And the former vice president is calling for federally funded coronavirus testing for people back on the job, protective equipment for workers, guaranteed paid sick leave for those affected by COVID-19, federally coordinated contract tracing and more support for small businesses.
“The failure to respond to the pandemic, I think the federal government has abdicated any effective leadership role,” Biden said as he listened and took questions from a handful of black community leaders and business owners in Philadelphia. And he jabbed at Trump for “basically a one-point plan” that he claimed focused solely on “opening business.”
Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a roundtable on economic reopening with community members, Thursday, June 11, 2020, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
The Trump campaign, ahead of Biden’s trip, touted that the president “worked with governors of both parties to safely reopen their economies” and accused the former vice president of opposing “reopening at every turn.”
Biden — who rolled out his plan amid a new spike in pandemic cases in more than 10 states since Memorial Day — also called for tasking the Occupational Safety and Health Administration with enforcing standard workplace safety requirements. And he vowed if elected to create a federally coordinated workforce of more than 100,000 coronavirus contact tracers that would work hand in hand with state, local and tribal officials.
The former vice president said he wants the federal government to offer money to reopen child care centers, warning that the nation’s economy will be in “deeper trouble” if Washington doesn’t provide more funding.
Congress has passed by an overwhelming bipartisan majority — and the president has signed into law — roughly $3 trillion in coronavirus relief funding through four separate measures the past three months. The Democrat-controlled House has passed another $3 trillion stimulus and relief bill — but the Republican-controlled Senate rejected the measure.
Biden’s event, which was held in a community center that decades ago served as the original home of “American Bandstand,” was his second in Philadelphia in the past week. Last week the former vice president gave a major address on police brutality towards minorities and the bigger issue of systemic racism in the wake of unrest in cities across the nation sparked by the death of George Floyd, who died in police custody after a Minneapolis officer put his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.
Biden’s announcement came hours before the president — at a meeting in Dallas, Texas, with pastors, law enforcement officials and small business owners — was expected to discuss the coronavirus and the economy. White House officials told Fox News the president will “paint a big picture overview of how to bring about equality and opportunity.”
Last Friday, after an unexpected May unemployment report that indicated the jobless rate declined due to the creation of some 2.5 million jobs across the country as states reopened their economies, the president claimed that the nation is “largely through” with the pandemic and proclaimed that “today is probably the great comeback in American history.” And Trump predicted that “it’s not going to stop here. it’s going to keep going.”
But on Thursday, the government reported that an additional 1.5 million people applied for unemployment benefits last week, bringing to more than 44 million first-time claims filed since the coronavirus struck.
And on Wednesday, the Federal Reserve projected that the nation’s unemployment rate would still be more than 9 percent by the end of the year.
Taking to Twitter, the president fired back, saying “The Federal Reserve is wrong so often.” And Trump forecast “We will have a very good Third Quarter, a great Fourth Quarter, and one of our best ever years in 2021.”
The president’s also touted the rebound in the stock market the past month, tweeting on Friday “NASDAQ HITS ALL-TIME HIGH!”
Biden fired back earlier this week, retweeting that “13 million people who had jobs when you took office are unemployed today.”
And on Thursday, Biden charged that the only thing Trump’s “concerned about is the stock market.”
Biden’s trip to Philadelphia and the president’s stop in Dallas came on a day when the stock markets plunged. The worst one day freefall by the major markets was sparked by concerns about new spikes in cases of the coronavirus as well as the Fed’s economic forecast.