Jun 17, 2020
Joe Biden Coronavirus Roundtable Transcript in Yeadon, PA
Joe Biden held a coronavirus roundtable on June 17 in Yeadon, PA. Read the full transcript of the meeting here.
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Joe Biden: (00:00)
Well, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. Let me start off by saying that you’ve been going through a rough time, but we’re going to get through this and we can much better manage what’s been going on and I think it’s happening. And I think everybody’s beginning to realize this is not going to go away in the spring kind of thing, as we were told. But anyway, why don’t I hush up and tell me your stories. Tell me about right here and what you’re doing here.
Speaker 1: (00:39)
Okay. Well, let me start with my wife because that’s where it all started.
Joe Biden: (00:42)
I get that. That’s a wise husband.
Speaker 1: (00:50)
We met in 2001, I think it was 2001. She was a barmaid at a bar that we eventually bought at 57 Elmwood. And when I met her, she was tough. I mean, when I say tough, I say, “You’re going to be my wife.” When I seen her, first walked by, she said, “You got a nice suit that you have on.” I said, “Thank you.” I said, “You look nice too. I think you’re going to be my wife.” “Get out of here.” And I chased her for maybe six months before I really got to where I wanted.
Joe Biden: (01:25)
It took me two years.
Speaker 1: (01:26)
There’s more to this story than that. So anytime she called me, I answered the phone.
Joe Biden: (01:34)
Speaker 1: (01:35)
So one time she called me and I didn’t. I said, “Lord, I said, you sent me to her. I said, you sent me in the wrong direction.” I said, because he’s tough. He said, “No.” He said, “She’s going to call you tonight. You won’t answer the phone.” I said “Okay.” I went out and had a couple and enjoyed myself and I knew that she knew places I went. So I went on the whole other side of town. So what did you do?
Speaker 2: (02:01)
Boy. I mean really, every time I would call him, he will call me right back and he didn’t call me back. I stayed up all night. I rode around, looked all the places that we was hanging out. He was at none of them. I felt so bad. And you know a lot of people could feel that feeling in your stomach when you really like somebody that when you’re younger and you know. And so the next day I called him and he answered the phone. I said, “Okay, I ain’t playing no more. I go with you and you go with me. We ain’t doing this. I can’t take it.” So, we’ve been together since then. And-
Speaker 1: (02:46)
Then she introduced me to her mother. And her mother looked at me and my mother said, “Listen”, it was her mother’s birthday too. She was 68 years old. She said, “I’m going to tell you something. My daughter tells me everything.” Everything? She said, “Everything.” So I gave her $68 for her birthday, right? And God bless her. I told her, I said, “You got six other kids.” I said, “But this one here, you never have to worry about again. I got her.” She passed away April 1st-
Speaker 2: (03:17)
From the virus.
Speaker 1: (03:17)
From the virus.
Joe Biden: (03:20)
Did she really?
Speaker 2: (03:20)
She did. This April. Her birthday was June the 10th.
Speaker 1: (03:23)
She would have been 85.
Speaker 2: (03:26)
She’s right over here at Fernwood Cemetery. And that was the hardest thing I ever had to go through, because I didn’t know anything about what was going on. And I had my mom for 64 years. I’m 65 now, because I turned 65, April 24. And I have my mom, that’s a long time. A lot of people don’t have their mom. And with the COVID, I hadn’t seen her since March the 16th, which was my oldest sister’s birthday. So she wanted everybody to come to her house. And my mom had a small house and I got five sisters and I have a lot of nieces and nephews. It’s so small in there. And as soon as you get up, somebody’s going to jump in your seat, you know? But-
Speaker 1: (04:07)
We own a [crosstalk 00:04:08] I’m saying, that’s where you wanted to have it.
Speaker 2: (04:14)
Yeah. I wanted to have it up there, but she wanted it at her house.
Speaker 1: (04:17)
Because she knew.
Speaker 2: (04:18)
And I haven’t seen my mom alive since March 16th and it was a lot going on. And then we had to close down the businesses. Then I started, I’m not asmatic, now I have asthma from stress. And you only can have 10 people at the services, things that we weren’t accustomed to and the government wasn’t telling us anything, whatever the government was saying, I don’t know what to believe. So just to this day, I’m really excited about you being here. Mr. Biden, my mother would have never, ever, ever thought that I would be where I am right now. And she would have been so proud of me. She would have been, my mom was my life and just, I have my mommy moments.
