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A new, improved PPP coronavirus loan program is in the works

The Paycheck Protection Program stood out as an early success of the government’s pandemic relief effort, but it ended with a whimper and left billions of dollars unallocated when small businesses got spooked by the ever-changing rules.

Even as Democrats and Republicans fight over other aspects of another major stimulus bill, they have largely agreed on how to revamp the PPP to restore its popularity and usefulness.

But groups representing the smallest business owners — independent contractors, the self-employed and minority-owned businesses who complained they were largely shut out of the earlier rounds of funding and for whom these changes are meant to help — are already questioning whether it will be enough.

For starters, they note that both the old and the proposed new PPP are run by the Small Business Administration, which works with businesses with as many as 500 workers, has less experience with companies with fewer than 100, and almost none with those with one or a handful of employees.

The bulk of America’s small businesses have fewer than 20 employees, but they didn’t get the bulk of the earlier PPP money and aren’t sure they’ll do better under a revised program still run by the SBA, advocates say.

“The vast majority of business owners who need and want to be able to access PPP are not the typical SBA small-business borrowers,” said Katie Vlietstra, vice president for the National Assn. for the Self-Employed.

For small businesses that already received one of the forgivable PPP loans, there is some good news about a possible PPP relaunch: They may be able to get a second loan, something not permitted in the original rules. That could be a lifeline for businesses that burned through the initial 24 weeks of payroll support.

“The expectation, I think, when all this was done months ago was that we’d be out of this crisis by now,” said Alfredo Ortiz, president of Job Creators Network, a small-business advocacy group. “These small-business owners are just running out of cash.”

In total, more than 5.1 million businesses got PPP funds before lending ended Aug. 8. The government says 51 million jobs were saved. S&P Global estimates it is closer to 13.6 million.

When the program began, $349 billion flowed out the door in less than two weeks. But the early successes were soon replaced by outrage and confusion. The public was frustrated to hear of large publicly traded companies like Potbelly or Shake Shack receiving loans.

Commercial banks tasked with distributing the money gave priority to their existing customers, leaving small businesses without a strong banking relationship scrambling to compile the needed application paperwork as the money flowed to larger businesses.

Meanwhile, rules governing how the money could be spent changed weekly, at times daily, casting doubt on what terms businesses would have to meet to have the loans forgiven. Demand plummeted. Even an extension of the program in June wasn’t enough to renew interest. While more small loans were processed in the second round than in the first, more than $126 billion was left on the table when the program ended.

“The people who haven’t applied are either disaffected, they don’t think they’ll get it, or they think if they get it they’ll be on the hook for it. And I think a lot of them have probably let go of their employees,” said Cathie Mahon, president of Inclusiv, a national organization representing lenders in low-income communities.

She said the revamp must provide clarity for businesses on exactly what they need to do to ensure the loan is forgiven before they begin taking loans, she said.

“You just can’t make decisions on maybe, maybe not,” Mahon said.

Republicans and Democrats agree the program should focus on smaller businesses, and very small and minority-owned businesses should be prioritized.

“I think we’ve got a pretty good package, and I’ve worked hard on it with Sen. [Benjamin L.] Cardin” (D-Md.), said Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee Chairman Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). “I’m not saying he’s signed off to our package, but it reflects a lot of our joint priorities and we’re pretty close.”

Republicans want to target businesses with fewer than 300 employees that have seen sales decline by 35% or more, and to set aside $10 billion for community and rural banks to lend. Democrats want to focus on those with fewer than 100 employees that have seen sales decline by 50% or more. Both want to set aside up to $25 billion for businesses with fewer than 10 employees.

Republicans want to set up a new long-term government-backed loan program through private banks. Democrats say the existing Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, which is a loan directly from the government to small businesses, could be modified to do that. Republicans say 60% of new loans should be spent on payroll. Democrats don’t specify in their bill. Both want to make it simpler to apply and to get the loans forgiven.

“I don’t think we need a lot of time to resolve our differences, and our staffs are working very closely together,” said Cardin, the highest ranking Democrat on the committee.

After failing to get loans under the previous PPP rules, some small businesses, especially those with fewer than 10 employees, may need to be convinced that they’ll have a shot at the money if they apply, Ortiz said.

“I think there needs to be some marketing that takes place on this,” Ortiz said. “People have a little hesitancy right now that needs to be overcome.”

For the nation’s smallest businesses — many of which are Black-owned and have no employees — even the changes Congress is proposing may not be enough, said Ron Busby Sr., president of U.S. Black Chambers.

An estimated 41% of Black-owned businesses have permanently closed since the pandemic began, he said. But Congress has an opportunity to learn from the mistakes in the first round that left them out. He recommends offering grants, not forgivable loans, and having the money distributed through lenders focusing on low-income communities, Black-owned banks and credit unions.

“There needs to be tighter control of who gets the funds and how the funds are going to be used,” Busby said. “[Local lenders] know how to get to the businesses that need the funds.”

Self-Help Federal Credit Union in Oakland used its existing relationships with community-oriented economic development groups to help businesses that haven’t gotten a loan before and needed a bit more help to fill out their PPP applications over the summer, said Purvi Patel, special projects manager.

“Some of this stuff feels overwhelming, especially for a small nonprofit in the Central Valley with three or four employees or an arts nonprofit in L.A.,” Patel said.

