Apr 9, 2020
Joe Biden Virtual Town Hall Transcript April 8
Joe Biden held a virtual town hall after Bernie Sanders ended his 2020 presidential campaign. Read the full town hall transcript here.
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Speaker 1: (00:00)
[inaudible 00:00:30]. Okay.
Yvanna Cancela: (00:30)
Good afternoon and welcome to everybody who is joining us from across the country. I’m State Senator Yvanna Cancela. I represent the most Vegasy of Vegas districts in the heart of the silver state of Nevada. It is an honor and a privilege to be here today with you all virtually and getting to introduce the vice president. I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge what a tremendous day this is for the campaign. Certainly some folks need to vote at the convention, but Joe Biden will be the democratic nominee and I could not think of a better leader for our country in this moment.
Yvanna Cancela: (01:14)
We know that hundreds of thousands of people are full of insecurity, and fear, and looking for real leadership, leadership that is not being provided by Donald Trump. It is unbelievable that there are people who are absolutely in dire need of guidance and of the sentiment that things will get better. There’s no one better equipped to offer the leadership and guidance that we need as a country, not only in this moment, but in the time that we’ll need to get through this crisis than Joe Biden.
Yvanna Cancela: (01:53)
We’ll hear today from workers who, like you, like me, are looking for that kind of leadership. What I know about Joe Biden, and what you know about Joe Biden, is that he has the empathy, the vision, and the boldness to be the leader that we need and to be the leader that frankly makes me feel better about the future of our country. I could not be more proud to support him. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to moderate this discussion today. You don’t want to hear from me. You want to hear from the next president of the United States, Mr. Joe Biden.
Joe Biden: (02:29)
Thank you, Senator. You’ve been incredible. You were incredible for me before the Nevada caucus, during and after. I think you’re one of the great future leaders of this country. I really mean it. You’ve really done a heck of a job and you’re so well respected. Look, folks, I want to say good evening and thank you for taking the time to speak with me. I want this to be a conversation where I get to hear your stories and you get to ask me questions that are on your mind.
Joe Biden: (02:58)
I’ll just say a few things to the head start here. It’s going to take me about 10 minutes to do it. Earlier today, my good friend, and he is a friend, Bernie Sanders announced he was suspending his campaign. Bernie’s always been a passionate voice for progress and he put his heart and soul, not only in the running for president, but also the causes and issues he has been dedicated to his whole life. He’s inspired and energized millions of supporters, especially young voters, to join him in championing a progressive vision for our country. He didn’t just run a political campaign. He created a movement and that’s a good thing for the nation and for our future. While Bernie’s campaign has ended, I know his leadership’s going to continue, including working to address the incredible challenges we’re now facing, the ones that are facing this nation under this president.
Joe Biden: (03:47)
My heart goes out to everyone out there suffering from COVID-19. We all know the greatest tragedy in all of this is how many lives are being lost, how many are infected and suffering alone. One friend, her mother was dying of another illness of cancer and she’s in the hospital, but she couldn’t go and see her. They had to put a phone up to her ear. It’s so, so hard for so many people. This is going to continue to be a very hard week for our country. This disease is not only tearing through the nation, it’s devastating families.
Joe Biden: (04:25)
It’s wrecking the economy and we’re starting to see it magnify some of our worst systemic inequities. Early data shows countries and counties in this country have major black populations and Hispanic populations, the coronavirus infection rates in the black communities are three times as high as they are in white majority residents’ communities. Death rates, nearly six times higher. That’s unconscionable and never should happen. We need more data. We also need more data on how the Latino and other communities of color are impacted, other minority communities, so we know exactly what has to be done.
Joe Biden: (05:05)
Black Americans are still less likely to be insured as are Latinos, less likely to have access to healthcare, less likely to have had treatment for underlying conditions like asthma and diabetes to make them more vulnerable to this virus today. They’re more likely to face exposure to pollutants than anyone else associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Their death rates are higher. Black Americans are also less likely to have a job they can do just from home. Like many Latinos in America, they’re more likely to have to choose between their health, and their healthcare, and their paycheck. This virus is shedding light on the structural racism that still exists and plagues our laws, our institutions, and our culture.
Joe Biden: (05:53)
These past few weeks have been devastating for our economy. We’re going to have to do an awful lot of work to rebuild after this is over. As I said over and over in the past weeks, I believe that a top priority for us is using the money, the $2 trillion from the so called Cares Act that Congress passed, to keep as many workers on payroll as possible so they can hit the ground running, but so many people, including some of you, have already lost your jobs. 6.6 million new unemployment claims just reported last week. Who knows what it’s going to be this coming week. 3.3 million the week before. We’re getting more reporting tomorrow. That’s already more than 10 million Americans who’ve lost their jobs through no fault of their own because of this pandemic.