Speaker 2: (05:13)
I’m fine. And it’s God’s will, let God’s will be done. But it’s just still early and I don’t even know how to mourn. I don’t know what to do. Every day we call my mom, I don’t have my mom anymore because of this COVID. And it’s really, really hard. And we went to the cemetery on her birthday. Two of my sisters didn’t go to the services. Only 10 people could come. But they did go to the cemetery of her birthday. They took it really hard, but I think they have a little closure now. But I just thank God that-
Joe Biden: (05:55)
Speaker 2: (05:56)
It’s hard. It’s so hard.
Joe Biden: (05:58)
We have a lot in common. I think a lot of people do. You and I had the same thing, man.
Speaker 1: (06:08)
Joe Biden: (06:08)
I had it harder. It took me two years I had to ask my wife five times to marry me. Five. You think I’m joking, I’m not. Finally at the last time I said, “Look, I got my Irish up now. So it’s the last time I’m going to ask.”
Speaker 2: (06:24)
Sure she liked you.
Joe Biden: (06:25)
I said, “Will you marry me?” She went, “Okay.”
Speaker 1: (06:30)
There you go.
Joe Biden: (06:30)
Speaker 1: (06:30)
Yeah, real enthusiastic.
Joe Biden: (06:34)
Real enthusiastic. But also my mom was my heart. And you know, I can tell you one thing, in time when you think about her when time goes by, you’re going to smile before you cry.
Speaker 1: (06:52)
Speaker 2: (06:53)
We make a lot of jokes about it.
Joe Biden: (06:54)
Because that’s when you know you’re going to make it. It’ll work. And the other thing we have in common, and I tell everybody you ought to marry in a family with five or more sisters. My wife has four sisters. You have five, you know why that’s the reason?
Speaker 2: (07:11)
Joe Biden: (07:11)
One of them always loves you. Not the same one. You always have a one ally. That’s why I recommend every man marry in the family or five or more sisters. I want to go back and talk a little about the business in a second here. Tell me about what’s going on in the bookstore.
Speaker 3: (07:30)
In the bookstore. So it’s a small bookstore to begin with. And most of our business is based on events with people like this, whether it’s book clubs with five to six people or large scale, 100 to 200 person, Harry Potter, fabulous things. We’re a third space. I consider bookstores a community place where everyone’s available to be there, to learn and to open their minds. And so it’s important to stay open and be here at the end of this. And so as a small business owner of a bookstore, my overall objective is to say, “How can we still be around in 2022?” Because I’m not trying to be a scaredy cat, but I do believe that the science tells us this is here and we have to be cautious. And at least in my world, I don’t have that ability. I have an eight room, three floor old house and each room has a name. So in order to get to the Harry Potter room, you have to go through three other rooms and that doesn’t work for what we’re dealing with. But I also know that as a bookstore, people want books. They want to read, not just when they’re bored for three and a months. And how do we stay steadfast and figure out how to button down and batten down the hatches and be here for what people need when we get through it?
Joe Biden: (09:09)
Now, are you able to… You have an online presence as well.
Speaker 3: (09:13)
We do. We’re fortunate in the sense that I think we’re, although we’re a small bookstore, we tend to be forward thinking we have a five and 10 year plan and we’ve always thought online is not something that we need for sales because Amazon beats everyone and we’re working very hard to open people’s eyes to, that’s not the case and you really should trust the little guy. But we had an online presence for our dedicated customers for their convenience. So it’s a format that works for order a book and pick it up from the curb. And so that business has increased significantly.
Joe Biden: (09:51)
So what you’ve lost is you lost the ability to have people congregate, to have a Harry Potter book-
Speaker 3: (09:58)
Joe Biden: (09:59)
Speaker 3: (10:01)
Joe Biden: (10:03)
And are you able to do any of that outside?
Speaker 3: (10:06)
We will. We absolutely will. We had the first ever inaugural Lee High Valley Book Festival planned, and we rescheduled it twice to try to figure out if we could do it outside. The challenge with books is that they don’t do well in humidity. They’re not forgiving. So the depth of staffing and event management needs to pull off a good outdoor event is challenging for-
Joe Biden: (10:35)
How many staff did you have before this all started?
Speaker 3: (10:38)
I had myself as the only full time person and six part time people, two of which were students, one of which is my 15 year old daughter who still works with me.
Joe Biden: (10:49)
Now, the part time, roughly how many hours a week did they work part time?
