Return to Transcripts main page


Soon, House Takes Final Vote on Biden's $1.9 Trillion Relief Bill; Texas Ends Mask Mandate, Fully Reopens Businesses Today; Piers Morgan Quits T.V. Show after Meghan Markle Files Complaint. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired March 10, 2021 - 11:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN NEWSROOM: At any moment now, the House could be taking the final vote on President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill. The debate on the House floor continues as we speak. When passed, it will give President Biden his biggest legislative victory to date and will give quite a bit to Americans, including direct checks for up to $1,400, $300 weekly unemployment benefits and it expands the child tax credit, up to $3,600 per child under six, $300 for each child age 6 to 17, and that is an increase from the maximum benefit of $2,000 under current policy. One also notable change from existing policy in this bill is even families without an income will receive this tax credit.

Let's focus in on that right now and its impact. Joining me right now is the co-executive director of the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality, Indivar Dutta-Gupta. Thank you for being here.

You told The Washington Post something that hit me, I will read it to folks, that this legislation likely represents the most effective set of policies for reducing child poverty ever in one bill, especially among black and Latin X children. That's quite a statement. Why is that?

INDIVAR DUTTA-GUPTA, CO-EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, GEORGETOWN CENTER ON POVERTY AND INEQUALITY: Well, first, thanks for having me, Kate, and I think that's exactly right. The truth is this bill is going to cut poverty by about a third for Americans overall, by about a half for children and even more so for black children, Latin X children. And the reason why is it's saying, look, we don't care if your parents have a job, if they have high enough income for us to decide that you deserve support. We're saying every child deserves a basic income floor.

It's transformative and really like nothing we've done, but plenty of rich countries, including our neighbors to the north, Canada, have shown how powerful it can be.

BOLDUAN: That's true, we have seen this move in other wealthy nations. How much is this likely to, just for context, reduce or help child poverty in the first year, let's say? Because I'm curious of how do you measure it, and which piece of this bill has the biggest impact, do you think?

DUTTA-GUPTA: That's a great question. And I would that the expansion of the child tax credit, essentially converting it to a child allowance or child benefit that's paid out even to families who have lost jobs and have very limited incomes is going to be the single, most consequential component for reducing child poverty. But we're also seeing impacts from the economic impact payments, the expansion of SNAP benefits or food assistance, and certainly unemployment assistance benefits that are being extended and enhanced as well.

And the way that researchers look at it, including folks at the Urban Institute and the Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University, is they assume that half of the child tax credit payments will be paid out this year and the other half will be paid out next year. And when you look at that, you still see these absolutely astonishing reductions in child poverty this year. And I think there is a lot to celebrate there, to be honest.

BOLDUAN: This is your work. So you know the criticisms of programs like this, often coming from Republicans. There's a policy view that aid programs like this saps initiative, takes away the incentive to work. In your research, do you see evidence of that?

DUTTA-GUPTA: Look, the reality is that everyone needs a basic foundation to succeed. And we're talking about $3,000 per child, $3,600 for those under the age of six. This isn't something that makes it not worthwhile to work, especially when you get the benefit whether you work or not. We are 12 million jobs, nearly in the hole compared to where we would have been had we not hit this pandemic.

But even in better times, I have every reason to believe that you will see almost no reduction in work from this child allowance policy.


And, you know, if anything, we have good research suggesting that the kids who are benefiting are going to work more when they become adults. The National Academy of Sciences has looked into this extensively, looked into the research. They found such a modest reduction in work, and if anything, again, some of that might be good.

There are parents who are low paid, struggling in the labor market, and some of them work 40, 50-plus hours a week and spending some more time with kids can be a good thing, for them, for the children, for all of us.

BOLDUAN: is there one word how you would describe what these elements mean to Americans right now?

DUTTA-GUPTA: Transformative. We have never tried to guarantee a floor of income for anyone, really, until now. And it's particularly transformative because, historically, our focus on transfers to boost low incomes has been on the elderly, especially coming out of the great depression with the Social Security Act, and we're finally catching up. And we're catching up in incredible speed.

This new child tax credit policy will actually mean that America has one of the more generous policies to ensure a basic income for children, something that a few years ago, I think, would have been unheard of. But it will be transformative.

BOLDUAN: I don't think just you think that. I think anyone would think that that was unheard of just a few years ago, that's for sure. Thank you very much for coming on.

DUTTA-GUPTA: Thank you for having.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, Texas ends its statewide mask mandate starting today leaving businesses, large and small, with a choice. One restaurant owner says he's not changing a thing. He's our guest.



