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News Brief: Relief Funding, State Economies, Canada Shootings

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The White House and congressional leaders say they are getting close to agreeing on a new round of coronavirus relief funding.

NOEL KING, HOST:

That's right. It would be about $450 billion, and here's House Speaker Nancy Pelosi talking yesterday on ABC's "This Week."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THIS WEEK")

NANCY PELOSI: Everything we've done - three bills in March - were all bipartisan. This central package will be, too, and the businesses will have the money in a timely fashion.

GREENE: All right. I want to bring in NPR congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell, who is looking into all of this. Hi, Kelsey.

KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Hey. Good morning.

GREENE: OK. So what is in this latest round of relief, in this package here?

SNELL: Well, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said over the weekend that they were narrowing in on a deal and that it would include around $300 billion in additional money for the forgivable small business loans. Those are the Paycheck Protection Program that we've heard a lot about. The original 350 billion approved - that all ran out in less than two weeks, even with that rocky rollout that was making a lot of news. This also includes $50 billion for small business disaster loans and $75 billion, about, in emergency funding for hospitals.

I'm told over the weekend that the last bit of negotiating was over the details of about $25 billion in testing. And Mnuchin says he thinks that this could be done early this week. He mentioned today in the Senate, but we'd actually have to see the legislation first before that can happen.

GREENE: So getting close, though, it sounds like.

SNELL: Yeah.

GREENE: What about state governments, local governments - are they going to get anything out of this?

SNELL: Yeah, I think it's really notable that there is nothing in here for states and local governments. The National Governors Association was asking for $500 billion for - to help them with budget stabilization primarily. And that's something Democrats really wanted. But I think it's the strongest evidence yet that without this in there, there has to be another larger package. That's something that lawmakers have acknowledged for some time.

And the staff that I talked to over the weekend called this latest pot of money more of a gap-filler than an actual new package of money. And you know, that's the kind of moment we're in, to put it in context; nearly half a trillion dollars is a gap-filler. I know these numbers can be hard to put into context, right?

GREENE: Yeah.

SNELL: But that number that we're talking about, a gap-filler, is half of the entire first bank bailout in 2008.

GREENE: That's amazing. I mean, yeah, $2 trillion was the first injection and now another 450 billion that's a gap-filler. And you're saying it could keep going.

SNELL: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. The people I talked to in Congress say that they expect that there will have to be additional relief.

GREENE: So assuming there is this agreement coming up sometime this week, I mean, can you predict how the vote will go? Is it just going to be an easy thing, or could there be some discussion?

SNELL: You know, it's hard to say right now exactly how the vote will go because we don't exactly know what format the vote will take. You know, as Nancy Pelosi mentioned in that clip we already heard, the original couple packages went through on bipartisan lines. But there have been some objection to trying to approve even more money in that way.

Yesterday afternoon, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told members that they could vote as early as Wednesday morning but they have to give them 24 hours advance notice. So this is all a process of waiting to see who will object to, possibly, a voice vote, like we saw in the past, and whether or not we're going to have to get all these members of Congress back to Washington.

GREENE: Which would be amazing. NPR congressional reporter Kelsey Snell. Kelsey, thanks so much.

SNELL: Thanks for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: OK. So polling shows that a majority of Americans support these stay-at-home orders that we have seen. But over the weekend, groups of protesters in several states gathered for rallies demanding that these stay-at-home orders end.

KING: Yeah, we saw these protests in California, Washington state and Colorado, among other places. Our colleagues at Colorado Public Radio talked to a protester named Deesa Hurt (ph).

DEESA HURT: I'm watching businesses close. I'm watching friends lose their incomes and their livelihoods. And we just want to reopen Colorado. That's all we want.

KING: Now, health experts say social distancing should continue for the next short or long while - they haven't really made that clear. President Trump has expressed support for these protests despite what health experts are saying.

GREENE: And let's talk about these events with NPR's Joel Rose, who has been following them. Hi, Joel.

ROSE: Hey, David.

GREENE: So these have been pretty small, right? I mean, can you tell us what these protests feel like?

ROSE: Yeah, I guess the protest in Denver yesterday was pretty typical. There were several hundred protesters on the hillside in front of the state capitol. Some of them were wearing masks and standing more than 6 feet apart, but many of them were not. There were also lots of protesters inside their cars who were honking in solidarity. The protesters say that these social distancing measures are an infringement on personal freedom and an economic hardship for a lot of people.

GREENE: Well, what are governors saying in response to the demands from these protesters?

