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Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said the federal government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic needs to be “a hell of a lot bigger” than the $2 trillion CARES Act signed into law at the end of March.
During an interview with Politico, the former vice president said the next round of economic-relief legislation needs to include massive aid to states and cities to prevent them from “laying off a hell of a lot of teachers and cops and firefighters.”
He also accused the Trump administration of “wasting a hell of a lot of money.”
So far, Congress, with overwhelming bipartisan support, has passed four aid packages in response to the virus outbreak, which has paralyzed the U.S. economy. That includes the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, which established the $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program and sent one-time payments of up to $1,200 for Americans who earn less than $99,000, as well as a $484 billion package last week.
Still, Biden was careful to avoid criticizing Democratic leadership and said he’s in “constant conversation” with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
“They got what they could get,” he told Politico. “I’ve been in too many negotiations to second-guess anybody else’s.”
The fifth round of legislation, Biden said, should include more forward-looking investments that could help the economy recover from COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus, once it’s contained. That includes a $1 trillion infrastructure program that “can be implemented really rapidly” and “dealing with environmental things that create good-paying jobs,” such as investments in light rail, clean drinking water and half a million electric vehicle chargers on the nation’s highway.
Biden released a plan at the beginning of March to address the virus, including guaranteeing free COVID-19 tests for those who need it, rushing resources to hospitals and health care workers to ensure they’re equipped to handle the pandemic and creating a fund for paid sick leave, capped out at $1,400 per week, or about $72,800 in annual earnings.