Joe Biden: (06:45)
Hospitality workers, I need not tell you about that, Senator, and in Las Vegas. Service industry workers, highly skilled workers in construction, so many more, union members and nonunion members. I know people are worried, not just if you or your loved one are going to get sick. You’re worried about how you’re going to make the rent, worried about how to pay the bills, keep food on the table, worried about when the relief checks are going to come through that have been voted by the Congress. That’s the key part of the 10 point, what I call, make work checklist that I put together last week and offered to the President of the United States, President Trump, so that he knows how to think about what it takes to administer a massive federal recovery program. One of the key pieces is making sure to get those unemployment checks out on time and in full.
Joe Biden: (07:41)
We have to make workers who have been laid off financially whole. States are already overwhelmed by the millions of claims with more to come. States need more staff, better technology, more robust systems to both accept claims and get those funds out the door. The White House should have had their back. We need to get those relief checks into the hands of folks as quickly as possible using direct deposits, prepaid debit cards, whenever we can, but here’s what we know above all. The money and the plans that are in the Cares Act won’t be enough in the first time around. We’re going to have to do more. The unemployment insurance payments, they will have to keep people afloat. Right now, they’re set to expire. These payments should be available as long as they are needed. The federal government should backstop the states on this to make sure that they continue to make those payments. We should have a rent freeze and a moratorium on evictions during this public health crisis because no one should have to worry about losing their home during a pandemic or where they live during a pandemic.
Joe Biden: (08:57)
The next package, this is already being discussed, should include student debt relief for at least $10,000 per person to help ease the burden on young people who were already struggling to get by before the coronavirus.
Joe Biden: (09:11)
We have to make sure everyone has access to maintain affordable health insurance coverage. We should be making it easier, not harder. Let me put it another way. It makes no sense. It makes no sense to be fighting in court right now to try to take away Obamacare from people who need it more than ever. It makes no sense not to open up a new enrollment period in the middle of this pandemic so that people who need insurance can get it now. As we look at the next steps that are needed, we should boost the subsidies for Obamacare, give them affordable coverage. The same goes for Cobra. You all know what Cobra subsidies are.
Joe Biden: (09:56)
When the president and I were in charge of pulling the country back from the great recession and rebuilding our economy in 2009, we made sure the subsidies were up to 65%. This crisis is going to be even bigger, so our support for the American people is going to need to be even more generous. By the way, Cobra kicks in when your insurance you have with your company no longer is available to you. The government should pick up the full cost of Cobra premiums right now.
Joe Biden: (10:28)
One additional tragedy of this crisis is how much pain could have been avoided with swift decision action and decisive action. This is a challenge that requires leadership. It requires transparency and it requires urgency. America’s longterm recovery is going to require far more investment, but it needs to be smart and effective. We can’t just return to an unfair, unequal economy that’s stacked against American workers. We already know we’re going to need more resources, a lot more. More people are going to need help. Let’s start now so we don’t waste valuable time. Let’s get help to the people who need it the most. I know that we’ll come through this challenge stronger than ever, just as we have every crisis we’ve ever faced in this nation. There’s nothing Americans can’t achieve when we do it together.
Joe Biden: (11:23)
I’m anxious to hear your questions, but I tell you what, I promise you we will get through this. You’ve heard me talk about the soul of America, Senator, and I talk about we need to restore it. We’re seeing the soul of America and all the workers I’m going to be talking to today, all the people all across the country, they’re not asking whether you’re a Muslim or a Christian. They’re not asking whether you’re a Latino or you’re not. Whenever you need, people reaching out. Look at all of first responders, how they’re risking their lives without the equipment they need to help people. It makes me proud to be an American, proud. It really does. This is the soul of America. We’re seeing it now. As a consequence, when we get through this, we’re going to be able to do so much better than we’ve done in the past. Let me stop now and take any questions you all may have. I’ll leave it to you, Senator, how we go from here.
Yvanna Cancela: (12:16)
Thank you, Mr. Vice President. I always feel better hearing your leadership and hearing the way you can very quickly get to what needs to happen. I’m so grateful that you are pushing our current administration on what needs to happen. There are workers across the country that are feeling the devastation of layoffs, are afraid of what this means for the industries they work in. Today, we have a couple of workers joining us who are going to share their stories. We’ll take some questions from folks who are watching in between, but to kick us off this evening is Lavette Jacobs from Boston. Ms. Jacobs, I’m giving the floor to you.