BOLDUAN: Today begins the Texas test, the biggest state in the Lower 48 taking the biggest steps toward reopening all at once. For the first time since summer, Texas is no longer under a statewide mask mandate and businesses can open to 100 percent capacity as of today. That leaves up to businesses across the state to enforce their own mask policies to protect employees and their customers.

Joining me right now is one of those business owners, Arnaldo Richards. I believe -- did I just see color bars? Unfortunately, it looks like we've just lost Arnaldo. We're going to try to reconnect with him on. And when we do, quickly, we're going to have that conversation.

Let's go to a quick break. We'll pick back up hopefully if we can get Arnaldo back up. We'll be right back.


BOLDUAN: I believe we have reconnected with our guest. One of the business owners facing the very tough choice now of what to do now that the statewide mask mandate has been lifted in the state of Texas. Joining us right now is Arnaldo Richards. He owns a well-known Houston restaurant, Picos. Arnaldo, thank you for coming in.

So, today is we call what is the Texas test, the beginning of it. What are you preparing for today now that the statewide mask mandate is lifted? What do you tell a customer who comes in and says, I don't have to wear a mask at your restaurant, the governor says I don't have to?

ARNALDO RICHARDS, OWNER, PICOS RESTAURANT: Well, that's not necessarily true, because what the governor has said is that he's giving us a choice to whether to wear the mask or not as a business or as an individual. I mean, we chose to continue to do what we've been doing for the past 12 months. I mean, seven days is going to be already a year that we've been doing this. Why change anything when the numbers have not been -- not right to do this?

My customers will know they will not sit in here if they they're not wear a mask. And we have the support from all the community.

BOLDUAN: Why are you continuing to require masks in your restaurant? I know that sounds like an obvious question, but it's a question that every business in Texas needs to face now, because there is no guidance from -- there's no mandate from the state.

RICHARDS: Well, but, you know, there's a business out there (ph). I mean, we haven't vaccinated enough people. I mean, the CDC is saying that they got 180 days to get an appropriate number, like about 70 percent, 75 percent. I mean, we continue to have the mortality rate, we continue to have people going into the hospitals. I mean, there is not a line that you can say, well, this is it now and you guys can continue to do business as usual.

Now my business as usual is wearing the mask and keeping the social distancing.

BOLDUAN: Did you at all consider not continuing to require masks? I mean, did you get any, I don't know, pushback from any of your employees on this?

RICHARDS: Never, on the contrary. We just had a meeting this morning and we're telling them all the measures that we're taking and what to say to the customers, to refer them back to our management. I mean, the only thing that I did different that I've been doing for the past 12 months is that I will have a police officer in my door just to make sure that we don't have anybody trying to come in and make a point.

BOLDUAN: Well, that's reality, but that's a sad reality, Arnaldo. Because just so everyone knows, you have faced some threats for keeping this policy in place, threats that people were saying online that they were going to call immigration enforcement on employees of your restaurant, which, first and foremost, is very clearly racist.

But we've seen people getting injured, and, sadly, even killed over enforcing mask policies in businesses during this pandemic. You're now going to have a police officer at your door. Are you concerned about these threats and what this is going to mean for your employees going forward?

RICHARDS: Well, the police officer is going to be only for today because it is the 10th, it is when the mandate is lifted. And we feel that -- like I said, there's going to be some people who are going to come to my business and try to make a point.

I mean, for the past 12 months, we have people here and there that they don't to want wear their mask and we refuse to serve them. And, yes, they get irate, but they don't have to come in. I mean, we have a policy that -- we have a sign outside that says that we reserve the right to refuse you service if you're not dressed properly or wearing a mask. And they need to abide by that.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. It's your house and it is your rules, that's for sure.


Is the governor putting you in a tough position? You're not equivocating. You're not changing anything, that's for sure. But is the governor putting you in a tough position having to explain this now to everyone who comes in?

RICHARDS: I don't believe so. I mean, this has been part of it. I mean, this has been part of for the past 12 months. I mean, we do explain to people why we have this policy. And the policy -- I mean, it's not even a policy. I mean, we protect our employees. We're protecting the community. We're protecting the guests. I mean, why change anything right now when we continue to have this mortality rate and people go into hospitals like this? I mean, it's just logical to continue to do this. And people need to be courteous to other people.

It only takes 40 seconds to get to your table. Then you can take your mask off and then you can eat and drink. And then when you're in common areas of the restaurant, please wear the mask. I mean, it takes nothing.

I have employees that wear the mask for eight hours in front of a grill that is 400 degrees and they don't complain. On the contrary, they are very, very fortunate to have a job and they're very thankful to be here and helping us and doing this with us.

