Former Vice President Joe Biden held a virtual press conference on the coronavirus pandemic Wednesday.
JOE BIDEN: All across the board to serve our country, whether it’s by joining the military, becoming doctors, teachers, nurses, public servants, by volunteering in their communities or nonprofits, and through remarkable testament to the spirit and feeling of connection to our larger world.
Today, a new group of young people referred to as Generation Z is growing up in a time of pervasive anxiety about school shootings, crushing debt, and politics that seems unresponsive or broken beyond repair. Now students from grade school to college are being denied months of important milestones and experiences because of this pandemic. No spring semester, no spring break, no championship games, no year end concerts, no graduations, and they didn’t do anything wrong. But especially for those just entering adulthood or launching their careers, job opportunities, their dreams, their dreams are being snatched away.
Look, none of us want to be cooped up in our homes just as the weather is turning nice, just as spring break travel plans were approaching, just as the campaign for the presidency is kicking into high gear. It’s unfair to all of us and it’s unnecessary for all of us, but it’s necessary in fact. It’s necessary for all of us to have to deal with it. We have to stay home because we can transmit live viruses to other people before we feel the signs of sickness ourselves. We all have to behave as though we’re already infected. But based on recent data from the Center for Disease Control, all adults, including young adults need to practice social distancing, self isolation for their own personal protection as well. And in the cases in the US thus far, almost 40% of the COVID-19 infections have required hospitalization. They are among people who are aged 20 to 54. People under the age of 60 are not immune to the coronavirus. Young people are not assured to only experience a mild case if you catch it. There are no guarantees that you’ll not die from it.
Every day we’re hearing heartrending stories of deaths from people in their 20s and their 30s. That’s why we have to follow the CDC guidelines, to minimize the risk of our own exposure to the virus and to slow its spread to others. And I have no doubt, I have no doubt that all of us, including the younger generation, younger people, are going to step up and make the sacrifices of a few weeks or even a few months for our normal lives to be able to return, in order to beat this virus because this is who we are. That’s the spirit that has defined America. We see it in the millions of young people who are working every day to make their communities better, serving others, teaching kids to read, feeding hungry families, mowing the lawn or they’re buying groceries for the elderly neighbor next door, but here’s what we must not do.
We must not allow this pandemic to rob our young people of the futures and the economic opportunities that they’ve been working so hard to build. We need to make sure that our economic recovery does not come at the expense of those who can least afford it, or who are just getting started in life. These are twin crises. The public health crisis is hitting older Americans especially hard. The economic crisis is hitting younger people. All those hardworking young people in service, and retail that are being decimated by layoffs. All those who are hustling to make a living in the gig economy. They deserve the same benefits as everyone else does. We have to make sure they get them. All those who were already struggling to get by before this crisis occurred, they’re the ones we should be focusing on, who are drowning in credit card debt and student loans are now in even greater need for a lifeline.
The United States Senate just passed or didn’t pass, just reached an agreement on a $2 trillion support bill to provide critical relief for people and some stability for our economy, the largest in our history. Democrats did significant work to make sure that working families get critical help now. This is a moment where speed matters. This bill can keep workers on payrolls. That’s huge. It also offers significant additional support for unemployment insurance, and it’ll go a long way to provide the financial lifeline for middle income folks. If the people who were left out are brought back in and covers those people often get left out; the self-employed, the gig workers, the folks who lost their jobs even before this crisis hit.
It also includes several key pieces that I’ve been advocating for. One is a fund to support states localities as they address the crisis. I think we have to talk more about that later. Money to support our hospitals and healthcare workers, vital support for small businesses, and important oversight, this is critical, important oversight for the $500 billion loan package for corporations. But implementing this bill is going to take a whole lot of flyspecking, a whole lot of work. It’s going to require meticulous oversight on a day to day basis. It’s going to take a lot of coordination with state and local governments. That’s what we had to do when I was in charge of executing the Recovery Act, which was $900 billion over that. That’s how we made sure the funds weren’t wasted or abused. Every single day I was on the phone with leaders in each of the states and localities going through the detail of what they had to do. We’re going to need to make sure the money gets out quickly into people’s pockets and to keep a close watch on how corporations are using the taxpayer’s funds that they receive. To make sure it goes to helping workers, not enrich CEOs or shareholders. And then we have to figure out what to do to help the folks this bill leaves out including young people.
This bill doesn’t include student loan forgiveness, which would go a long way to providing an immediate relief for those who need it the most. I support forgiving at least $10000 in student loan debt per person now. It doesn’t include the cost-free treatment for the COVID-19, whatever the costs are relating to that. It should be cost free, or fully paid sick leave for all our workers, which is also critical for the millions of Americans, including so many young Americans around the front lines of fighting this virus to get us through this. Doctors, nurses, delivery drivers, grocery store stockers, first responders, cleaning crews. They’ve been in the margins of our economy for much too long, not being paid enough, not having the benefits they deserve, and they’re all answering the call to duty now in a moment of national need, and they deserve leadership that will do the same. We need to get more fiscal relief to states on the front lines like New York State.
Donald Trump downplayed the seriousness of this crisis for weeks and he continues to delay the mobilization of the national resources to deliver lifesaving equipment for our doctors, our nurses, our frontline workers. And as a result, this virus will hit all of us harder than it otherwise might have hit us, and it’s going to take us longer to recover. Now he suggested that he wants to get the country opened, back opened by Easter. Look, we all want to get back to normal as quickly as possible, but we have a lot to do to make that possible. We have to do it in a smart way to not meet some arbitrary or symbolic timeline. And it would be a catastrophic thing to do for our people and for our economy if we sent people back to work just as we were beginning to see the impact of social distancing take hold, only to unleash the second spike in infections.
That’d be far more devastating in the long run than implementing a thorough strategy, a thought out strategy supported by science, and science-
A thought out strategy, supported by science and scientists, to get Americans back to work because the only way we’ll fully solve the economic challenges is by first solving the public health crisis. Let me say that again. The only way we’re going to be able to do that is by solving the public health crisis first.
Look, we’re going to get through this, and we’re going to get through it together. I know we will. The capacity of Americans, fueled by our young people, is boundless. We’re going to rely on the energy, the innovative spirit of Millennials and Generation Z to help rebuild our economy when this is over, and it will be. We need a leader in the White House who’s going to help spur this progress, spur our progress, all of us. Empower the next generation of leaders to seize our future of possibilities, not to drag us backwards.
Later today, I’ll be participating in a digital round table with young people so that we can continue to have a real discussion about the issues that matter to our future, and they do matter to our future. Now I’m happy to answer some questions you all may have. I know there’s a lot more to say, but I’ll be doing this on a regular basis, so thank you, and I’m open to questions. Thank you.