As the United States, with the most COVID-19 cases and deaths in the world, passes the 2 million infected mark and approaches 114,000 deaths, with cases spiking in more than half the states, Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic candidate for president, offered a statement, and a detailed plan for economic recovery that takes into account the well-founded concerns of workers and consumers. As Biden said, Trump did not cause the pandemic but his utter failure to lead, to come up with any cohesive strategy and in fact to contradict and undermine the CDC and other agencies who would mitigate the worst impacts, has made both the toll on lives and llvelihoods that much worse. Biden shows yet again that he does not just have the compassion but the competence to be president that Trump woefully lacks. –Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com.
Here are Vice President Biden’s remarks and his economic plan:
The United States has passed yet another grim milestone of President Trump’s utter failure to lead us through this crisis, with two million Americans now having been afflicted with COVID-19.
President Trump isn’t responsible for the virus, but he is accountable for his historic mismanagement of the response. We now know that tens of thousands of lives could have been saved if President Trump had listened to the experts and moved faster. We know that we could have dramatically reduced the economic devastation of this outbreak if our response was anywhere close to as competent as that of other countries.
Even now, after the incredible toll our country has already paid, President Trump still refuses to take the virus seriously. While he may have forgotten about COVID-19, COVID-19 hasn’t forgotten about us. In more than 20 states, the level of new infections continues to rise. Just like Donald Trump could not wish the disease away in April, or tweet it away in May, he can’t ignore it away in June.
And now, President Trump is returning to the campaign trail, trying to ignore reality. He’s failing to take the long-overdue steps that I’ve called for to protect our country and safely re-open our economy, like getting more testing and protective equipment into the field, putting in place a national contact tracing corps, and letting science and medicine inform our strategy.
We all want to get the virus under control, and we all want the re-opening to proceed effectively so that we can get our country back to work. However, President Trump has taken his eye off the ball yet again, and he is unwilling or unable to do the hard work we need to do to win this fight. The American people can’t afford that any longer.
Today, more than 20 million Americans are unemployed – and a majority of those unemployed are a result of the economic crisis worsened by President Trump’s failed response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. After weeks and months of social distancing measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19, communities across the country are in the process of re-opening. Americans deserve a President who will ensure that re-opening is as effective and safe as possible – putting people back on the payroll as quickly as possible and restoring economic demand as fully as possible. Trump has abdicated any effective federal leadership, leaving state, tribal, and local officials to do their best without help from Washington. With cases of COVID-19 still rising rapidly in parts of the country, Trump has effectively ceased to mobilize any national public health response.
A stronger, more effective reopening requires doing the work to keep workers safe, to restore consumer confidence, to support small businesses, to ensure seniors can participate, and to provide parents with the help they need to get back to work. Trump has a one-point plan for all of this – put up the “Open for Business” sign and then just see what happens. That isn’t going to fix the economy that Trump broke or minimize the risk of COVID-19 resurging. Trump’s approach falls woefully short. First, it does nothing to keep workers safe and help businesses stay open. Second, it does nothing to boost consumer confidence. And third, it does nothing to grow our economy and create good-paying jobs. Trump is essentially hanging a mission accomplished banner because a small fraction of jobs returned when millions were lost because of his incompetent response to COVID-19. Biden will release an aggressive and comprehensive plan for good-paying job creation in the coming days.
To meet the first two challenges, Biden has an eight-part plan to make sure the reopening is safe and strong and sets the foundation for an economy that works for everyone.
Guarantee Testing and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for All Called Back on the Job: If we are going to send Americans back to work without having beaten COVID-19 as a nation, workers should know if they or their co-workers are infected. Biden would:
- Direct the federal government to provide regular and reliable COVID-19 testing for every worker called back on the job – paid for by the federal government, with a federal guarantee of availability and rapid reporting of results — for the duration of this crisis.
- Ensure all workers, in all communities, have access to effective personal protective equipment based upon their risk of exposure to the virus and their type of workplace. No worker should be forced to give up benefits and return to work under unsafe conditions.
- Ensure workers and unions have a voice in reopening plans, and that reopening decisions by tribal governments are respected. (Read Joe Biden’s plans for establishing a Pandemic Testing Board to surge testing nationwide,and ramping up the production and fair distribution of PPE.)
Guarantee Paid Leave for All Who Get Sick: No one should have to choose between their paycheck and their health. Biden would:
- Ensure paid leave for all workers who get sick with COVID-19, for as long as they need to recover and complete quarantine – leave paid for by the federal government with a guarantee that workers can return to their jobs.
- Guarantee federally-funded paid leave for workers caring for family members or other loved ones sick with COVID-19. His plan is broader, stronger, and longer than the plan enacted by Congress, and is in addition to existing paid leave provided by a business’s existing policies, including collectively-bargained leave.
Ensure Worker Protection and Accountability: People want to get back to work, but they also want — and deserve — to know that their workplaces are safe. Biden would:
- Task the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) with setting and enforcing a rigorous emergency temporary standard for worker protection so employers follow a clear set of rules to keep workers safe from COVID-19 exposure.
