Biden’s plan would include federally-funded testing and PPE for all workers called back to their jobs, guaranteed paid sick leave for workers affected by COVID-19, and the creation of a contact tracing jobs program of at least 100,000 workers.
Joe Biden on Thursday released an expansive plan to safely reopen the economy and combat the coronavirus pandemic in a way that he says won’t make Americans choose between their health and their livelihood.
Biden’s proposal would include federally-funded testing and personal protective equipment for all workers called back to their jobs, guaranteed paid sick leave for workers affected by COVID-19, and a federal jobs program to identify and isolate new coronavirus cases. The plan also provides funding for small businesses to rehire employees, mandates that employers modify workplace arrangements to protect employees at high-risk of contracting COVID-19, and includes funding to safely reopen schools and day care centers.
In releasing his proposal, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee is seeking to create a stark contrast between himself and President Trump, who has come under intense scrutiny for his response to the coronavirus.
“Trump has basically had a one-point plan: Open businesses,” Biden said Thursday during an economic roundtable meeting with Black community leaders and business owners in West Philadelphia. “It does nothing to keep workers safe, to keep businesses able to stay open, and secondly it does very little to increase consumer confidence.”
Trump has largely avoided addressing the coronavirus in recent weeks, even as outbreaks are getting worse in more than 20 states and the national case count has passed 2 million. More than 113,000 Americans have died of COVID-19, as of Friday morning.
Despite the worsening outbreak, the president has prioritized the reopening of businesses and has passed the buck on ramping up testing and contact tracing to the states. In yet another sign that Trump has all but moved on from the pandemic, the White House coronavirus task force has wound down its efforts and is now meeting only once or twice a week, rather than every day.
“Trump may have forgotten about the coronavirus, but it hasn’t forgotten about us,” Biden said. “The failure to respond to the pandemic, I think the federal government has abdicated any effective leadership role.”
The former vice president said that he would require the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to enforce standard workplace safety requirements during the pandemic, which has not occurred under Trump. Biden also committed to working with state, local, and tribal leaders to develop a contact tracing jobs program of at least 100,000 workers dedicated to calling people who test positive, tracking down their contacts, and isolating them in quarantine.
Health experts have said that contract tracing is critical to slowing the spread of the virus and that there currently aren’t nearly enough public health workers to contain the virus and reopen the economy. Biden’s proposal is in line with what is needed, according to the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, which has called for at least 100,000 contact tracing workers.
Biden’s plan would also include increased funding for schools and child care centers, which have thus far received little help and guidance from the federal government. It’s unclear exactly how much Biden’s ambitious plan would cost, but the former vice president argued that not spending money to combat the virus and protect Americans was a far worse alternative.
“If we don’t do this, we’re going to be in deep, deep, deeper trouble economically,” Biden said.
Trump has resisted further coronavirus relief efforts, arguing that the economy is on the road to recovery after the May Jobs report showed the nation’s unemployment rate decreasing from April. While the jobs report was better than expected, more than 44 million Americans have still filed for unemployment over the past 12 weeks, and the jobless rate remains at 13.3%, far above the peak rate experienced during the Great Recession.
Biden on Thursday criticized Trump for celebrating the jobs report even as the economic damage continues.
“While the president was spiking the football and taking a victory lap, another 1.5 million Americans filed new unemployment claims last week,” Biden wrote in a tweet. “He is completely oblivious to what’s really happening in this country — and hardworking Americans are paying the price.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.