As Pennsylvania and the rest of the country ease stay-at-home restrictions and begin allowing businesses to serve customers, Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden is releasing his own plan for reopening, focused largely on worker safety.
On Thursday, the former vice president took advantage of Philadelphia’s early-stage reopening efforts, stopping by U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans’ office to discuss his plan with local business owners.
The plan is eight-fold.
Among other things, Biden wants to use federal funds to guarantee COVID-19 testing and provide free personal protective equipment to all workers, and ensure those workers have a voice in their employers’ reopening plans.
He also wants to guarantee federal paid leave for anyone who is infected with the virus, or is caring for an infected family member. And he wants to create stricter Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards to make sure businesses are reopening without undue risk.
He criticized Republicans for being reluctant to authorize more funds for recovery.
“They say, well there goes that big-spending Democrat again, spending all that money. If we don’t do this, we’re going to be in deep, deep, deeper trouble economically,” Biden said.”
And of President Donald Trump’s response to the virus, he was uncharitable.
“Trump has basically had a one-point plan: open businesses, just open,” Biden said. “It does nothing to keep workers safe … and secondly, it has done very little to generate consumer confidence.”
In a joint release, spokespeople for the Republican National Committee and Trump Victory, the president’s reelection PAC, meanwhile maintained that Trump’s reopening approach is working. They said a recent drop in unemployment numbers — though unemployment still remains higher than in any other postwar recession — indicates that the country is “on the road to recovery.”
“Pennsylvanians don’t want to return to the stagnant economic growth under the Obama-Biden Administration,” the groups said in a statement. “They want a Great American Comeback under President Trump, who has already proven that he knows how to make Pennsylvania’s economy great again.”
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Along with Evans, Biden spoke with three Philadelphia residents, all Black women, about the impact the pandemic has had on their work.
One was Tiffany Easley, who owns an optical store in West Philadelphia. She told him she’s most worried about balancing the safety and financial welfare of her employees, with keeping her own head above water.
Several of her staff members, she said, have young babies at home right now, and don’t want to risk bringing the virus home.
“I can’t fire my employees because that’s my team, I appreciate them and I understand what’s going on,” she said. “But what do I do when they have to stay home, but I still have to open, and I don’t have any more funds to be able to pay them to stay out, and I can’t work at full capacity?”
Biden said he thinks further reforms to the Paycheck Protection Program — from which Easley has already gotten limited assistance — would help.
The smallest businesses like hers, he said, are the ones “getting crushed” right now. He said he wants to give those businesses technical assistance to get “access to accountants and lawyers” so they can take advantage of existing programs.