Joe Biden: (13:00)
Hey, Lavette, how are you?
Lavette Jacobs: (13:02)
I’m good, Joe. How are you?
Joe Biden: (13:04)
How are things up in Beantown?
Lavette Jacobs: (13:06)
It’s all right. I’m doing well given the circumstances.
Joe Biden: (13:09)
Lavette Jacobs: (13:14)
I had a question. Well, first let me introduce myself. I know my name is Lavette.
Joe Biden: (13:18)
Lavette Jacobs: (13:20)
Yes, IBW, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers 103. I’m an active member. I’m a single mom of an amazing 12 year old boy. I was currently employed, working in downtown Boston when the pandemic hit of COVID-19. Unfortunately I was unemployed. It’s been a process, a lot of anxiety and things of that nature.
Joe Biden: (13:46)
Lavette Jacobs: (13:49)
I’m doing the best I can to get by. I had a question for you, actually.
Joe Biden: (13:51)
Lavette Jacobs: (13:54)
I wanted to know. I know you briefly touched on it in your introductory speech, but I wanted to know what did you feel like the federal government should be doing for union workers like myself-
Lavette Jacobs: (14:03)
… to get relief as quickly as possible when it comes to the unemployment process. How should they plan on making sure that we have both a smooth and safe transition back into the workforce?
Joe Biden: (14:16)
Well, look, first of all, you’re going to get through this kiddo. I know it’s scary. I really do. I have a clear sense of it. I’ve been talking to an awful lot of workers all across the country, and so many people are in your shoes, Lovette. Over 10 million Americans have filed for unemployment claims during the last two weeks in March. It’s likely that millions more have filed a claim sensitive and millions of families worry how they’re going to make the rent, how they’re going to pay the bills, how they’re going to keep food on the table. We’ve never seen anything like this before in all of our history, including during the Great Depression.
Joe Biden: (14:53)
The recent bill that’s called the Cares Act, that the Congress passed was a good step. For the average American, their employees should be kept on the payroll. That’s that’s the whole point of the legislation. Tell businesses, “Keep the workers on the payroll.” For those who are not kept on the payroll, there’s extended unemployment benefits with an added $600 per week, which means that if you’re making under $75,000 a year, up to $75,000, you’d be made whole with whatever your salary is. We have to get those payments out the door fast and I was confident that they weren’t going to know how to do this once this got passed. We got to get it on time and in full to make every family whole and it’s a massive undertaking. Just look at the unemployment claims. As I said, almost 10 million in two weeks. That’s several times the prior record, which is an awful record to be breaking.
Joe Biden: (15:51)
States need immediate help with staffing, technology and training to handle this tidal wave. If you go to the unemployment office in Boston, they’re way over burdened and some laid off workers are waiting over a month to collect their unemployment checks. Now, a lot more needs to be done, a lot. I’ve called off for the President to one, issue clear guidelines so that all Americans understand the benefits they’re entitled to. It’s hard even to go to one place and know what the benefits you’re entitled to are. Create an unemployment delivery team to help States get assistance out as quickly as possible, including boosting funding for the State staffs to be able to handle and get the information out federally and the States to be able to create and follow through. There’s a thing called the Defense Production Act. You heard a lot about it because you heard me starting to call for the President to employ it a while ago. Defense Production Act allows the President as if it were a war to declare that he can take over the production of certain things.
Joe Biden: (16:56)
For example, remember how he dilly dallied, as my mother used to say, insisting that General Motors stop making cars and start to make ventilators? He finally ordered them to make the ventilators. Well, we have to make sure that in fact that Defense Production Act applies not only to getting people what they need to protect themselves, but we should have a Bank Defense Production Act. Let me make sure that you understand what I’m saying about that. We’ve got to make sure the banks, the big banks, are willing to provide for and deliver, make sure that there’s unemployment payments are prioritized first and foremost and require the use of electronic payments that are invalid or able to be paid for electronically, your unemployment, prepaid debt cards for people without a bank account and deliver direct cash relief fast as we can get it. Family shouldn’t have to wait for President Trump to sign a check.
Joe Biden: (17:54)
We have to work with Congress to extend and boost unemployment benefits. That is the extra $600 however long this crisis lasts, not just for the month, for however long this crisis last, so your unemployment check will be there every month for the entire month for as long as this crisis lasts. Look, Congress has to start working on the fourth relief bill out there. We have to get more relief, including a freeze and a halt on foreclosures and evictions so people don’t have to worry where they’re going to be out in the street. We have to restart the economy. There’s only one path forward, beat the virus, but let me hold for a second here and say one of the thing.