Jase Rex, 51, chief executive of Hot Section Technologies, a federally certified aircraft repair station, worked with an economic development group and his local bank to get a $180,000 loan in early May that allowed him to keep paying his 18 employees.

But he said he wouldn’t qualify for a second loan if he must show a drop of 50% in sales.

“We’re experiencing a slow descent,” he said.

For Carlos Ortez, 58, owner of Un Solo Sol in Los Angeles, PPP’s requirement that 60% of the loan be used for payroll fails to consider the other bills that have to be paid to keep his restaurant open. For him, bills such as insurance and utilities may be as much as payroll, and while he’s grateful that the $23,700 loan he received in June allowed him to pay two of his four employees, he’d like to see more flexibility.

“If we don’t pay the bills, eventually we will be kicked out,” Ortez said.

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Gohmert’s coronavirus case sparks renewed debate over Capitol protocols

So far, congressional leaders in both chambers have refused to implement routine testing for lawmakers, even rejecting an offer from the administration to supply rapid tests for members to use. And some senior aides have privately questioned how leadership would require tests when they can’t even get every member to wear a mask.

But some senior lawmakers have continued to push their leaders to adopt a more frequent testing regimen. That includes Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who said Wednesday that he’s told GOP leaders that all members should be tested when they return to the Capitol after a recess “so we’re not carriers coming back and forth.”

“I have said for weeks that I think it’s a good idea for us to be tested,” Alexander added.

While House Democrats implemented proxy voting in an effort to discourage at-risk members from flying back and forth to Washington, Republicans have refused to participate. The result is hundreds of lawmakers traveling from across the country — many coming from hot spots like Florida, Texas and Arizona — to vote and attend committee hearings in person.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi instituted a series of safety measures last month for when lawmakers are inside the Capitol, including a mandate to wear masks during committee hearings and encouraging masks anytime they are in the House chamber, though not all Republicans abide by those rules.

Both chambers also require members to vote in smaller groups to limit the number of people on the floor and frequently sanitize podiums and microphones. The House’s rules, overall, go further than the Senate’s; Majority Leader Mitch McConnell opposes the use of proxy voting on the floor.

But unlike several state legislatures, members and staff are not required to have their temperatures checked before entering the sprawling Capitol complex, nor are they required to be tested for the virus. Even during the previous coronavirus lockdowns across the country, hundreds of people streamed in and out of congressional buildings daily.

Members can get tested through the Capitol physician’s office, and those tests are more available now than they were in the early weeks of the pandemic, lawmakers and aides say.

Hoyer scorched Republicans like Gohmert for not following the guidance of the Capitol physician, including wearing masks, and said more may need to be done because of that to keep other lawmakers and staffers safe.

“Too many Republicans have continued to act extraordinarily irresponsibly, including Louie Gohmert. Louie Gohmert ought to quarantine himself right now,” Hoyer said.

Gohmert is one of several Republicans who has openly flouted the request for members to wear masks, despite nine lawmakers testing positive for the coronavirus in recent months. Dozens of staff inside the building, including Capitol Police officers, have also tested positive. White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told reporters Gohmert was asymptomatic.

Democrats have publicly rebuked GOP colleagues in recent weeks who have refused to wear masks, at times leading to tense confrontations during hearings. Just on Tuesday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler implored some Republicans to follow the rules and wear their mask while in the hearing room with Attorney General William Barr — which several, including ranking member Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), openly ignored.

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Coronavirus: The week when everything changed for Trump

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Getty Images

It’s as though in January 2017, Donald Trump was given a shiny, new car. The best, most beautiful car the world has ever seen. And in July 2020, the president made an important discovery about it.

It has a reverse gear.

It was an extra on the car he never thought he’d need – and certainly never intended to use. But on Monday, he put the car into reverse, and wrestle as he might with the gearstick and clutch, he now can’t stop the blasted thing from going backwards.

Or to change the metaphor – and borrow the language used this week by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to describe his Labour opponent – from the president this week there have been more flip-flops than Bournemouth beach.

Just to recap, masks – which the president used to deride as “politically correct” – are now an act of patriotism, and should always be worn when social distancing is impossible. Coronavirus, which until recently was being described in most instances as a bad case of the sniffles, is now something altogether more serious – and it is going to get worse before it gets better.

Two weeks ago the president was insisting that all schools had to reopen, or he would take away their funding. He’s now saying that, for some of the worst hit cities, that wouldn’t be appropriate – and appears much more empathetic towards parents wrestling with the decision about whether to allow their children resume in school education.

And the really big U-turn came last night on the Republican Convention in Jacksonville, Florida.

The president loves a crowd. A raucous, adoring crowd. The original plan had been to hold the event in Charlotte, North Carolina. But when the governor of that state said there would have to be social distancing, the president went ballistic, went after the governor, and announced huffily that the Republicans would go somewhere else. Jacksonville would be the venue for the tickertape and hoopla, and thousands of cheering and whooping Republicans.

Except it won’t be now.

It was a stunning and painful reverse, and one the president made with the heaviest of hearts.

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Media captionTrump pivots on masks: ‘I’m getting used to the mask’

The announcements have come on three consecutive nights of revitalised White House coronavirus briefings. In this iteration with the president flying solo, and not flanked by his medical advisers. But they have also been much more disciplined than when the president would spend a couple of hours at the lectern, musing on anything and everything – most memorably on whether disinfectant and sunlight should be injected into the body to treat coronavirus.

