(CN) – Former Vice President Joe Biden, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination for president, released a three-point emergency action plan to rescue the economy on Thursday as he attempts to create daylight between President Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and his proposals.
“In recent days, there has been talk that we have to choose between public health and our economy,” Biden said in a video released Thursday. “That’s simply a false choice and a dangerous one.”
Increasing cries from the right, echoed by President Donald Trump, that shutting down the economy to blunt the spread of the coronavirus could be worse than the disease itself. In fact, Trump has twice in the last two days said he intends to have the country “open by Easter,” just over two weeks away.
Biden says that the course is incorrect.
“It would be catastrophic to reopen everything without a plan and then have a spike in cases and shut it back down,” he said.
Trump spent time earlier in the week talking about how he would like to see crowded churches on Easter Sunday, which is April 12. Most public health experts believe the United States is not even close to being able to fully reopen public life to a semblance of normalcy. Currently, more than 50% of the nation’s population is living under some form of lockdown or shelter in place measures.
That figure may grow as states like Florida and Mississippi, with Republican governors reluctant to take strong lockdown measures, have seen a rapid increase in infections. The United States continues to see an acceleration in infection rates, with more than 75,000 confirmed cases nationwide as of Thursday. The true number likely to be much higher due to a lack of testing and a bevy of asymptomatic cases.
Biden said the key to managing the crisis is to invest heavy resources into stopping the spread of the disease, establish a task force to monitor the distribution of federal funds and get starting on building the next federal stimulus package.
“This is a very good start but more has to be done,” Biden said.
He talked about the need for student loan forgiveness, an immediate increase in social security payments, universal paid sick leave and measures that guarantee Americans will not have to pay out of pocket for coronavirus-related costs.
Biden said unlike Trump, who has been reluctant to invoke the Defense Production Act, he would do so immediately.
“(We need to) have the ability to surge additional ventilators and protective gear,” Biden said. “That’s the quickest way of saving lives and getting our economy back on track.”
In terms of the economy, Biden touted his experience as vice president as he and then-President Barack Obama presided over the Recovery Act of 2009, a $787 billion stimulus package designed to guide the country out of The Great Recession.
“I know it’s all about priorities,” Biden said.
His priorities would be to keep everyone on payroll to the extent possible, keep others financially whole while helping small businesses weather the unprecedentedly abrupt downturn of commercial activity in the nation.
Biden also said he would use the Defense Production Act to force banks to expedite the delivery of small business loans. The former vice president also said harder commitments from business leaders are needed to ensure the recovery funds are being directed toward employee retainment and not executive pay and shareholder benefits.
Biden released the statement as he has struggled to maintain visibility while campaigns remain unable to function in a traditional sense. He has given YouTube speeches and conducted virtual town halls, but has not matched the visibility of other politicians including Trump.
But even politicians like New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and California Governor Gavin Newsom have eclipsed Biden in visibility as they have become the face of the nation’s response to the pandemic.
Fellow candidate Bernie Sanders, still technically in the race for the Democratic nomination, has also struggled without the ability to hold rallies, which were a major reason for his surge to the national stage before and during the 2016 presidential election.
Sanders gave a stirring speech during the U.S. Senate’s deliberation of the stimulus bill, exhorting his fellow lawmakers to ensure the bill did its utmost to protect some of the more vulnerable workers in the nation.
But Sanders is also struggling to gain airtime as governors of both parties have emerged at the forefront of the national response.