Joe Biden: (18:38)
There’s a provision in the law that was passed that every person out there would get a direct payment through the IRS of a $1,200 payment beyond their health insurance, excuse me, beyond their unemployment insurance. If you have a child, you get an extra $500. The IRS should have already set up and get to you, for example, a check for $1,700, direct cash payment for every American out there so they can get through this very difficult period. For a while, Trump was talking as if we had to choose between our public health and our economy, but they’re inextricably linked. This virus is why we have an economic crisis and no amount of economic relief will matter if we don’t bend, you hear a lot about the inflection curve, how we got to bend that curve. Instead of going up and up and up has got to come down and flatten out. We have to do that as quickly as possible to stop the spread and save lives. That’s priority number one.
Joe Biden: (19:39)
The two things that we have to make sure you have a place to go to is when you go to your employment office, they’re able to pay you what you are entitled under the law and it’s an added $600 bonus from whatever the state had was going to pay before, essentially rendering you whole up to $75,000 and I know that’s not what you’re making right now. I assume that’s not what you’re making now, but up to that amount of money and the direct cash payment that we sent to you in the mail to your address that the Congress voted for through the IRS. There are the things we have to do and we got to get them to now.
Joe Biden: (20:18)
in addition, this next time around, this next bill, they’re going to have to pass, We’re already talking about it as they also have to continue this As long as the crisis continues. the cash payments have to continue and the unemployment benefits and the offices need help in all the States getting up and running. Thank you. Hope that answers your question.
Lavette Jacobs: (20:38)
It did. Thank you so much for answering my question and I appreciate the opportunity to actually be given the chance to speak to you.
Joe Biden: (20:46)
I’m glad you got You’re willing to speak with me and look, I know you’re worried about taking care of your son. I Know you’re worried about when the next meal is on the table and I know your work and a lot of people are all over the country. Thank you. By the way, you know what we’re realizing with all this crisis? How valuable, how valuable unions are, how valuable it is that we have an IBW, that we have people who in fact are first responders. How valuable the people we didn’t look to before and didn’t say, “Thank you,” for. This is this is going to workout for the best at the end because people now realize how valuable it is. If every electrician in America went on strike, America shuts down. Okay.
Lavette Jacobs: (21:31)
Joe Biden: (21:32)
If every every janitor walks out, guess what? The disease in fact gets worse. We have to appreciate that people who are busting their neck, they’re the ones that built this country. They’re the ones that keep it going and I think there’s a new appreciation for just what’s being done by so many good people. Thank you.
Lavette Jacobs: (21:52)
Speaker 2: (21:54)
Thanks for your question, Lovette. We have a question from some of our audience watching at home and Mr. Vice President, that question is, how can Americans get back to work and out of lockdown without widespread testing?
Joe Biden: (22:14)
It’s going to be very hard. Look, as I said, the President makes it sound like there’s a false choice. We either deal with the virus or we deal with unemployment and the economy. If you don’t deal with the virus first, you’re never going to get back to be able to have the kind of robust economy we need and get people taken care of. The first thing we have to do is make sure people are financially taken care of because their circumstances they’re in, whether they’re small businesses, they’re employees, whatever it is, is through no fault of their own. That’s a Government responsibility to keep them whole, as whole as we can do it and that’s got to come right out of the treasury and get paid for.
Joe Biden: (22:54)
Now on the issue of the virus, whoever asks, who has the question is this, it doesn’t matter, but whoever asked the question, you got it right. Until we have a vaccine, we’re not going to be totally out of the woods. In the meantime though, what we have to do is significantly increase, significantly increase the number of tests that are available, the testing kits that are available and all the protective gear that’s available so doctors and nurses can deal with this pandemic in a way where we don’t lose them, that they’re able to take care of our health. That’s why, again, going back to this Defense Production Act. I think the President should be taking over certain industries. We are going to do nothing but make another 30 million masks. You’re going to do nothing but make sure that the docs and nurses have the masks they need, that they have the gloves they need. You have nurses going into an operating room and into an ICU wearing garbage bags over them to try to protect. They need the protective gear, the goggles, the whole works, and so that should be priority number one. There is some real experimentation going on in terms of whether or not you can identify those people who have had the virus, didn’t know it and find out they’re immune knew it and they have an immune system that in fact would allow them to go back to work, even when the virus is not completely contained because they have an antibody. Those tests are now trying to be developed and they’re trying to develop tests where you can drive through and know in 5 to 15 minutes exactly whether you have the virus or not so we can trace people and determine who they’ve been in contact with or they had the virus. That has to be significantly, significantly, significantly increased and remember they were talking about they’re going to be doing 4 million tests today, about two weeks ago. Well, we’re not there yet because we have to indicate to whatever industry has the capacity to make this material, do these tests, put them together. They have to be done now as rapidly as possible and the prisoners should act.
