Biden Says Containing Pandemic Is Important to Financial Restoration

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(Bloomberg) — President-elect Joe Biden promised Monday that his administration would fight the coronavirus pandemic and spur an economic recovery in 2021 but also urged Congress to pass a stimulus bill this year to deliver immediate relief to struggling Americans.

Biden said lawmakers should approve a bill like the $2.2 trillion HEROES Act that the House of Representatives passed, as his team begins to work with business and labor to make plans for combating the pandemic-related downturn once he takes office.

Biden met with the chief executives of General Motors Co. and Microsoft Corp., as well as key labor leaders, on Monday before speaking in detail about the economy for the first time since winning the presidential election.

“We’re ready to come together. The unity was outstanding,” Biden said of the virtual meeting, which he attended from Wilmington, Delaware. “It was really encouraging, quite frankly, to get people, business and labor, agreeing on the way forward.”

Biden lamented the lack of coordination with the outgoing administration as President Donald Trump’s refusal to accept the results of the election has blocked an official transition, including classified briefings.

“More people may die if we don’t coordinate,” he said. He noted that recent positive news about vaccine effectiveness needs to be paired with the “huge undertaking” of getting a vaccine distributed. “If we have to wait until January 20 to start that planning, it puts us behind,” he said.

The incoming Biden administration’s economic plan is based on the “Build Back Better” proposals offered during the campaign. He said no government contract will be given to companies that don’t build their products in the U.S.

“We can make sure our future is made here in America and that’s good for business and that’s good for American workers,” Biden said.

Mary Barra of GM and Satya Nadella of Microsoft were among the business leaders who met him on Monday to discuss how business and labor can work together. Labor officials participating in the conversation included Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO and Rory Gamble of the United Auto Workers, as well as a number of other labor leaders.

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Trumka said in a statement he raised safety issues for workers during the meeting, telling the group that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has been “totally absent during this pandemic” under the Trump administration, according to prepared remarks.

He called on OSHA to develop an “emergency temporary standard” to protect workers from contracting the virus when they return to their workplaces.

Brian Cornell of Target Corp. and Sonia Syngal of Gap Inc. participated in the meeting with Biden and Harris. Others included Mary Kay Henry, president of Service Employees International Union; Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers and Lee Saunders, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Syngal told Biden and Harris about The Gap stores’ safety measures such as curbside pickup and vowed to work with the new administration to restart the economy. Cornell said Target planned a $1 billion investment in health and safety for its workers.

Barra noted that she looked forward to advancing “our vision of an all-electric, zero-emissions future” for cars, something Biden specifically mentioned.

“We talked about the need to own the electric vehicle market. We talked about climate a lot, building 550,000 charging stations, creating over 1 million good-paying, union jobs here at home,” Biden said

Cecilia Munoz, a former top policy adviser to President Barack Obama who is now on Biden’s transition team, also joined.

Biden’s economic plan includes $2 trillion in spending on clean energy and infrastructure. The goal is to create millions of jobs building the wind turbines, sustainable homes and electric vehicles needed to rapidly throttle U.S. greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change.

Biden also laid out a $700 billion “Buy American” manufacturing plan that would include $400 billion in additional federal purchases of products made by American workers over the course of his first term as well as $300 billion for federally funded research and development. In all, the Biden campaign estimates that its proposals on manufacturing and buying American will create 5 million jobs.

He has also said it is a moral and economic necessity for the government to better support those who care for children and the elderly, proposing spending $775 billion over 10 years that would add jobs and boost pay for caregivers, eliminate the waiting list for home and community care under Medicaid and provide preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds.

Moody’s estimated the total cost of Biden’s campaign proposals — including additions to the health care system — at $7.27 trillion over a decade and projected that the package would create 18.6 million jobs, seven million more than President Donald Trump’s economic plans.

Much of Biden’s plan would be funded through increased taxes on corporations and the rich, but his team also expects that a few trillion dollars would be characterized as stimulus spending and wouldn’t be offset by new tax revenue.

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