PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — President Donald Trump on Tuesday defended his company’s decision to furlough hundreds of employees because of the coronavirus pandemic, after his private Mar-a-Lago club in Florida revealed this week it is temporarily laying off 153 workers.
Speaking at the White House, Trump said, “You can’t have many hundreds of employees standing around doing nothing,” noting that local social distancing prohibitions have closed clubs, hotels and even golf courses. “There’s no customer. You’re not allowed to have a customer.”
It isn’t the only Trump resort in Florida to furlough workers. The Trump National Doral Miami resort where the president initially wanted to host this year’s Group of Seven summit has temporarily laid off 560 workers.
The federal government’s economic relief bill specifically bars Trump’s businesses, as well as those with ties to other top government officials and members of Congress and their immediate families, from receiving emergency loans and other benefits meant to help businesses retain workers during the virus crisis.
The club’s director of human resources, Janine Gill, wrote in a letter to state and local officials that Mar-a-Lago began halting business last month as a result of mandated closures issued in Palm Beach County in response to the virus’s spread in South Florida.
The furloughs are temporary but the club doesn’t know when it will resume regular operations, Gill said.
None of the workers are unionized.
The furloughed workers at Mar-a-Lago include bartenders, cooks, dishwashers, drivers, attendants, housekeepers, servers and valet attendants.
Mar-a-Lago serves as Trump’s refuge from Washington, and the president often spends his time there mixing work, business and pleasure in the company of dues-paying members.