Speaker 2: (25:00)
Thank you, Mr. Vice President. The next speaker for us right now is Ms. Judy Gile, who’s coming to us from Pennsylvania. Judy
Hi. Hi, Joe.
Joe Biden: (25:12)
Hey, Judy. How are you?
I work for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. My job involves making sure that both workers and employers have a fair shot at the unemployment system through a timely hearing. As you spoke earlier, the unemployment system is overwhelmed and so many people are desperate for the money, so many people are just in fear. I got into public service to help people, to help my community. I guess my question for you would be, what can be done to strengthen the public service that people like me that provide this kind of help and how we can give us a voice, the workers, to fight for the funding, the resources to get this job done to help?
Joe Biden: (26:25)
Well, first of all, Judy, what you’re doing, speaking up now not really mean it. It makes a big difference. Your Governor’s working like the devil to make sure that he’s able to have a staffed up unemployment office and he’s making sure that so many things is trying to get done. He shouldn’t have to compete with other States and the Federal Government to find out that they can’t get the material that they need to make themselves in the workplace, that they’re in a position where your colleagues are carrying the weight of the world on their backs. You’re the lifeline to people in moments of these kinds of moments when we’re fighting like hell to protect health, safety, families and I want to thank you for that.
Joe Biden: (27:10)
Look, there’s that’s always been true, but now there’s not a single person in this country who doesn’t know the heroic efforts so many people are making every single day and it’s past time we had your backs and here’s the deal. We’re in a position now where if in fact when you say, “What can we do?” We can make sure that the legislation that’s already been passed has the capacity to be distributed and there is, now, so far what we need essentially is the administration to have a place where you can go to one person, one place. How do we get the benefit, this benefit or that benefit? We start by getting immediate help to do your job in this trying time. Look. First, we need to make sure that you’re getting personal protective equipment, conditions that are needed for safety.
Joe Biden: (28:03)
I’ve called on President Trump, as I said, to employ that Defense Production Act, ensure every single front line worker has PPE and I’d also direct OSHA to deal with the state safety and health agencies to ensure that they have workplace policies. But what is it, what bothers you the most? What is the thing that concerns you the most about where you are right now and what your role working for the state is?
That’s there’s so many more to help. There’s so many more.
Joe Biden: (28:38)
Well, look, there’s a couple things. The Federal Government passed a lot of money for small businesses to keep them alive and well, to keep them going. The problem is it’s awful hard to figure how that small business gets that loan from the bank because the banks haven’t wanted … the big banks don’t like lending to small businesses. For example, Bank of America, which the American taxpayers bailed out last time around in a crisis. Well, they’re saying, unless you already have an account with us, unless you have a credit card with us, we’re not going to process a loan even though the Federal Government’s going to guarantee the loan that you have, guarantee you have it. So we should have an oversight on that to make sure the banks are held accountable, that they get out these small business loans. They are guaranteed by the Federal Government.
Joe Biden: (29:30)
We also should be doing things like making sure that the whole idea of the $500 billion for big companies wasn’t for them to be able to have stock buy backs or be able to move in a direction where they were able to reward their shareholders or their CEOs. It was to keep people employed on the payroll. And so we need to get the resources to the enforcers to know exactly what’s being done and what’s not being done. I urge the Federal Government to create an unemployment insurance delivery team with funding for extra staffing and server capacity to help States manage the crush of these claims. And in the Senate, Democrats have also opposed hazard pay for essential workers, a boost in paychecks that reflect the risk on a frontline workers are taking, I support extending any hazard pay congress provides the public sector workers in essential jobs.
Joe Biden: (30:32)
In order to make sure that they’re meaningful, we’ve got to get a lot more funding to the States. The States don’t have enough funding and they’re now pinched between plummeting tax revenues that they’re not collecting and soaring emergency response costs and to avoid painful damaging cuts in public services. So we can’t let the public sector workers risk losing pay. Instead, we have to encourage the privatization of the public sector as President Trump has done, that’s not what we should be doing. We need to boost support for state and local governments who are always and make sure that we’re going to have their backs and it means fighting, I would argue, for unions to make sure public sector employees have a voice in the workplace that they deserve.