- Ensure that the OSHA standard includes requirements for exposure identification and control, including social distancing, improved ventilation, and other workplace design measures, adequate personal protective equipment, targeted sanitation procedures, as well as training, notification and communication requirements for handling cases at work.
- Protect workers not fully covered by OSHA, including by working with Congress to ensure this standard would cover public employees and directing other agencies to enforce industry-specific standards.
- Pursue tough fines on corporations that do not abide by standards or recklessly expose their workers to COVID-19, targeting employers that engage in the most egregious violations that put the largest number of workers at serious risk. And, he would do everything in his power to ensure workers are protected against retaliation as they reasonably try to stay safe.
Build a National Contact Tracing Workforce: Once COVID-19 infected people are identified, we need to find those to whom they might have unwittingly spread the disease. Contact tracing is a core component of a robust nationwide data-driven disease surveillance system. Given the massive unemployment problem that Trump generated and the incredible need for contact tracers, Biden would:
- Create a U.S. Public Health Jobs Corps. Through this Corps, the federal government will closely coordinate with state, tribal, and local leaders, as well as unions, to mobilize at least 100,000 people — and many more, if necessary — to support the public health response including by ensuring contract tracing reaches every community in America. Corps members should come from the communities they serve in order to ensure that they create trust and are as effective as possible.
- Establish a COVID-19 renewable state, tribal, and local government fund — which Biden proposed in mid-March — to provide sorely under-resourced public health departments the support they need to stop new outbreaks.
Protect Older Americans, Americans with Disabilities, and Others at High Risk: Discrimination against those at risk or those with COVID-19 cannot be tolerated. Biden would:
- Require employers to tailor work arrangements for anyone who is in a high-risk group or has a high-risk individual in their home. If arrangements cannot be made, individuals would be allowed to continue to draw unemployment benefits and be protected from job loss. These benefits would last for the duration of the crisis.
- Provide older Americans and others at high risk evidence-based guidance for different phases of reopening. Biden’s plan to ramp up testing nationwide — and the resulting aggregated testing data — will help inform advanced this guidance, and will give older Americans, who already experience social isolation, the confidence to know they will not be left behind.
- Establish testing capacity so that every resident in a long-term care facility could safely see at least one visitor every week and that the many older Americans who foster or care for children have access to regular and reliable testing.
- Direct the federal government to create an easy-to-read Nationwide Pandemic Dashboard that Americans can check in real-time to help them gauge whether local transmission is actively occurring in their zip codes. This information is critical to helping all individuals, but especially older Americans and others at high risk, understand what level of precaution to take.
Create “Safer for Shoppers” Program: The economy will not fully come back until consumers feel safe again. The Safer for Shoppers voluntary federal program will:
- Provide state, tribal, and local governments with funding and technical assistance for their public health departments to certify business as compliant with testing procedures and other best practices for reducing transmission and to conduct spot-checks as necessary.
- Compliant businesses would receive a “Safer for Shoppers” sign to display so shoppers would know that the businesses have done what they can to minimize the risk of exposure.
Restart Small Business: President Trump’s corrupt economic response has routinely favored corporations over small businesses and largely shut out minority business owners from COVID-19 recovery funds. Biden refuses to allow this crisis to inflict further economic pain on working families and communities of color. Biden would:
- Provide an ambitious “restart package” that provides small business owners support for retaining and rehiring workers, as well as for fixed costs as long as they are bringing back workers.
- Support work-sharing so that small businesses — and larger ones, too — can bring back all of their workers, even if they are not operating at full capacity, with the federal government making up the difference.
- Provide grants for businesses to cover the costs of restarting in this challenging environment, including for supplies like personal protective equipment and plexiglass to use as a barrier to reduce transmission risk.
- Swiftly end the racial inequity in small business support by ensuring that minority-owned businesses get effective access to all of these tools, as well as access to technical assistance — such as accounting support and legal advice — so that they are not shut out of federal aid programs.
- Reopen Schools and Child Care Programs: Trump has done effectively nothing to help schools or child care providers reopen, perhaps the single most important step to get parents back to work. While schools stay closed, parents are struggling and students, especially low-income students and students of color, are falling behind. Biden would mobilize the federal government, in cooperation with educators, child care providers, unions, communities, and families, to take decisive action.
- Significantly scale-up National Institutes of Health-funded COVID-19 pediatric research partnerships to help address the glaring gaps in our understanding of how the virus affects children and generate evidence-based guidance.
- Build a Safer Schools Best Practices Clearinghouse to help schools and child care providers across the country and around the world share approaches and tools for reopening.
- Provide funds for child care providers and schools — particularly Title I schools — to cover costs, including personal protective equipment and enhanced sanitation efforts; alterations to classrooms, schedules, class sizes, and transportation so students can physically distance; upgraded technology and broadband for new forms of instruction; support for social-emotional learning; and training for educators, parents, and students as they adapt to new circumstances.