I was at that memorable briefing with the president, and I was back again for his briefing this Wednesday. This time around he was in and out in less than half an hour, stuck to the messages he wanted to deliver (OK, no-one had anticipated the bizarre foray into the legal difficulties facing Ghislaine Maxwell), and answered a handful of questions. He didn’t get riled. He didn’t get into fights. He did what he came to do. And then off.

All I would say is that Season 2 is nothing like as much fun as Season 1 – though the episodes are much shorter.

I sat discussing this one evening this week in the garden of someone closely involved in the doings of the administration. It was an insufferably humid evening and the thunder rolled around the city. We spent a time discussing the psychology of the president (yes, a common topic). And this person was making the point that he has an old-fashioned macho need never to appear weak. Even though he knows at times it would be smart to give ground and concede, that is unconscionable.

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Media captionThe lost six weeks when the US failed to control the virus

But if we are still playing pop psychology with the president’s brain – whose cognitive strengths we now all know: person, man, woman, camera, TV – there is one thing worse than being weak, and that is being a loser.

And though in public – for fear of looking weak – the president insists his campaign is winning, and the American people love him, and polls that show him sinking underwater are fake news, the reality is altogether more uncomfortable.

Let’s just take Florida, where Trump was to have made his Convention acceptance speech. It is the epicentre at the moment of the appalling surge in coronavirus cases. With its population of 21 million, last week it was diagnosing more new cases per day than the whole of the European Union (population 460 million). But Florida is also ground zero for US presidential elections. Just think Bush versus Gore in 2000.

It was a state Trump won comfortably in 2016. It was a state he thought he would breeze in November. But the latest Quinnipiac University poll has Democratic nominee Joe Biden 13 points ahead. Thirteen. That is massive. And there is a whole pile of other key swing states which show President Trump lagging behind.

What hasn’t changed in the past week is the science. You can be sure that his long-suffering public health advisors have been banging on about the same things like a broken gramophone. Masks, distancing, avoiding crowds. It may be that the president has had a Damascene conversion to listening to his doctors. Possible, but I have to say unlikely.

If we’re looking for a significant “thing” it is this. Last week, Trump fired his 2020 campaign manager, Brad Parscale, and installed a new one. And it appears Bill Stepien has sat the president down and given him the ice cold bucket of water. That the polls are awful, and going in the wrong direction; that all is not lost but quickly could spin out of control. That a change of direction and tone is urgently needed. Particularly when it comes to anything and everything to do with Covid-19.

It is worth inserting one proviso here. I don’t know Bill Stepien – although he gets very good reviews. But brilliant though he maybe, there is a bit of a pattern of the president making a new appointment, and then for the next two or three weeks he does what he is told – but then reverts to going with his gut; going with his instinct. The things that he will tell you have served him best throughout his long and colourful career. But we are in new territory.

For three and a half years the president has been able to define his own reality; to bend and fashion facts to suit his own narrative. The coronavirus has been unimpressed by his efforts. This has been a foe like none that Donald Trump has faced. And he has had to bend to its will. Not the other way round.

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Reuters

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With the latest White House coronavirus briefings, President Trump has been flying solo

What has happened this week is that what the polls are showing and what his scientists have been repeatedly calling for are totally aligned. And he really doesn’t want to be a loser in November.

The spectre of these 180s has brought much guffawing from liberal commentators. The man who only knows how to double down, now doubled up in the pain of these very public reverses. Oh happy days.

But they should be more cautious. The conversion may be insincere; may well be borne of polling necessity – but what a lot of Americans will see is their president behaving rationally and normally; making decisions consistent with the scale of the threat the American people are facing – and Americans are fearing. But, I hear you say, surely they won’t forget about all those things the president said in March and April when he played the pandemic down and urged the reopening of the US economy prematurely?

Well, all I would say is that the circus moves on quickly; everyone seems to have incredibly short memories. Who talks any more about Mueller? Or Russia? Or impeachment? The beam of the lighthouse doesn’t stay long in any one place. With our impatience for new developments, for new story lines, for plot twists, we seem to suffer collectively from attention deficit disorder. And this president understands that better than anyone.

Some will no doubt write that this has been the president’s worst week ever. If he wins in November it will come to be seen as his best.

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Joe Biden hammers Trump for handling of coronavirus pandemic

By BILL BARROW and ALEXANDRA JAFFE

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — Joe Biden took aggressive aim Tuesday at President Donald Trump’s fitness for the Oval Office, suggesting he has abdicated his duty to protect U.S. troops facing Russian enemies abroad and American citizens facing a pandemic and economic calamity at home.

Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, told reporters Trump has “a lot to answer for” concerning news reports that he was advised as early as March 2019 of intelligence that suggested Russia was offering bounties to the Taliban for the deaths of Americans. And, in prepared remarks, Biden accused Trump of “waving the white flag” as coronavirus cases spike nationwide and the death toll surpasses 125,000.

The one-two punch reflects the core of Biden’s candidacy, which he built on the argument that Trump is morally and temperamentally unfit to lead the nation. He sought again Tuesday to draw sharp contrasts with his own experience and style as a former vice president and longtime senator.

Biden stopped short of saying Trump had violated his oath of office or should face any consequences from Congress based on any inaction on potential Russian bounties. But he called it “an absolute dereliction of duty if any of this is even remotely true,” and, in that case, he added, “the public should, unrelated to my running, conclude that this man is unfit to be president of the United States of America.”