Joe Biden: (31:18)
So there’s so much that the President … as President, I’ll pass the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act and make it a Federal right for all public sector employees to be able to organize and collectively bargain so someone who serves our communities has a voice on the job.
Joe Biden: (31:34)
My point is we have to give the States significantly more help. We have to have essentially a person in command who is able to distribute all that’s needed to these States, right, answering directly to the President of United States and I don’t think that’s being done now.
I agree. We need leadership and I think our governor, I think he’s doing a bang up job-
Joe Biden: (32:01)
… but he is limited.
Joe Biden: (32:03)
He’s very limited and that’s why he shouldn’t have to compete with other States to figure out whether he can find protective gear for his first responders or his doctors or his nurses or the hospitals that are in trouble, et cetera. That’s a Federal responsibility.
Yvanna Cancela: (32:20)
Thank you Judy. And as a state legislator, Mr. Vice President, it is very encouraging to hear that you acutely understand the needs that States across the Country will have, not only during this crisis, but following it. Our next question comes from an audience member and it’s a question that I think a lot of folks have on their minds. This audience member asks, I’ve just lost my job. How long is it going to take to get the economy back on track?
Joe Biden: (32:53)
Well, it’s going to take a while to get it back on track and it’s not going to get back on track until we get the virus under control. So social distancing is going to be required for some time, number one. Number two, that’s why it’s so urgent to do two things that could speed that up considerably. One, we should be working, as I think we are now, with the international community, not just our doctors and scientists, to find a vaccine. To find a vaccine.
Joe Biden: (33:23)
In the meantime, we also have the opportunity to do a great deal more in providing millions and millions of tests that you can get a result from those tests in five to seven minutes. So you know whether or not you’ve had the virus, but you’re well, you don’t have the virus, or you have the virus. That all sends you in different directions. If you’ve had the virus and you are well, it means you have an antibody in your system. They’re trying to develop how you can develop those antibodies that can be applicable to other people to prevent them from getting the disease, or allowing you to go back to work because you don’t have to social distance because you’re not a carrier, you’re immune, and as well as you’re not likely to get the disease from someone else.
Joe Biden: (34:12)
We also have to work really hard, really hard to make sure in the meantime, in the meantime, everybody is held harmless. This is not anybody’s fault. This is not anybody’s fault. It’s nothing they did for this to happen and so we have to do is provide for the ability for you to be able to stay in your home, get unemployment insurance, get a direct payment from the Federal Government so you can sustain yourself and your children in this period of real crisis. And it also means making sure that everybody understands in this next bill that gets passed that any costs relating to the coronavirus in terms of testing or healthcare is free. You don’t have to pay anything for it. Period.
Yvanna Cancela: (35:03)
Thank you, Mr. Vice President. I really appreciate your ability to so succinctly and thoroughly summarize what needs to happen. We have one more guest with us this evening. Her name is Leah Dudley from Detroit and she’s … I’ll take a minute of personal pride to say that she’s my UNITE HERE sister. So Leah, the floor is yours.
Leah Dudley: (35:26)
Hello, Mr. Vice President Biden, how are you?
Yvanna Cancela: (35:28)
Hey Lean, how are you?
Leah Dudley: (35:30)
I’m good. I’m good. I just want to introduce myself. I’m a dedicated shop steward and a member of UNITE HERE, Local 24 in Detroit. I am a cashier at the MGM Detroit where I’ve been for the past 20 years. I am a single parent. I have a 16 year old daughter and I got laid off and there are people here in Detroit who are out of work. My benefits extend until June 30th, but for millions of Americans who were laid off in March they lost their health care as of April 1st. And so my question to you is how will you make sure that the laid off union members keep their current coverage and that all laid off workers can have access to health insurance?
Joe Biden: (36:30)
Three things. First of all, I think for those who are not union members and don’t have health insurance, that we should open up Obamacare and allow them to become part of Obamacare instead of being in court like the President is, trying to get rid of it. That’s number one. Laid off workers, you have fought and bargained, and those of you who are with UNITE HERE, you bargain hard for quality health insurance and you shouldn’t lose it, least of all now.
Joe Biden: (37:01)
And as I’m partially repeating myself, but the first thing I would do for all workers is make sure COVID-19 treatment is cost-free. Period. Whatever treatment is associated with it. No one should have to pay a dollar out of pocket for that. I called for that on March the 12th and it should be part of the next congressional package that hadn’t passed yet.
