What have you always wondered about the economy? Tell Us
The U.S. Defense Production Act will help in the manufacturing of ventilators. Above, new ventilators are prepared at the Columbus Covid2 Hospital in Rome on Monday. Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images

Trump invokes Defense Production Act in response to COVID-19

Janet Nguyen Mar 18, 2020
The U.S. Defense Production Act will help in the manufacturing of ventilators. Above, new ventilators are prepared at the Columbus Covid2 Hospital in Rome on Monday. Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images

President Donald Trump declared on Wednesday that he will invoke the Defense Production Act, which grants him the authority to force companies to produce medical supplies needed to handle the coronavirus.

The Department of Defense also said it will give 5 million respirator masks and 2,000 ventilators to the Department of Health and Human Services. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said that “the first 1 million masks will be made available immediately.”

In addition to signing the DPA, Trump plans to deploy two Navy hospital ships to assist cities affected by the outbreak, with the U.S. Naval Ship Comfort — which has 1,000 hospital beds — headed to New York.

There have been concerns over how well equipped hospitals are to handle the pandemic. In a statement to NBC News, the American Hospital Association said there are currently a limited supplies of ventilators and hospital beds.

During the conference, Trump called himself a “wartime president.” The Defense Production Act was first passed in response to the Korean War in 1950, and since then, Congress has gradually expanded the scope of the term “national defense.”

Presidents not only have the authority to shape the U.S. military’s capabilities, but they now also have the power to “enhance and support domestic preparedness, response, and recovery from natural hazards, terrorist attacks, and other national emergencies.”

On Friday, Trump declared the COVID-19 crisis a national emergency.

Correction (March 18, 2020): A previous headline misstated Trump’s plans regarding the Defense Protection Act. Trump invoked the DPA.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

So what’s up with “Zoom fatigue”?

It’s a real thing. The science backs it up — there’s new research from Stanford University. So why is it that the technology can be so draining? Jeremy Bailenson with Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab puts it this way: “It’s like being in an elevator where everyone in the elevator stopped and looked right at us for the entire elevator ride at close-up.” Bailenson said turning off self-view and shrinking down the video window can make interactions feel more natural and less emotionally taxing.

How are Americans spending their money these days?

Economists are predicting that pent-up demand for certain goods and services is going to burst out all over as more people get vaccinated. A lot of people had to drastically change their spending in the pandemic because they lost jobs or had their hours cut. But at the same time, most consumers “are still feeling secure or optimistic about their finances,” according to Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail, which regularly surveys shoppers. A lot of people enjoy browsing in stores, especially after months of forced online shopping. And another area expecting a post-pandemic boost: travel.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

Read More


Marketplace is on a mission.

We believe Main Street matters as much as Wall Street, economic news is made relevant and real through human stories, and a touch of humor helps enliven topics you might typically find…well, dull.

Through the signature style that only Marketplace can deliver, we’re on a mission to raise the economic intelligence of the country—but we don’t do it alone. We count on listeners and readers like you to keep this public service free and accessible to all. Will you become a partner in our mission today?

Your donation is critical to the future of public service journalism. Support our work today – for as little as $5 – and help us keep making people smarter.