The Associated Press has reported that at least one of Trump’s daily intelligence briefings included evidence of Russian bounties. Trump has insisted that he was never briefed on such details because they weren’t credible.

Biden said Tuesday he has not had a classified briefing on the material or on Trump’s handling of it, but he said he may request one soon. Major-party nominees receive daily intelligence briefings, but Biden is not yet the official nominee, and he noted that he no longer has access to the same classified information that he could regularly review during his two terms as vice president.

Biden throughout the campaign has hammered Trump for “cozying up” to Russian President Vladimir Putin and other autocrats, and Biden warned as recently as Monday that Putin’s long-term goal is to destabilize NATO and Western alliances that have been in place since World War II.

Biden said Trump should have called his military and national security team together to reconcile any intelligence discrepancies on the Russian bounty reports. “He should have, at a minimum, picked up the phone and said, ’Vladimir, old buddy, if any of this is true … you’ve got a big problem,” Biden said.

The 77-year-old Biden also used Trump’s explanations – that he didn’t know about any such intelligence reports – to turn the tables on the president’s frequent mockery of Biden’s mental acuity. Biden said Trump, 74, “doesn’t seem to be cognitively aware,” and he embraced the possibility of general election debates. “I can hardly wait to compare my cognitive capability to the cognitive capability of the man I’m running against,” Biden said.

On the coronavirus, Biden lambasted Trump for not harnessing the power of the federal government.

“He called himself a wartime president. … What happened? Now it’s almost July, and it seems like our wartime president has surrendered, waved the white flag and left the battlefield.”

Biden said he’d implement a national system of testing for the virus and tracing the exposure path of those who are diagnosed. He said that’s necessary to restore the confidence that businesses, workers and consumers need to jump-start the economy. Biden added that widespread use of masks and social distancing practices must become normal protocol for the “foreseeable future,” and he warned that COVID-19 “will likely worsen” during the coming flu season.

“We can’t continue half recovering, half getting worse,” Biden said. “We can’t continue half with a plan and half just hoping for the best. We can’t defeat this virus with a piecemeal approach.”

He cast Trump as wanting to be a national “cheerleader” without backing it up with hard truths and action. “We need a president, Mr. President,” Biden said.

Trump’s reelection campaign countered that the president has been at the forefront of the nation’s coronavirus response.

While “Joe Biden spent the last 5 months trying to come up with a plan, the President has been leading one that slowed the spread, made us the world leader in testing, and reopened our economy,” Ali Pardo, deputy communications director, said in a statement.

The former vice president said that one of his first actions as president, if he wins, would be to ask Dr. Anthony Fauci, the federal government’s leading infectious-disease expert, to continue serving. Trump has often contradicted Fauci’s guidelines on the coronavirus. Fauci warned at a Senate hearing Tuesday that he wouldn’t be surprised if the daily count of new cases reaches 100,000 without further intervention.

Biden delivered his remarks just miles from his residence, where he’s spent most of his campaign time since early March. That’s when governors and mayors around the country first began issuing stay-at-home orders and social distancing guidelines to prevent the pandemic’s spread.

For the first time, Biden weighed in Tuesday on the widespread push to take down monuments and honors for long-dead Americans who held white supremacist views. He drew a contrast between Confederate Civil War figures and those who helped found the nation, even if they owned slaves.

“The idea of comparing whether or not George Washington owned slaves or Thomas Jefferson owned slaves and somebody who was in rebellion, committing treason, trying to take down a union to keep slavery — I think there’s a distinction there,” Biden said.

He said statues of Washington and Jefferson should be protected, despite the fact “they may have things in their past that are now, and then, distasteful.”

___

Barrow reported from Atlanta.

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Joe Biden speech: Trump has ‘surrendered’ against coronavirus

In a speech in Wilmington, Delaware, the former vice president recounted what he cast as Trump’s missteps, from Trump’s early dismissals of the virus to his more recent refusals to wear a mask in public appearances.

Pointing to Trump in March declaring himself a wartime president in battling the coronavirus, Biden said: “What happened? Now it’s almost July, and it seems like our wartime president has surrendered — waved the white flag and left the battlefield.”

Biden’s remarks came as recent polls of voters nationally and in key swing states show him with a lead over Trump. Biden’s public appearances in recent months have been limited to small, invite-only crowds.

The 77-year-old former vice president appeared eager to respond to the Trump campaign portraying him as in cognitive decline, a case often made using out-of-context video from Biden’s public appearances. He said he “can hardly wait” to debate the 74-year-old Trump.

Biden also chided Trump for either failing to read or forgetting the contents of the daily briefing delivered to the President. The White House has denied that Trump was “personally briefed” on reports that Russia offered bounties to Taliban fighters to kill US troops in Afghanistan, claiming that the intelligence “wasn’t verified.”

“If he wasn’t briefed, it was a dereliction of duty. And if he was briefed and he didn’t do anything, that’s a dereliction of duty,” Biden said.

And, when asked by a reporter if he has been tested for any sort of cognitive decline, Biden said: “I can hardly wait to compare my cognitive capability to the cognitive capability of the man I’m running against.”

Biden’s speech tied together proposals he has issued in recent months, including calls for a national board to oversee a “massive surge” in coronavirus testing.

He framed most of his remarks as directly addressing Trump, urging the President to adopt Biden’s proposals immediately.