Joe Biden: (37:25)
The next thing I would do is help laid off union members, ensure they keep their union health insurance through COBRA, the COBRA program. When we went through the last crisis, economic crisis, Barack and I made sure that 65% of all the COBRA payments were paid for by the Federal Government. It’s a fancy way of saying COBRA allows you to keep your UNITE HERE insurance plan, even if your company can’t continue to provide it. And you probably know, but for the folks at home who may not, COBRA is a program where if you lose your job, you can pay to stay on your same insurance plan you had when you were working for the company you were working with.
Joe Biden: (38:13)
The problem is it’s really expensive. If you have to pay multiple times more for your existing premium for the same plan you had before you were laid off because your employer no longer is making contributions toward it, that premium is pretty high. So I believe the Federal Government should be the one offering the subsidies to you to cover most of all the CORBRA premium so that for example, in 2009, I’m repeating myself, our administration picked up 65% of the family cost to keep your existing insurance program under the COBRA program. Given the nature of this crisis, I’m calling on the Trump administration and Congress to pick up the full cost of the premiums right now. Congress should include this in this new phase four legislation.
Joe Biden: (39:04)
The bottom line means for all those union members who are worried about whether their employer will keep funding the health care plans, I would protect them. Union members have fought hard for their health insurance and I put forward back on March the 12th that I commit to ensuring that the Taft-Hartley benefit funds have the financial resources so that they can continue to keep those programs going in the company, the outfit you work for.
Joe Biden: (39:34)
And finally for all workers, in addition to the COBRA subsidies I’d provide enhanced subsidies to make sure that the Affordable Care Act priorities are more meaningful so that lower-income and middle class folks have less cost sharing and more affordable health care so that they don’t have to increase their premiums. Meanwhile, I’ve been calling on the Trump administration to stop fighting in the courts to try to gut the law and get rid of Obamacare.
Joe Biden: (40:07)
Now I realize they’re two different things. You’re not talking about Obamacare. You’re talking being able to keep your really well-funded, you’ve given up an awful lot and pay over the years to make sure you have a really good healthcare plan through your employer. Again, let’s get straight. I know this is complicated. The COBRA program says that that’s what it’s for. It allows you to keep your existing plan and will be paid for, the one you have through UNITE HERE, and the Federal Government will pay the 100% of that premium. You wouldn’t have to pay a thing. You continue to get the plan and it’s cost-free to you. The one you have now, no additional premium to you as long as this crisis lasts. Does that answer the question?
Leah Dudley: (40:55)
Joe Biden: (40:55)
Leah Dudley: (40:56)
Joe Biden: (40:56)
It’s okay if it hadn’t. I’ll try … it’s complicated, but in one sense it shouldn’t be complicated. You or the outfit you work for did nothing through their fault to cause that insurance to not be able to be funded. That’s why we set up the COBRA plan years ago to begin with. It’s 100%, but it has to be passed by the Congress and signed by the President this go round for the next tranche of money that’s going in to make sure people are kept whole.
Leah Dudley: (41:23)
Joe Biden: (41:24)
Leah Dudley: (41:25)
Thank you. Thank you.
Yvanna Cancela: (41:26)
Thank you, Leah, and thank you for that thorough response. Mr. Vice President-
Joe Biden: (41:30)
Probably too thorough. I apologize, but I think, look, as you and I’ve talked about this, Senator, I’m always talked about as being a foreign policy expert. Health care’s more complicated than foreign policy. Healthcare is complicated and it really is daunting for an awful lot of people, and so that’s why maybe I over explained. I’m sure she understood, but I think it’s really important that they not lose the insurance they have now, as long as this crisis is in fact underway, and-
Joe Biden: (42:02)
… they shouldn’t have to pay to keep it
Yvanna Cancela: (42:04)
And that message is, it makes me feel better. And I’m hopeful that Congress takes action on your vision for what needs to happen, so that workers like Leah and Judy and [Lavette 00:42:17] are able to keep their health insurance.
Joe Biden: (42:18)
Well, by the way, Nancy Pelosi feels strongly about this. An awful lot of Democrats in the Congress are pushing it. It’s just going to be a little uphill fight with our Republican friends.
Yvanna Cancela: (42:30)
Yeah. Well, and before I turn it over to you to close, I want to remind folks not only about how important this election is, but what we’ve seen today is demonstrative of the fact that you have the heart to put workers first, and that is the opposite of what the man in the White House is doing today. And that you have the experience to know what needs to happen and you have the leadership to actually get it done, and it’s why this election continues to be so important. And I’m so grateful that you have pushed hard to make sure that policies that protect workers in this moment, that drive our country forward, are at the forefront of discussion, and that your conviction in making sure that America moves forward out of this is what makes me so proud to support you and to know that you’ll be our next president. So we’ll turn the floor over to you before we close.
