National News

Biden talks up help for small businesses, workers in Charlotte stop

Posted September 22, 2020 8:36 a.m. EDT
Updated September 23, 2020 6:23 p.m. EDT

— For the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began, Joe Biden was in North Carolina on Wednesday to speak with Black small-business owners and others about how the pandemic has affected their lives.

Biden called the pandemic and the racial unrest that has gripped the nation in recent months "a gigantic opportunity" to reshape American society by boosting workers and low-income and minority families.

"We have to break the cycle," he said. "The African-American community, by and large, finds itself at the bottom of the economic heap with businesses and others when things are good. When things get bad, they're the first ones in the hole."

In a socially distant gathering at Camp North End, the site of a former auto assembly factory and missile plant that now houses startup businesses, he called for freeing up money included in the CARES Act Congress passed last spring for small businesses. Providing resources for protective gear and rapid virus tests for employees would give customers the confidence to return so the businesses can hire back their workers and return to full operation, he said.

"The money is there. The president is just not releasing it," he said. "How in God's name are we going to generate economic growth unless we can figure out how you can get back in business?"

The former vice president criticized President Donald Trump's handling of the pandemic, saying the president repeatedly downplays its impact on the nation.

"The virus wasn't his fault, but the way he's handled it is close to criminal," Biden said, adding that the nation needs a comprehensive plan for reopening schools.

In an interview with WRAL News, he was more blunt.

"You said you're the commander-in-chief. Act like one. Take responsibility," he said of Trump. "He's just not doing what needs to be done. It's all about re-election for him, and it's irresponsible."

Biden also said he would push for a $15 minimum wage nationwide, tuition-free college for families making less than $125,000 a year, student loan forgiveness for public school teachers, more investment in both early childhood education and historically Black colleges and extra loans for first-time home buyers – and higher taxes on corporations and wealthy individuals to pay for everything.

"I'm not trying to punish anybody. It's time everybody started to pay their fair share," he said.

In response to a question about civil rights and the Department of Justice, he called the Trump administration corrupt and said the president has used the agency as his "private law firm." If he's elected, Biden said he wouldn't tell the attorney general what cases to pursue or not.

"The most dangerous thing that has happened so far is the politicization of the Department of Justice," he said. "It's become the 'Department of Trump,' and it's wrong."

Biden said he also would elevate the department's Civil Rights Division by giving it more authority to investigate police departments and giving it a voice within the White House.

Earlier Wednesday, Biden's campaign announced two television ads will feature Rocky Mount business owners. They are among four ads the campaign is rolling out in battleground states for the upcoming election.

Until now, Biden's campaign has been only virtual in North Carolina.

Last week, his wife, Jill Biden, held a virtual roundtable for working families in Raleigh to discuss hardships they face taking care of their children and assisting with virtual learning during the pandemic, and his running mate, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris held a virtual meeting to register voters.

Trump is scheduled to visit Charlotte on Thursday, marking his fifth time in North Carolina in a month.

A recent WRAL News poll had Trump and Biden tied among likely North Carolina voters at 47 percent each.

Biden said he can compete in the state with far fewer and more socially distant in-person events.

"We compete responsibly," he told WRAL. "What we don't do is we don't bring about larger crowds where people are cheek to jowl. They're, in fact, breathing on one another, coughing on one another, and some people are going to get sick and die."

A White House official said Trump will discuss in Charlotte "his administration’s action and vision in delivering quality health care at low costs for the American people."

On Tuesday, Lara Trump, the president's daughter-in-law, hosted a "Women for Trump" bus tour event in Guilford County. On Wednesday, another event will be held at the Greenville Convention Center. According to the campaign website, the tour will feature roundtables, meet-and-greets and sit-downs with business owners and local leaders.

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