“You know the steps you’ve taken so far haven’t gotten the job done, Mr. President. Fix the shortage of PPE for our health care workers before you tee off another round of golf,” Biden said.

Biden’s plan includes offering free coronavirus testing to all Americans. It also calls for 100,000 people to be hired to form a national contact tracing workforce, as well as a doubling of drive-through testing sites.

He is also urging Trump to use the Defense Production Act to ramp up production of protective equipment for health care workers, testing supplies and other supplies.

His plan includes a series of steps designed to help businesses and schools reopen, including financial support for retaining and rehiring workers, building a best-practices clearinghouse for schools and guaranteeing paid leave for anyone with coronavirus or who is caring for someone with the virus.

Biden said he would call Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, shortly after being declared the winner of the general election to ask him to remain on in his position of director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a post Fauci has held since 1984.

He also criticized Trump’s administration for what he cast as a piecemeal state-by-state approach to whether and how businesses can reopen.

“We need real plans, real guidelines, with uniform, nationwide standards, to help us chart our economic re-opening. Whatever we’ve been doing now is not working. The state-by-state approach will only produce confusion and slow any progress,” he said.

Biden said there should be federal guidance “that everyone needs to wear a mask in public, period. Period.”

“Wear a mask. It’s not just about you. It’s about your family. It’s about your neighbors. It’s about your colleagues. It’s about keeping other people safe,” he said.

During his first question-and-answer session with reporters in months, Biden said he planned to announce his vice presidential running mate by early August — potentially later than the August 1 deadline he had previously set.

Biden was also asked by reporters Tuesday about the cultural battle around the removal of monuments. He drew a distinction between former Confederate leaders, who he said belong in museums, and slave-owners who played pivotal roles in the founding of the United States, statues of whom he said should remain in place.

“The idea of comparing whether or not George Washington owned slaves or Thomas Jefferson owned slaves and somebody who was in rebellion, committing treason, trying to take down a union to keep slavery — I think there’s a distinction there,” Biden said.

He said statues of Christopher Columbus, Washington and Jefferson should be protected, even though “they may have things in their past that are now, and then, distasteful.”

This story has been updated.

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Joe Biden hammers Trump for handling of coronavirus pandemic

By BILL BARROW and ALEXANDRA JAFFE

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — Joe Biden said Tuesday that President Donald Trump has a “lot to answer for” amid reports that he was advised as early as March 2019 of intelligence that suggested Russia was offering bounties to the Taliban for the deaths of Americans.

“It’s an absolute dereliction of duty if any of this is even remotely true,” the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee told reporters in Wilmington, Delaware, after giving a speech excoriating Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden stopped short of saying Trump had violated his oath of office or should face any consequences from Congress, which has already impeached and tried him on charges related to his handling of foreign affairs. But, Biden, said, “If these allegations are true and he did nothing about any of this, then in fact I think the public should, unrelated to my running, conclude that this man is unfit to be president of the United States of America.”

The Associated Press has reported that at least one of Trump’s daily intelligence briefings included evidence of Russian bounties. Trump has insisted that he was never briefed on such details because they weren’t credible.

Biden said Tuesday that he has not had a classified briefing on the material or on Trump’s handling of it, but he said he may request one soon. Major party nominees receive daily intelligence briefings, but Biden is not yet the official nominee, and he noted that he no longer has access to the same classified information that he could regularly review during his two terms as vice president.

Alluding to that experience, Biden said Trump “at a minimum” should have called the Joint Chiefs of Staff together with other national security leaders and pushed to reconcile any discrepancies in the intelligence and draw a firm conclusion. And he said, were he president, he would call Russian President Vladimir Putin and say, “Vladimir, old buddy, if any of this is true … you’ve got a big problem.”

Biden has, throughout the campaign, hammered Trump for “cozying up” to Putin and other autocratic leaders across the globe, and Biden warned as recently as Monday that Putin’s long-term goal is to destabilize NATO and Western alliances that have been in place since World War II. He has said repeatedly that if Trump is reelected, NATO will cease to exist in any meaningful form.

The Q&A with reporters and the speech that preceded it was an opportunity for Biden to draw sharp contrasts with Trump on topics including foreign policy, the pandemic and cognitive ability.

Biden noted that Trump’s explanation of not knowing about intelligence on Russia was evidence of a president who “doesn’t seem to be cognitively aware of what’s going on.” Trump, 74, and his allies have repeatedly pushed the narrative that Biden, 77, is mentally unfit for the presidency.

“I can hardly wait to compare my cognitive capability to the cognitive capability of the man I’m running against,” Biden said.

On the coronavirus pandemic, Biden said that Trump is “waving the white flag” and refusing to lead the country through a pandemic that has killed 125,000 Americans and led to Depression-level unemployment.

“Despite the administration’s propaganda that their response should be a cause for celebration, despite President Trump’s request that we should slow down testing because he thinks that makes it look bad, COVID-19 is still here,” Biden said. “It didn’t have to be this way.”

Biden said a national system of testing for the virus and tracing the exposure path of those who are diagnosed is necessary to restore confidence for businesses to reopen and consumers to reengage in the economy. And he added that widespread use of masks and social distancing practices must be come normal protocol for the “foreseeable future,” and he warned that COVID-19 “will likely worsen” during the coming flu season.

“We can’t continue half recovering, half getting worse,” Biden said. “We can’t continue half with a plan and half just hoping for the best. We can’t defeat this virus with a piecemeal approach.”