Joe Biden: (43:31)
Well, I’ll be very brief. Look, I know I’m occasionally called a congenital optimist, but I think I’m a student of history. Out of every real serious crisis the country’s faced, we’ve lost a lot, people have suffered a lot, but they’ve come through it, and we’ve ended up better for it. Out of the Great Depression, we ended up with everything from the Fair Labor Standards Act to Social Security, a whole range of things. We were better off for it. Ordinary people were better off. Now what people are seeing, they took for granted so many of the functions the people that you represent provide, so many things they do. They just took it for granted, and now they’re realizing that person stocking the shelf in the grocery store every day in the middle of this crisis is risking themselves.
Joe Biden: (44:25)
Jill, my wife Jill, who you know well, Jill did an event earlier today with what used to be called the Janitors’ Union. They’re beyond that now. They’re the people after everything that goes on in a crisis, everything that goes on that is being done, whether it’s a warehouse or an operating room, they go in and sanitize it, and they’re going in to sanitize it without all the equipment they need. They’re putting themselves at risk for it. People are understanding that the reason this country is who they are is because of ordinary people, like the folks I come from, and you come from, and most Americans do. They’re the ones that make it work, and they’re beginning to realize we owe them. We owe them a much better circumstance.
Joe Biden: (45:09)
Let me conclude with one other thing. This millennial generation, of which you’re a part, has gone through a hell of a circumstance over the last 15 years. They ended up in a situation where we had, because of the financial crisis and the previous administration before us, they ended up in a situation where they’re behind the eight ball. They in fact had to borrow enormous amounts of money to go to school. They had to put themselves in a position where they started off in debt, where they weren’t able to buy a home. They weren’t able to go out and buy a car because of the debt they inherited, because of what happened with everything from the [inaudible 00:45:48] anyway, because of viruses, because of the concern we had with the financial collapse.
Joe Biden: (45:56)
And a lot of them lost a lot in the meantime. In the meantime, now you have this so-called new generation, the Z generation, coming along, and they’re missing out on so much. I don’t think it has to be explained anymore. They’re not having their graduation parties. They’re not having their prom. They’re not having commencement. They’re having to give up an awful lot of things, an awful lot of things, and they’re being put further behind the eight ball. They’re going to start off at a slower pace in terms of jobs available to them. They’re going to start off in ways that they’re going to be behind the eight ball. That’s why we have to look at them now. They’re not whining. They’re just out there saying, hey, look, I busted my neck. That’s why the next bill should forgive a minimum of $10,000 of student debt for everybody with a debt when they pass this bill, just right off the bat, keep them in a position so when we come out of this, they’re not further in the hole, that they’re not so deep in the hole that they’ve been put into.
Joe Biden: (46:53)
The other thing is we have to take care of seniors better. We should be increasing Social Security payments now. They’re struggling. They’re having real problems now. We should be increasing Social Security payments across the board, $200 for everybody, besides reforming the system down the road to make it more applicable and more generous. There’s things we should be doing now, so when we come out of this, people aren’t in a deeper hole than they were to begin with. I have a lot more to say, but I’ve said too much. I get too passionate about it, but I promise you, Senator, we can get through this. As you’ve heard me say before, Wall Street didn’t build this country.
Joe Biden: (47:28)
Ordinary, hard working people built this country. Given half a chance, they have never, ever, ever, ever let their country down. Never once, never once. And that’s how we build the middle class. You built the middle class. Unions like yours built the middle class. That’s why we’re where we are. I think people are realizing it now, so I think we’re going to be in much better shape when we get through this to have the kind of structural change we need to make it better for everybody, because when the hard working person with a high school education, which is not you, you’re beyond that, but with a high school education, breaking their neck, all of a sudden people are saying, “I couldn’t make it without that person.” We’ve got to treat them better. They deserve a better wage. They deserve to be treated with decency. They deserve to be thanked.
Joe Biden: (48:15)
They’re the ones doing God’s work here. Cops, firefighters, and nurses and doctors, first responders. I mean, ambulance drivers. I mean, we just owe them so much and they deserve not just our thanks. They deserve that they should be paid what they deserve and treated with dignity. Anyway, thank you very much, Senator. I appreciate it. I’m looking forward to seeing you soon, I hope. Thank you.
Yvanna Cancela: (48:41)
Thank you, and thanks to everyone for joining us.