Speaker 3: (10:55)
Combined about 55.
Joe Biden: (10:59)
All of them.
Speaker 3: (10:59)
Oh, I’m sorry. Each of them anywhere between 15 to 20 hours per.
Joe Biden: (11:04)
I got you.
Speaker 3: (11:04)
And we had just grown we’re in our seventh year and it’s taken us a long time to get a strong foothold. We didn’t have capital to open.
Joe Biden: (11:15)
What do you need most from the government to help you now?
Speaker 3: (11:20)
Clear, consistent language that the American people can trust so that small business owners can make decisions unique to our situation. To help keep ourselves alive and well in a year or two and make decisions that we know will help every single person in our small micro community. Because we don’t know what to do. And we have to fight people and customers who don’t believe the same science that we read and that we know about.
Joe Biden: (11:59)
So for example, when people try to come into your store, are they required to have masks?
Speaker 3: (12:06)
We have not allowed anyone in our store yet, and we are not going to do that until potentially September. We want to see if the July and August wave that I read and see it happening is going to happen. And if it does, we will not reopen at all. We contacted our landlord and tried to negotiate a lower rent for doing an online business only through 2021.
Joe Biden: (12:37)
And has your landlord-
Speaker 3: (12:40)
He’s been helpful.
Joe Biden: (12:41)
He’s been helpful on this?
Speaker 3: (12:41)
Joe Biden: (12:44)
So the main thing you’re looking for is solid, significant, scientifically based recommendations as to what would encourage you to feel safe, having customers come in your store because you can’t really socially distance-
Speaker 3: (12:59)
No, we cannot.
Joe Biden: (12:59)
In a place like you have and-
Speaker 3: (13:02)
Joe Biden: (13:03)
And make sure that.
Joe Biden: (13:03)
… In a place like you have.
Joe Biden: (13:03)
And make sure that your customers felt safe and being able to come in as well.
That we’re not debating on what real news and real information is with our customers.
Joe Biden: (13:20)
Because you get your customers have varying views as to what they believe, whether they need to have a mask or don’t have a mask, and the President doesn’t wear one. So why would anybody need one et cetera, et cetera.
Joe Biden: (13:33)
How about you old, buddy. Tell me about your situation.
Scott Richardson: (13:36)
My name’s Scott Richardson, and I want to thank you, Mr. Vice President, for this chance to meet with you today. It’s very exciting. My wife and I, Theresa own a business called, Occasionally Yours in Swarthmore. We’ve been there since 1989. In September, we had our 30th anniversary and thought, “Why not totally reinvent what we were doing at the time?” We basically just brand new menu, brand new look, and started in on the next 30, as I told people. Everything was just absolutely incredible. Then we came down to the weekend before Saint Patrick’s Day, I’d been reading since, definitely sometime in December about this strange virus. Then probably December 31st, the official first confirmed case from China, which I think was probably much sooner than that. Then what? Took till the middle of March before all the evidence said, “This is where we’re heading.” As a small business person, whether it’s food or whatever, I believed the only way you succeed is to try to be constantly looking ahead, planning for that. All of a sudden you couldn’t do that anymore, because you had no idea to reiterate what Kirsten said, is that when… I guess what I’m trying to say is that at some point, instead of being a day trader, if our President had stood up and gave the American public exactly what they knew when they knew it, and we proceeded instead of like, “Everything’s going to be better.” When all the experts would tell you, “It’s not going to get better.”
Scott Richardson: (15:41)
I feel that everything that this administration has done, and by the way, I voted for Trump. I’m not a left winger, I mean, I voted for the man, hoping that a business person might take us in a direction. To say that I’ve been discouraged by that, my vote is to say… Anyways, that that day trading concept, that 24 hour news cycle mentality, where I just have to get through today and we’ll worry about it and not really looking at the longterm.
Scott Richardson: (16:19)
I felt that we did not do any long range planning, anything that we’ve done since the beginning of this has been a reactive thing, instead of figuring it out. All of a sudden let’s figure out how we can make a 1,000 ventilators for this particular hospital, because we let it go to this point that we need a 1,000. If we’d have caught it sooner, maybe we needed 50. I don’t know. I’m not a doctor, but it just seems that we’ve been totally reactive.