Biden said he has not been tested for the virus but expects to be tested “relatively soon,” and he noted that Secret Service agents and staff who are around him are tested regularly.

Biden’s campaign said separately that one of his first actions as president, if he wins, would be to ask Dr. Anthony Fauci, the federal government’s leading infectious-disease expert, to continue serving. Trump has often contradicted Fauci’s guidelines on the coronavirus, and the veteran of six administrations has been out of public view at times in recent weeks as COVID-19 cases have spiked across the country.

Biden delivered his remarks just miles from his residence, where he’s spent most of his campaign time since early March, when governors and mayors around the country first began issuing stay-at-home orders and social distancing guidelines to prevent the pandemic’s spread.

As he has for weeks, Biden hammered Trump for giving Americans a “false choice” between “lives and livelihoods.”

Biden reminded voters of actions he’s called for over several months, in contrast to Trump downplaying the virus and bemoaning governors’ orders to shut down businesses. Biden said he’d implement those plans as president, focusing on a national testing-and-tracing system that he touts as the key to restoring enough confidence for businesses to reopen safely and consumers to re-engage with the economy.

Biden also emphasized personal protective equipment and investments in vaccine research and treatment methods.

Biden called in March for Trump to use the Defense Production Act, usually a wartime statute, to direct private sector manufacturing capacity to produce more health care materials needed to prevent, treat and combat the virus. Trump later said he was invoking the act to ramp up production of ventilators, though he spent weeks arguing that governors should be responsible for securing their own supplies.

Biden acknowledged Tuesday that his recommendations were repetitions of things he called for weeks or even months ago. That, he said, is simply because Trump hasn’t done his job.

___

Associated Press writer Bill Barrow contributed to this report from Atlanta.

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John Bolton says Trump turned ‘a blind eye’ to the coronavirus pandemic

“I think there is an empty chair in the Oval Office, because the President did not want to hear bad news about Xi Jinping, his friend. He did not want to hear bad news about the cover-up of the virus in China, or its potential effect on the China trade deal that he wants so much. And he didn’t want to hear about the potential impact of a pandemic on the American economy and its effect on his reelection. Turning a blind eye to all these early signs I think hampered the country’s ability to deal with this, and continues to do so,” Bolton told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on “The Situation Room.”

Asked if he had confidence in Trump’s handling of the pandemic, Bolton responded: “I do not.”

“I am afraid that the erratic nature of the policies as they’ve evolved since January when the experts really began to sense that this problem might be out there has characterized our response throughout. And I’m worried that it continues to be the pattern that the President follows. It’s not part of a comprehensive strategy. I think in a country the size of the United States, state and local authorities should have a big role, but at the federal level, the response has not been consistent,” he said.

Bolton’s interview with CNN follows the release of his book, titled “The Room Where it Happened.” The book has been subject to a months-long legal battle between him and the Trump administration, which in a last ditch attempt last week asked a judge for emergency help to stop the book’s publication.

The White House had argued that Bolton has breached non-disclosure agreements and risks national security by exposing classified information.

A federal judge on Saturday blocked the Trump administration’s attempt to prevent the publication of the book — but left open the possibility that Bolton could face criminal charges or be forced to hand over profits related to the book.

Bolton acknowledged that he may not get millions of dollars in profits from his book, depending on what the judge rules.

“I am prepared to accept that,” he said.

When asked if he was prepared to go to jail, Bolton said he does not see any reason for that to happen.

Why didn’t Bolton testify?

Bolton asserted again Wednesday that his testimony during impeachment proceedings would not have mattered because Democrats in the House immediately determined that the probe would focus “only on the Ukraine situation.”

“By determining right from the get-go that they were going to focus only on the Ukraine situation, and they were gonna ram it through as fast as they could, so it didn’t affect the Democratic presidential nomination process, drove House Republicans who might have been open to a broader consideration, a less partisan consideration, they drove those Republicans into their partisan corner, and it had the same effect in the Senate,” he said.

But that claim prompted strong pushback from former impeachment special council Norm Eisen who said Bolton’s argument was “nonsense.”

“Nonsense. I was a principal drafter of the articles of impeachment and I can tell you that broader obstruction issues were under consideration until the last minute,” he told CNN, shortly after Bolton’s comments.

Bolton calls Trump 'naïve and dangerous' and hopes he'll be remembered as a one-term president

“Indeed, you can see that from the Judiciary hearing in December where I and others questioned experts about, as Bolton would put it, ‘obstruction as a way of life.’ Look at the transcript and the exhibits for that hearing, and the press coverage which noted as much. Bolton is desperately rewriting history to palliate his own painful conscience. He knows he could have made a difference; instead he decided to make a buck,” Eisen added.

Bolton has consistently justified his absence during the impeachment inquiry by claiming that House Democrats are at fault.

House Democrats wanted Bolton to testify last year, but he refused to do so, threatening a legal battle if he was subpoenaed. Bolton offered to testify during the Senate impeachment trial, but Republicans voted to reject hearing from any witnesses.

Bolton wrote in his book that the Democrats’ conducted a hurried, partisan investigation, and accused them of committing “impeachment malpractice” by only focusing on Trump’s involvement with Ukraine.

Democrats have criticized Bolton for caring more about his book sales than Trump’s misconduct, while Republicans continue to question Bolton’s credibility and accused him of having an ax to grind.

