Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks at the William "Hicks" Anderson Community Center in Wilmington, Del.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks at the William "Hicks" Anderson Community Center in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden demands a united national response to the coronavirus crisis, while Trump writes off mounting deaths.

When asked about thousands of U.S. coronavirus deaths, President Trump recently responded with an answer that sums up his administration’s approach to fighting the pandemic: “They are dying. That’s true. And it is what it is,” Trump said in an interview with Axios that aired this week.

While 158,000 dead Americans (including nearly 1,400 in the last 24 hours) may not upset the Trump administration, state and local governments have not stopped demanding a broader national strategy. On Tuesday, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden issued his own calls for the Trump administration to use science and take control of the crisis as it spirals out of control.

By relying on the White House and Congress, Biden’s COVID-19 response plan leverages the power of the federal government to tamp down the spread of the virus, help unemployed Americans who are struggling to pay their rent or buy food, and get our lives back to normal. 

Here are five things former Vice President Joe Biden says he would do to help America respond to the coronavirus crisis:

1. Help hungry families buy food, instead of making it harder for them to qualify for benefits.

Biden’s plan includes a proposal to increase national food assistance funding for the duration of the pandemic—and have the federal government fully pay for the effort. It also proposes letting states use that additional funding to support food banks and food deliveries that could replace lost school meals.

The plan is a striking contrast to the Trump administration’s approach, which has refused to increase funding for food assistance, and now refuses to let states waive a requirement that people who receive money for food must certify their income is below a certain level.

2. Give state and local governments funding to help them respond to the coronavirus crisis, especially as tax revenues drop due to business closures and unemployment.

Biden wants to create a “State and Local Emergency Fund.” The fund would be divided so that 45% goes to state governments, 45% to local governments, and 10% is set aside for locations with outbreaks. That funding could be used to cover the cost of medical supplies and building health infrastructure, hiring healthcare workers, substitute teachers or other frontline employees, or even to cover overtime for essential workers. 

The Trump administration and Senate Republicans, on the other hand, are currently holding up the latest COVID relief package and unemployment extension, in part because they refuse to allocate any additional funding for state and local governments during the pandemic.

3. Increase funding for Medicaid, the government health insurance program for people under 65.

A record 5.4 million Americans have so far lost health insurance coverage as a result of the pandemic, often after being laid off from their job. Biden’s plan would significantly increase how much money states receive to fund Medicaid, and would help get more Americans enrolled in the federal health insurance program.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans and President Trump are refusing to provide any additional Medicaid funding to states, even as both Democrats and Republican governors say they desperately need the money. There are also growing signs of support for Medicaid, as voters in Missouri yesterday approved to expand that state’s access to Medicaid. So far, Politico reports that six GOP-led states (including Missouri) have voted to expand Medicaid rolls.

4. Provide emergency paid leave to all workers who need it, including parents watching kids while schools are closed.

The Biden plan calls for emergency paid leave for everyone affected by the outbreak, including gig economy workers, people at increased risk for health complications, and parents with children home from school. The paid leave would cover 100% of an individual’s salary, up to $72,800 per year or $1400 per week.

The first coronavirus relief package included a paid leave program, but Republicans insisted that it exempt companies with more than 500 workers or those with fewer than 50 employees, which encompasses a huge portion of the American workforce.

5. Eliminate all out-of-pocket costs for COVID tests and treatment.

The Biden plan says it would ensure no one pays any co-pays or premiums to get COVID testing or treatment, and would instead require private and government insurers to pick up the bill, with the assistance of the federal government. His plan would also reimburse doctors and hospitals for any costs that insurance companies don’t end up paying.

Instead of helping Americans get tested and treated, the Trump administration in June threatened to pull what little funding they allocated for federal testing sites throughout the country, even as outbreaks exploded in states like Texas, Florida, and Arizona.