Scott Richardson: (16:44)
As far as our business, we basically do 50% catering and 50% in-house, dining and takeout. Obviously, you lost all the catering the first day on that Friday, whatever that might’ve been, Friday the 13th, maybe, or 14. I think it might’ve been Friday the 13th, we lost, I think around $13,000 in catering in a half an hour. I mean the phone rang, we have to cancel. That was for that weekend. We’re not comfortable doing a shower or whatever the case may be. Then I realized, “Wow, this is serious.” Once again, because we had no information, “We’re going to close for two weeks.” I’m like, “This has got to be more than two weeks.”
Scott Richardson: (17:29)
So I started thinking… We’re very, very fortunate, my wife and I, in that we’re in a small community that, because of the time we’ve been there, they’re extremely supportive. But I was raised by a grandmother and a grandfather that you do the right thing, because it’s the right thing to do. You always try to give back more than you take. That Tuesday was St. Patrick’s Day and we were doing a fundraiser for our local library and it was not going to be any big deal.
Scott Richardson: (18:07)
Well, being the greedy capitalist I am, I turned it into a fundraiser of an extreme. Instead of doing a little bit, we did 138 meals that the library got, let’s say roughly about, $800. Two weeks later, I’m like, “Well, now what are we going to do?” We did another fundraiser for our local fire company, for the first responders and we did 283 dinners and they got $2,000. So using that program or that thing, where we’re giving back to something, people are helping us, it was like a win, win for everybody. That’s really quite honestly because the community and now for the duration we’ve taking a basically putting together a $25 per person menu, various menus and have been raising money both from our personal contributions, our customers’ contributions and through a nonprofit that is helping fund it. We’ve done over 1700 meals in the last month and a half.
Joe Biden: (19:14)
It’s a big a deal.
Scott Richardson: (19:14)
To me, it’s a big deal.
Joe Biden: (19:17)
It’s a big deal in the community.
Scott Richardson: (19:17)
Because what it did, is it kept my chef, Nathan, who makes a lot of money, to me, he makes a lot of money, employed. He has five children. He’s a disabled veteran, three tours in Afghanistan. He is my guy and to say to him… I would have paid him before I paid myself because he has served our country. He was wounded. He has five children. He’s my personal hero and he’s a really, really good guy. Because of our community and maybe thinking slightly out… I’m not taking credit for thinking outside of the box, but our local grocery store, people rallied behind it. Our local hardware store, he’s a dinosaur, there are no independent… people that used to go to Home Depot and to Lowe’s realized, “Wow, I can get this stuff.” Now hopefully the positive out of this is that people are going to know that small… your bookstore, for example, small is better than Amazon. How much money can that man have anyways? But that’s basically my story, sir.
Joe Biden: (20:28)
Well, I tell you what, one of the things that I think we’ve seen during this God awful crisis is that when I decided I was going to run for president and I said, “We had to restore the soul of the country.” We’re seeing the soul of the country now. You are the soul of the country. What you’re doing in your community is being done all over the country. Chef Andre is put together an entire program where he does it nationally with a bunch of restaurants. What it’s about, is about keeping that cook employed. It’s about keeping that person who in fact delivers the meal employed and it matters a great deal. One of the problems is that in my view, is nobody’s taking responsibility here. The President says, “It’s not my responsibility. It’s not my fault.”
Scott Richardson: (21:24)
Joe Biden: (21:24)
Well, the truth is, there has to be to deal with it. Look, back in January, I published an article in USA Today, say, “We’ve got a real problem. We should be moving now.” It wasn’t just me. You had what they called the Presidential Daily Meetings, where you get a briefing every morning in the White House, at the Oval. And the intelligence community told them on 12 occasions, “This is a gigantic problem.” Nothing happened. The pandemic office that we had set up before we left in the White House he disbanded, et cetera. He’s had some really good people that have been around, a number who have either left or have been put aside.
Joe Biden: (22:10)
Here’s one of the things I want to ask you about though. If the congress came along and they appropriated about two trillion dollars so far to help deal with this idea of, “We have lost over 115,000 people now, dead.” You have Colombia University saying, ‘If we acted just two weeks earlier, there would over 54,000 alive today, they wouldn’t be dead.” You have an unemployment rate that is staggering, staggering, millions of people unemployed.
Joe Biden: (22:46)
The congress came along and said, “Number one, we’re going to help mainstream small businesses. We’re going to help them stay alive.” No, I’m serious. And said, “We have this PPE program [inaudible 00:23:02].”
Speaker 4: (23:20)
[inaudible 00:23:20] (silence)