Trump not a racist

Bolton also told CNN that he does not see Trump as being racist.

“I do not see that in his comments. I think he could be accused of insensitivity. I think we could all be accused of insensitivity,” Bolton told Blitzer.

He added he was perplexed about Trump’s recent efforts to double down on racist rhetoric. “I do not know what he is doing quite honestly,” Bolton said of the racist rhetoric from Trump.

Bolton also told Blitzer that he had a resignation letter ready to go for some time before finally using it.

“I think at least for some of us we almost joked about it … I had a two sentence letter of resignation written for quite some time before I actually pulled it out of the drawer and made it effective,” he said.

“I knew that going in. I knew what people said about the President. I believed I could make it work. I did my best to try. And the history, I’ve written in the book,” Bolton said.

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She kept her scissors going in South Korea’s postwar years. The coronavirus hasn’t stopped her

Lee Duk-hoon’s humble storefront in a hilly neighborhood in Seoul is called Sae Eeyongwon — “New Barbershop.”

Little about the place is new. The shop opened in 1975. Lee is 85; her barber’s license is from 1958. One of her straight razors — German-made, steel blade — is six decades old, younger than many of her regulars.

She started trimming hair and giving shaves at 19, at a time when women did not work outside the home, much less cut men’s hair. People did double takes at the diminutive, round-faced girl with pigtails snipping hair alongside her barber father in postwar Korea. They seemed bemused when she passed the test to become the first female barber in the country.

Lee never gave much thought to her place as a woman in a man’s world. There were six younger siblings to be clothed, fed and put through school and, later, a husband and four sons to support. Through a dictatorship, a coup, democratization and an economic marvel, through a woman’s rise to president and subsequent impeachment, she continued clipping away.

“No matter how much the world changes, people still need their hair cut,” she said. “If your hair’s a mess, the world is a mess.”

The world, lately, has indeed been a mess.

Lee Duk-hoon, 85, trims a customer’s hair inside her decades-old barbershop in Seoul as a television drama plays in the background.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

She and many of her customers were among those most imperiled by the coronavirus that’s upended much of humanity. Half of those who have died in South Korea were 80 or older, despite the fact that they accounted for fewer than 5% of the infected. One in 4 of those infected in her age group died.

At New Barbershop, increasingly ominous newscasts on the TV set filled the quiet between customers in the cluttered one-room quarters where Lee lives and works. Unlike in many other countries, South Korea hasn’t had to close barbershops and other businesses in its fight against the pandemic — as yet.

That could change any moment as the country warily monitors outbreaks cropping up in and around Seoul, averaging about 50 new cases each day in recent weeks.

Throughout it all, Lee coped the only way she knew how — bringing order to a chaotic world one head of hair at a time.

::

The years of wielding scissors have turned her hands knobby and sinewy. So much black hair dye for her graying clientele has seeped into her fingertips and nails, the stains eventually stopped washing off.

Lee Duk-hoon at work at her Seoul barbershop

Lee Duk-hoon cuts hair for Kang Ung-kwon, a travel agent who’s been coming to her for about five years, at her shop in Seoul.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Her hands remain as nimble and strong as ever, dancing around a customer’s crown, a snip here, a snip there, flashes in the afternoon light.

Among those who’ve had their hair tamed by Lee over the decades are Hyundai founder Chung Ju-yung, who used to come in for trims, and infamous crime boss Kim Du-han, a mountain of a man with a pockmarked face, who seldom spoke. Several important politicians came and went too, but their names and places in history are a blur.

Kang Ung-kwon, a travel agent, came to Lee on a recent afternoon for his bimonthly cut to unload a bit of hair and a bit of worry.

At 62, he was among her younger customers. His agency, with six employees, had been shuttered since April, with no telling when it’ll start booking trips again.

“It’s rough. My weeks used to be, Mon., Tues., Weds., Thurs., Fri., Fri., Fri.,” he griped, settling into the frayed black leather barber’s chair, as Lee got to work trimming his thick head of hair. “Sat., Sat., Sat., Sat., Sun., Sun., Sun., it turns out, is much harder.”

Kang started coming to Lee about five years ago after his go-to shop near his office closed. Barbershops, along with the generation that grew up going to them regularly, were fast vanishing — most trend-conscious South Korean men these days preferred to get their cuts at swank hair salons.

Seongbuk-gu, the district where Lee lives and works, was once home to more than 300 barbershops; now there are around 80.

Barber Lee Duk-hoon shows old family photographs at her shop in Seoul

At her shop in Seoul, barber Lee Duk-hoon shows old photographs of herself, her late husband and family members.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

“You can’t leave your precious hair to just anybody,” Lee said, draping a yellowing cape around his neck.

Usually, Kang just gets a haircut. But on this day, with the afternoon stretching ahead of him, he also asked for an old-school shave with Gillette foam.

“You haven’t any wrinkles because you have no worries to make you frown,” she told him, lathering his chin. “You must’ve had good parents, and a good wife and children.”

Kang marveled at Lee’s straight razor; the way it gleamed and glided over his cheek.

“People these days don’t know how to use this thing,” he said. “It’s like something out of a Clint Eastwood western.”

Barber Lee Duk-hoon's tools of the trade and her diary

Barber Lee Duk-hoon’s tools of the trade, left, and the diaries she has kept over the years.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

::

Lee opens the doors to her shop at 9 a.m. each day and walks out front with still-bleary eyes, scattering puffed rice for a flock of pigeons that have arrived in anticipation of a sidewalk feast.

