President-elect Joe Biden heard first-hand stories of how the pandemic has created financial hardship for workers and small business owners around the country during a virtual roundtable meeting Wednesday afternoon.
Biden sat before a big screen at Wilmington’s Queen Theater talking with a group of workers, many of them unemployed due to the impacts of COVID-19. Several, including Karen Coffey fought back tears as they described the hardships.
Coffey, a stadium worker in Detroit, said she hasn’t worked since the start of the outbreak in March.
“We do have a lot of concerns, Mr. Biden. It’s been rough,” she told the president-elect. “My last day of work was March 8 when everything shut down. It’s hard trying to keep up with your bills.”
Coffey said getting extra $600 in unemployment relief earlier in the year was very helpful, but that money has run out.
Biden told the workers he was urging Congress to approve an aid package to help address their needs now.
“The full Congress should come together and pass a robust package of relief to address your urgent needs now,” he said. “That means extending unemployment insurance for Lorie and Jessica and Karen and the millions of Americans like them who lost their jobs.”
Earlier this week, a bipartisan group in Congress unveiled a $908 billion coronavirus relief plan that includes an extra $300 weekly unemployment benefit for 18 weeks, and $288 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program to help small businesses. The plan also calls for an extension of student loan payment deferrals and rental assistance.
Biden said any help Congress might approve before his inauguration would just be the beginning.
“Any package passed in this so-called lame-duck session between now and Jan. 21, at best, is only going to be a down payment on what’s going to happen early next year,” Biden said. “My transition team is already working on what I will put forward for the next Congress to address the multiple crises we’re facing.”
In addition to extending unemployment assistance, he said Congress should act now to make sure no one loses their home because they can’t pay their mortgage or rent due to the pandemic.