So, I don't think -- we're not going to get any pushback from my employees or my customers. And there will be, of course one, two, three people that are going to come and do that. But I will say that 99.9 percent of the population is backing me, especially -- we've been in business for 37 years. Two days ago, we celebrated 37 years. And the response from the community, in a good way, has been overwhelming.

BOLDUAN: Well, congratulations on that. And here's to 37 more years for you. And thank you so much. Good luck.

RICHARDS: Thank you, Kate. Bye-bye.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, striking similarities, the haunting parallels between the struggles of Meghan Markle and Princess Diana.



BOLDUAN: New this morning, CNN has learned that Meghan, the duchess of Sussex, has lodged a formal complaint with Britain's ITV network over the on-air comments by one T.V. host, Piers Morgan, about her mental health and what she said about it. Piers Morgan even stormed off the set of his T.V. show after facing criticism for his scathing words about Meghan and Harry.

The royal family released their first public statement yesterday about the interview with Oprah, saying that the queen is saddened and that their claims will be dealt with in private. This crisis has led many to draw comparisons between Meghan Markle and Princess Diana.

CNN's Max Foster has more.


MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR AND ROYAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): When they joined the ranks of monarchy through their world-famous marriages, one was a wide-eyed young British girl of 20, born with an aristocratic pedigree who barely had any worldly experience, the other, an American biracial divorcee in her 30s, an independent career woman in her own rights, an actress who had already had their fair share of the limelight.

But whilst the journeys that led Diana, Princess of Wales, and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, to give the two most shocking interviews about the royal family are quite different. Diana, already separated from her husband, Prince Charles, Meghan, with her husband, Prince Harry supportedly by her side. The sit-down exposes filmed 26 years apart are hauntingly similar in describing how their lives changed after becoming part of the firm, both admitting naivety on the lives they've chosen.

PRINCESS DIANA, PRINCESS OF WALES: At the age of 19, you always think you're prepared for everything and you think you have the knowledge of what's coming ahead.

MEGHAN MARKLE, DUCHESS OF SUSSEX: I didn't fully understand what the job was.

FOSTER: Both sharing the weight of being the constant focus of tabloid fodder.

PRINCESS DIANA: And I seem to be on the front of a newspaper every single day, which is an isolating experience, and how the media puts you, place you is the bigger the drop.

MARKLE: I am everywhere but I am nowhere. And from that standpoint, I continued to say to people I know there's an obsession with how things look, but has anyone talked about how it feels? Because right now, I could not feel lonelier.

FOSTER: The sense of loneliness and isolation leading to a deterioration of their mental health. Diana opening up about bulimia and self-harm, Meghan to thoughts of suicide, leaving to one overarching feeling for both, shame.

PRINCESS DIANA: I didn't like myself. I was ashamed because I couldn't cope with the pressures.

MARKLE: I said I was ashamed. I'm supposed to stronger than that.

FOSTER: At their darkest moments detailing a lack of support from the firm.

PRINCESS DIANA: When no one listens use it or you feel no one's listening to you, all sorts of things start to happen. MARKLE: I said that I needed to go somewhere to get help. I said I've never felt this way before, and I need to go somewhere, and I was told that I couldn't, that it wouldn't be good for the institution.

FOSTER: Both interviews noting a curiously specific similarity that the Women's Tours of Australia led to a rise of jealousy within the royal family. Even more alarming, the accusation from both women that the institution was not only not helping but actively working behind the scenes to hurt them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you really believe that a campaign was being waged against you?

PRINCESS DIANA: Yes, I did, absolutely.


PRINCESS DIANA: I was separated wife of Prince of Wales. I was a problem, full stop, never happened before, what do we do with her?

MARKLE: The narrative about making Kate cry I think was the beginning of a real character assassination and they knew it wasn't true. And I felt, well, if they're not going to kill things like that, then what are we going to do?

FOSTER: And yet both women ending on a note of optimism despite the turmoil.

PRINCESS DIANA: I sit here with hope because there's a future ahead, a future for my husband, a future for myself and a future for the monarchy.

MARKLE: We've actually not just survived but are thriving. You know, this, just miracles. And this is, in some ways, just the beginning for us.

FOSTER: And while the world watched as Diana's story ended in tragedy, Meghan's chapters are still being written.


FOSTER (on camera): Prince Harry has been very clear he does see history repeating itself as the reason why he took his family away from their home, here in Windsor, took them to Canada and subsequently to California, where that interview took place.

The difference is here is that Diana never had a chance to heal that rift, to heal that rift she had with the royal family. Meghan does have that opportunity. The queen is keen to rebuild, but she wants to be doing that in private.


So, for now, they've all gone quiet, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Max, thank you very much.