far neither are suggesting a change of course.

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The Trump administration is handling the White House COVID-19 outbreak in the same disastrous way it approached the country’s

a person wearing glasses and smiling at the camera: A car with US President Trump drives past supporters in a motorcade outside of Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland on October 4, 2020. ALEX EDELMAN/AFP via Getty Images

© ALEX EDELMAN/AFP via Getty Images
A car with US President Trump drives past supporters in a motorcade outside of Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland on October 4, 2020. ALEX EDELMAN/AFP via Getty Images

  • The Trump administration’s approach to the COVID-19 outbreak among its top officials shows many of the same problems of its overall approach to the pandemic.
  • There’s been little to no transparency, mixed messaging, a continued lack of respect for public health recommendations, and a futile effort to paint a rosy picture amid an evolving crisis.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Over a dozen people in President Donald Trump’s orbit, along with the president himself, have tested positive for COVID-19 after the White House held what appears to be a super-spreader event in the Rose Garden to announce the president’s Supreme Court nominee a little over a week ago. 

Based on the nature of the virus, that number could easily rise in the coming days. 

The president has been hospitalized after being diagnosed with the virus last week and the list of top officials in the White House who’ve contracted the virus is expanding rapidly.

The Trump administration’s handling of this evolving internal health crisis, which also has major external consequences for the country and wider world, is near-identical to its approach to the US outbreak. 

a group of people in a park: Seventh U.S. Circuit Court Judge Amy Coney Barrett (R) speaks after U.S. President Donald Trump announced that she will be his nominee to the Supreme Court in the Rose Garden at the White House September 26, 2020 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla/Getty

© Chip Somodevilla/Getty
Seventh U.S. Circuit Court Judge Amy Coney Barrett (R) speaks after U.S. President Donald Trump announced that she will be his nominee to the Supreme Court in the Rose Garden at the White House September 26, 2020 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Since Trump’s diagnosis and the fallout, the White House has more or less ignored calls for transparency about Trump’s health from top public health experts and even Republicans in Congress. 

“A significant increase in conspiracy theories & outrageous claims since the President’s diagnosis. Lies spread much faster than fact checking. This is why we need frequent, detailed & transparent updates from @WhiteHouse. And why we should all be skeptical of outlandish rumors,” GOP Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted on Friday.

Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, over the weekend called for “radical transparency” on Trump’s condition.

But the administration is refusing to give the public basic information and updates on the president’s condition, and Trump reportedly did not disclose he had a positive result via rapid COVID-19 test on Thursday evening as he awaited the results of another, more thorough test.

Similarly, the administration has repeatedly sought to block vital information on the pandemic from reaching the public, such as interfering with reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in order to ensure they did not clash with Trump’s optimistic messaging on the virus, per a recent report from Politico.

The messaging from the White House on Trump’s health has often been extremely mixed, leading to suspicions of a cover-up.

In the first briefing on Trump’s status on

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5 big questions on the White House’s botched handling of Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis

As with previous flaps over Trump’s health, there is clearly tension between projecting the kind of strength he likes to see and providing actual, sober-minded details — a tension that White House chief of staff Mark Meadows seemed to acknowledge in his own updates on Trump’s situation.

Speaking to reporters Saturday, Meadows acknowledged that Trump was probably watching him on TV and “probably critiquing the way that I’m answering these questions.”

As of Sunday afternoon, there are very valid questions about whether anyone providing details of Trump’s health, including Conley and Meadows, can be trusted. Let’s run down the major questions and contradictions.

1. The oxygen question

At the start of Saturday’s briefings, Conley said Trump “this morning is not on oxygen, not having difficulty breathing or walking around the White House Medical Unit upstairs.”

But that seemed carefully worded. So he wasn’t on oxygen that morning, reporters noted, but what about before?

Conley repeatedly avoided a direct answer, focusing on the present tense:

QUESTION: And he is receiving no — he has not received any supplemental oxygen?

CONLEY: He is not on oxygen right now, that’s right.

QUESTION: He has not received any at all?

CONLEY: He has not needed any this morning today at all. That’s right. Now he’s —

QUESTION: Has he ever been on supplemental oxygen?

CONLEY: Right now, he is not on oxygen —

QUESTION: I understand. I know you keep saying right now. But should we read into the fact that he had been previously —

CONLEY: Yesterday and today he was not on oxygen.

QUESTION: So, he has not been on it during his covid treatment?

CONLEY: He is not on oxygen right now.

When you keep dodging a question like that, it’s for one of two reasons: a) You don’t know the answer (which seems extremely unlikely given that this is Trump’s White House doctor), or, the much-more-likely, b) Trump was on oxygen at some point, but Conley was trying to avoid acknowledging that.

The White House later confirmed, anonymously, that Trump was given oxygen at the White House on Friday before going to Walter Reed hospital. But if that’s the case, it contradicts one of Conley’s answers, when he said, “Yesterday and today he was not on oxygen.”

Conley on Sunday also acknowledged Trump had been on oxygen, while building on his increasingly bizarre commentary. He said that he was “not necessarily” intending to mislead and that he want to be publicly “upbeat.” But he added that he didn’t want to say anything Saturday “that might steer the course of illness in another direction” — as if acknowledging the truth could worsen Trump’s condition.

So for all intents and purposes, he was being deliberately misleading. That alone should call the White House’s candor on this stuff into extreme question. And why wouldn’t the same motivations apply to Sunday’s and future briefings? Are we to now believe that Conley isn’t putting the same rose-colored filter on everything?

It also bears

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