- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 12, 2020

While the political jockeying gets more attention, candidates in the Democratic presidential race are advancing serious policy proposals. The Washington Times takes a weekly look at how the candidates’ proposals stack up against one another.

With all eyes on the federal response to the coronavirus outbreak, the candidates this week rolled out their own plans to confront the crisis.

Joe Biden

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden on Thursday outlined a plan that included free testing for the virus for anyone who wants it.

“The administration’s failure on testing is colossal,” Mr. Biden said in a speech in Wilmington, Delaware. “By next week, the number of tests should be in the millions — not the thousands.”

He wants to expand hospital capacity for people suffering from the virus and accelerate efforts on treatment and vaccines.

Mr. Biden also wants to expand mobile testing sites, give all “front-line” workers access to personal protective equipment so they don’t get infected and have the Justice Department monitor any price gouging for “critical supplies.”

He would boost federal resources and create a state and local emergency fund to help communities deal with the issue.

Mr. Biden’s plan calls for no out-of-pocket costs for testing, treatment, preventive services and an eventual vaccine.

It also reverses the Trump administration’s “public charge” rule that penalizes certain legal immigrants for using public welfare programs.

In line with congressional Democrats’ legislative proposals, Mr. Biden called for guaranteed paid leave for sick workers and people caring for family members or loved ones, for expanded unemployment benefits for people who might be affected, and for federal student loan and mortgage relief.

Bernie Sanders

Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont said Thursday that President Trump should declare a national emergency amid the outbreak, and he proposed a major expansion of the social safety net for people who might be affected by the virus in the coming months.

“While we work to pass a Medicare for All, single-payer system, the United States government today must make it clear that in the midst of this emergency, everyone in our country, regardless of income or where they live, must be able to get all of the health care they need without cost,” Mr. Sanders said in a speech in Burlington, Vermont.

Mr. Sanders proposed emergency funding for paid leave and an expansion of community health centers.

“The government must respond aggressively to make certain that we, in fact, have the latest and most effective tests available and the quickest means of processing those tests,” he said.

He also called for emergency unemployment assistance to people who lose their jobs through no fault of their own, and for people who depend on tips and “gig” workers to be made eligible for unemployment benefits.

He said an “immediate moratorium” should be imposed on evictions, foreclosures and utility shut-offs amid the escalating crisis.

Federally funded programs that provide meals to the elderly and children, as well as food stamp benefits, should be expanded, Mr. Sanders said.

Tulsi Gabbard

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii called for expanding access to testing and ensuring that coronavirus tests are provided free of charge.

“The other step that needs to be taken is that cruise ships should not be allowed to dock in Hawaii or any other state,” she said. “These cruise ships are basically floating incubators for this disease.”

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