Joe Biden Introduces Plan to Restart Economy

June 12, 2020by Julia Terruso, The Philadelphia Inquirer (TNS)
Former vice president and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks about the unrest across the country from Philadelphia City Hall on June 2, 2020, in Philadelphia, Pa. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)

PHILADELPHIA — Joe Biden stopped at the Enterprise Center in West Philadelphia Thursday to debut an eight-part plan for reopening the country safely.

“Trump has had a one-point plan — open business. Just open them,” Biden said. “It does nothing to keep workers safe and keep businesses able to stay open and secondly, it’s done very little to generate consumer confidence.”

Biden, who has gradually started increasing in-person campaign events since the coronavirus shut down campaigning in mid-March, talked with Della Clark, president of the Enterprise Center, which helps support minority-owned businesses, U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans and two women affected economically by health restrictions.

The former vice president listened to the experiences of Tamika Anderson, a member of SEIU Local 32BJ who was laid off from her job as a cleaner due to the shutdown, and Tiffany Easley, who owns an eyewear shop in West Philadelphia. Everyone sat at least 6 feet apart and wore masks whenever they weren’t talking. The room used for the event was formerly the dance floor featured on Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand.”

Biden discussed aspects of his eight-part plan to reopen, which includes directing the federal government to provide and pay for regular testing for workers called back to work. It also suggests ensuring workers have access to personal protective equipment and extending federal paid leave to workers who get sick from COVID, as well as those caring for family members with the virus.

The plan also lays out guidelines for reopening child care facilities and proposes grants for small businesses looking to reopen.

It lays out particular guidance for protecting older Americans and a “safe shopper” certification for businesses that complete basic health and safety requirements. The plan would establish a national contact tracing workforce.

“We need to hire 100,000 people now as tracers from communities,” Biden said during his visit of 1 hour, 20 minutes. “Pay them a decent wage to be the ones who go out and trace.”

He said he’s is concerned about being unprepared for a second wave of COVID-19. “What worries me the most is I see nothing that is being done to prepare for what the experts and scientists are telling us is likely to be a bounce back,” Biden said. Referring to the current rise of infections in a dozen states, he said, “I’m praying this is an aberration. But I don’t think so.”

After going over his plan, Biden then asked for feedback from the four Philadelphians. “If I had a magic wand,” Biden asked, what would they want him to do?

Easley said she’d ask for more access to capital for businesses with fewer than 20 people. She’s already had to close one of her locations, despite small grants coming in, including one from the Enterprise Center.

“I was blessed to get those grants. They were gone within a day because bills exceed what I got,” she said.

Clark noted a lot of businesses who her organization helps, need guidance and funding to transfer certain services online. She suggested janitorial service companies, which employ many African Americans, would benefit from financial assistance to train workers in advanced sanitizing, now in demand to help maintain clean and healthy spaces.

She said her main concern is time, with 34% of minority businesses having already closed permanently. “The clock is ticking and every month that goes by that these small businesses are not able to generate revenue, it’s just putting us further and further behind,” Clark said.

Biden said $2 trillion in federal aid is not getting to the right people and that he’d restore the inspector general, if president, to review the stimulus payments.

“There are answers and there are answers available right now,” he said. “But this idea of somehow separating the COVID crisis from the jobless crisis is a fool’s errand. They’re tied together.”

Trump’s campaign blasted Biden’s visit, saying he was weeks too late in discussing reopening and should have instead visited Philadelphia businesses damaged by looting during recent protests.

“While the Trump Administration issued science-based guidelines and worked with governors of both parties to safely reopen their economies, Biden hid in his basement and opposed reopening at every turn, spreading disinformation about testing capacity and refusing to support any end to the lockdowns,” the Trump campaign said.

Vice President Mike Pence has a similar roundtable discussion on reopening the economy scheduled near Pittsburgh Friday. Pence will also stop at Covenant Church in Pittsburgh and at a local restaurant before the discussion at Oberg Industries in Sarver, Pa.

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©2020 The Philadelphia Inquirer

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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