Congress is close to passing a massive relief bill. When it passes, it’s all about execution — and filling in the gaps.
If Joe Biden were President right now, here are the three things he would do now to save our economy and help our families weather the storm. And to get them done, he would appoint a task force reporting twice-daily to him on progress.
FIRST, use all available authorities, including the Defense Production Act to turn the tide on this epidemic. Joe Biden knows that no economic strategy will work if we don’t stop the virus. In recent days, there’s been talk that we have to choose between public health and our economy. That’s not just a false choice. It’s a dangerous one.
It would be catastrophic to reopen everything without a plan, and then have a spike in cases and shut it all back down. That would just mean more loss of life and economic pain.
To reopen, public health experts say we need real testing capacity, the ability to trace contacts if someone tests positive, and the ability to surge equipment and supplies to any new hotspots. We should listen to them. It’s the quickest, surest way to getting our economy back on track. And we also need to address the shortage of items like ventilators and personal protective equipment for health care workers, and make sure our workforce on the frontlines everyday has the protections to provide the essential services we will continue to need. Joe Biden would use the full powers of the presidency and this government to make that happen.
Joe Biden would end this epidemic and get our economy back on track through bold action — not by picking an arbitrary date on the calendar and asserting it’s over.
SECOND, launch a task force reporting directly to me to make sure every dollar going out the door gets to the people who need it — fast.
Joe Biden led the implementation of the Recovery Act in the last crisis. He knows it’s all about priorities. Here would be his:
- Keep as many people on the payroll as possible and make Americans whole for lost hours and wages. Joe Biden would expedite aid to businesses who commit to helping workers stay employed through the crisis, so they can get back to work when conditions allow. He would maximize work-sharing, a form of “employment insurance” we championed in the Obama-Biden administration to keep more workers on the job. And for those who do get laid off and who’s industries are out of work, the congressional bill boosts unemployment benefits — Biden would cut through the red tape to deliver them without delay, and extend them as long as public health and economic conditions call for it.
- Act decisively to keep small businesses in business. Included in the legislation before Congress is $377 billion for small businesses. This money will guarantee immediate loans that banks provide to small businesses to make payroll, pay rent and other costs, and keep their doors open. But there is a real risk it won’t get out fast enough to make a difference. So Joe Biden would take unprecedented measures to get it done Where the government is guaranteeing loans, banks have no commercial excuse for not making them. So he would call in bank CEOs and tell them that in this time of crisis, it is a matter of the utmost national interest to get these loans out the door quickly and efficiently. And if they don’t, he would seek authority similar to the Defense Production Act to make sure their lending platforms are giving priority to small business. He would also make clear that $377 billion is not a cap — we will spend whatever it takes.
- Enforce real conditions and oversight on big corporations. Joe Biden would tell large companies seeking taxpayer assistance that they need to make hard commitments that the assistance will go toward their workers, not toward enriching their CEOs or shareholders. He would hold the strictest line on bans on buybacks and raises for executives. He would impose the highest scrutiny on payroll plans. And he would impose strict oversight and enforcement of these conditions by appointing strong regulators focused on corporate accountability and worker protections in the event of bankruptcy. Joe Biden will not let companies off the hook, the way the White House and Senate originally proposed.
THIRD, bring the leaders of Congress together to build the next deal. This was a good start. But more must be done. Congress approved direct cash relief — $1,200 per person to help working families through this crisis. But it’s a one-off. And Congress didn’t include direct student loan forgiveness, or Social Security boosts for seniors, or cost-free treatment for COVID-19, full paid sick leave for our workers, or sufficient fiscal relief to states. Joe Biden would:
- Provide for additional checks to families should conditions require.
- Forgive a minimum of $10,000 per person of federal student loans, as proposed by Senator Warren and colleagues. Young people and other student debt holders bore the brunt of the last crisis. It shouldn’t happen again.
- Increase monthly Social Security checks by $200/month, as proposed by Senator Wyden and colleagues. Seniors and people with disabilities are uniquely at risk right now.
- Provide emergency paid sick leave to everyone who needs it, with no one left out. This should include workers in all industries and all sectors, regardless of company size, and including gig workers, domestic workers, contractors, and the self-employed.
- Ensure that no one has to pay a dollar out of pocket for COVID-19 testing, treatment, or an eventual vaccine
- Provide all necessary fiscal relief to states so their workers and communities get the help they need, especially those on the front lines like New York.
The bottom line is that Congress will have to keep acting. This is not the last bill. There will be more. And Joe Biden would do whatever it takes, spend whatever it takes, move heaven and earth to help all the people harmed by this crisis.