WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said Wednesday that the congressional aid package addressing the coronavirus outbreak “goes a long way,” but he said it requires “meticulous oversight” and isn’t all-encompassing.
“We’re going to need to make sure the money gets out quickly into people’s pockets and to keep a close watch on how corporations are using the taxpayers’ funds that they receive, to make sure it goes to help workers, not rich CEOs or shareholders,” the former vice president said during a video news briefing from his Delaware home. “And we have to figure out what to do to help the folks that this bill leaves out, including young people.”
But Biden said the agreement could have gone beyond what the government is doing in some instances. While students have been granted a short-term suspension of loan payments and interest accrual, Biden proposed “forgiving at least $10,000 of student loan debt now,” and he took issue with the deal for not making coronavirus treatment free.
Biden criticized the agreement for leaving out gig workers, but the intensely negotiated package includes $260 billion in emergency unemployment insurance, some of which would cover part-time, self-employed and gig economy workers.
Biden holds a commanding lead in the primary over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has given livestreamed addresses and conducted interviews about the coronavirus as the 2020 campaign enters a new phase due to the outbreak. Biden has largely shifted his focus toward President Donald Trump, accusing him of being slow to respond to the crisis and making inaccurate statement about the pandemic.
On Wednesday, Biden said Trump has “downplayed the seriousness of this crisis for weeks” and delayed mobilizing U.S. industry to help provide overstretched medical workers with needed supply.
“And as a result, this virus will hit all of us harder than it otherwise might have hit us, and it’s going to take us longer to recover,” he said.
Reacting to Trump’s call to lift stay-at-home orders by Easter, Biden said that would endanger lives and do economic damage over the long term.
Biden said if he were president, he would use the Defense Production Act, a law that’s been invoked by commanders in chief in times of national emergencies, to direct banks to prioritize small businesses. Biden has previously focused his discussion of that law on increasing the manufacture of medical supplies such as ventilators, gloves and masks.