ROSE: Well, mostly that they are also frustrated. They want to reopen their economies, too. But they are balancing that, they say, against limiting the spread of the coronavirus and saving lives. The governors say they want to see data that shows the number of cases is falling in their states for at least two weeks. They also want to see more testing capacity before they start to relax these social distancing measures in their states. Otherwise, the governors worry that the virus will simply rebound as soon as these orders are lifted and could overwhelm hospitals if a lot of people get sick all at once.

GREENE: It is hard not to ask you about politics here, only because - I mean, these protests are springing up around the country but many of them in political battleground states. Is there some level of national coordination here?

ROSE: Yeah. To some extent, there definitely is. There are some parallels to the beginning of the Tea Party a decade ago. That is according to people who've studied that movement. I talked to Theda Skocpol. She's a professor at Harvard and the author of a new book called "Upending American Politics." And she thinks that the anger and the frustration behind these protests are real but that they are also being orchestrated at the national level by some of the same conservative organizations that played a big role in the rise of the Tea Party.

THEDA SKOCPOL: They're sending cues to local activists that now's a good time to get out there and make a fuss. But I lean towards saying that, right now, this is pretty engineered and pretty intended to create a media spectacle - that it's not some kind of organic wave.

ROSE: Also, if you look closely at the Facebook pages and websites of these local activist groups, you see similar, virtually identical language in some cases. Also, we've heard strikingly similar talking points from activists at the various rallies themselves.

GREENE: Well - and you've been talking to some of the national conservative groups that have been supporting these protests, right?

ROSE: Yes, I talked to one in particular called FreedomWorks.I talked to Adam Brandon, the president of FreedomWorks, and he said, yes, these new protests do share a lot of the same DNA, as he put it, as the Tea Party.

ADAM BRANDON: Many of these events have organizers who have been trained and come through our network. So we're in touch with them, giving them advice, sometimes support - helping them promote. But we're not actually hosting any of this. This is local people putting on all of these different events.

ROSE: Brandon says it is time to start talking about how we are going to live with the coronavirus and also restart our economy. And he says these protests are helping to push that conversation along.

GREENE: All right. NPR's Joel Rose for us this morning. Joel, thanks so much.

ROSE: You bet.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GREENE: All right. At least 16 people, including a police officer, were killed in a mass shooting in Nova Scotia over the weekend. The suspected gunman was also killed.

KING: Mass shootings are rare in Canada. This is the deadliest one in its history. Back in 1989, there was a mass shooting at a college in Montreal, and the whole country tightened its gun laws.

GREENE: All right. We have reporter Emma Jacobs in Montreal. Hi, Emma.

EMMA JACOBS: Hi.

GREENE: Can you tell us how this this shooting rampage unfolded?

JACOBS: Yeah. So police first reported to - multiple 911 calls about a shooting Saturday night. They found multiple casualties in and outside the home according to Chief Superintendent Chris Leather. He spoke at a press conference on Sunday.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

CHRIS LEATHER: When police arrived at the scene, members located several casualties inside and outside of the home. This was a very quickly evolving situation and a chaotic scene.

JACOBS: And their initial search for the suspect, it led to multiple sites in the area that were on fire. And by the morning, they had publicly identified who they were looking for - Gabriel Wortman. Police shared that he was dressed like an RCMP officer. And - excuse me - the RCMP, I should say, is the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Part of the time at least in this manhunt, he was driving a car that looked like a police vehicle.

The manhunt ended in a confrontation near a rest stop outside Halifax. There was an exchange of fire with police, and it was shared later in the day that Wortman had died and that a policewoman had died. Her name was Heidi Stevenson. She had been with the RCMP for 23 years and had two kids.

GREENE: Wow. I mean, this is just tragic. You've got a guy running around shooting people, dressed like an officer in a car that looks like a police vehicle. What do we know about the suspected gunman here?

JACOBS: Yeah. So the chief superintendent said that speaks to a certain amount of premeditation - that he had this equipment. He is 51. Wortman apparently worked as a denturist - that is, making dentures. And the CBC has reported that he lived part time in Halifax and part time in the small town where this all began called Portapique.

GREENE: So as Noel mentioned, I mean, these kinds of shootings don't happen often in Canada. I mean, this must be a difficult moment for the country. What are officials saying?

JACOBS: Well, again, police have not shared what they think his motive was. They do know that some of the victims don't appear to have been known to him. They seem random. And they're going to be sharing more, obviously, as the investigation unfolds. On Sunday, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil called this, quote, "one of the most senseless acts of violence in our province's history."

GREENE: All right. Again, we're reporting on the tragedy in Canada. Sixteen people, including a police officer, killed in a mass shooting in Nova Scotia over the weekend. Reporter Emma Jacobs in Montreal. Emma, thank you so much.

JACOBS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.