She neatly combs what’s left of her hair and twirls it into a tidy knot above the nape of her neck, before donning her bug-eye glasses.
She dabs on moisturizer and raspberry-colored lipstick, smacking her lips.

Her white barber’s coat — splotched with dye, missing two of three buttons and its too-long sleeves rolled up — will hang on a chair until a customer walks through the doors.

The phone rings. It’s her baby sister — she’s 70 — checking in on her.

Lee Duk-hoon

Lee Duk-hoon looks out the window after having lunch and taking a break from her work as a barber.

(Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times)

“There isn’t a soul on the street because corona’s flared up again,” Lee tells her, talking into a corded landline phone perched atop a stack of books. “Let’s just worry about today. Think about tomorrow when tomorrow comes. When did we ever live comfortably?”

Business had been bad for years before the virus hit. There was a time when Lee would give upward of 50 haircuts in a day. By day’s end, she’d lose feeling in her hands. Demand peaked in the 1970s, when a military dictatorship banned long hair on men as unsanitary and detrimental to social order, and policemen cracked down on those with locks that reached below the ear.

Barber Lee Duk-hoon gives customer a hand as he dries off after his haircut in Seoul

Lee Duk-hoon gives customer Kang Ung-kwon a hand as he dries off after his haircut at her shop in Seoul.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

In recent years, she was lucky if she got a half-dozen customers a day.

That was plenty, though, for her to pay her bills and buy food. Her modest prices — 10,000 won, or about $8 for a cut — haven’t budged in more than a decade. For seniors and a neighbor with cerebral palsy, she charges half price.

When a neighborhood man in a tattered hiking jacket hands Lee a 10,000 won bill for his monthly haircut, she stuffs three 1,000 won bills back in his hand. He insists on giving one of them back to her.

The man, who is pushing 70, has been coming since he was in his 20s. She knows full well where the vicissitudes of life have left him, as he does of her.

“I just need my regulars,” Lee said. “It’s not like I’ll be taking anything with me when I go.”

So many have gone ahead. A husband, two sons and two sisters. An infant daughter who wasted away before her first birthday because her mother didn’t have enough to eat to produce milk — whose death she still mourns now, decades later, not having had the time or heart then.

Lee Duk-hoon greets a neighbor outside her Seoul barbershop

Lee Duk-hoon, second from left, greets passing neighbors outside her Seoul barbershop, where rickety chairs provide a seat from which to watch the world go by.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

She had to provide for her family; her husband, disabled in a car accident, couldn’t.

And then there were the two others she aborted, fearing they would suffer the same fate in the abject poverty the country suffered in the ruins of war, poorer than North Korea and most developing nations.

And the decades-long customers whose stories stay with her even though they’ve gone, including two she visited regularly on their deathbeds.

Lee Duk-hoon at her barbershop and living quarters in Seoul

Lee Duk-hoon climbs onto her bed to retrieve an item at the barbershop, which is also her home.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

“People who started coming at 50 are over 90 now. When they stop coming, I figure, they’re dead,” she said. “They’re more like family than customers.”

::

Four rickety chairs sit in front of Lee’s store, providing a neighborhood rest stop for anyone in need of a pause.

On quiet afternoons, she sits out front, enjoying the breeze, admiring her flowerpots and watching the world go by.

A Rolls-Royce and a Maserati roll past, as does a man lugging a handcart piled high with cardboard boxes for recycling.

Pimply schoolboys in their uniforms with a curtain of hair hanging past their eyebrows walk by in twos and threes. How can they even see ahead with hair like that, she wonders out loud.

Lee Duk-hoon waits for customers at barbershop in Seoul.

Lee Duk-hoon looks out onto the street for potential customers at her barbershop in Seoul.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

A nonagenarian neighbor, in a hat with a flower and purple pants, ambles over with a cane to sit next to Lee, as she does most afternoons. They greet passersby, gossip about neighbors and hum songs from their youth.

The lull between customers has stretched longer and longer of late. The contagion that had seemed close to being stamped out has continued to flare up, increasingly in Seoul and surrounding areas.

Column One

A showcase for compelling storytelling
from the Los Angeles Times.

She’s known war and poverty far more devastating than this virus, but it seems few others share her perspective.

It’ll take more than a pandemic, though, to pry the scissors out of Lee’s hands.

On a recent morning, a real estate agent looking for new listings cold-called the shop and asked Lee if she had any plans to retire and give up her lease. How much longer was she going to keep working, the agent asked.

“I’m going to do this until I die,” Lee told her. “This is the one thing I know how to do.”

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Joe Biden releases plan to reopen US economy amid coronavirus

By WILL WEISSERT and ALEXANDRA JAFFE

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Joe Biden is adopting an increasingly aggressive stance as he looks to break out of a monthslong campaign freeze imposed by the coronavirus outbreak.

Over the course of 24 hours, the presumptive Democratic nominee sharpened his rhetoric against President Donald Trump, warning he could try to steal the election. His campaign organized a petition pressing Facebook to boost its efforts to prevent the spread of misinformation. And he released a plan to restart an economy slammed by the coronavirus in a way that he says won’t make Americans choose between their health and livelihoods.

The quick succession of developments signals Biden’s growing desire to become more assertive. He’s betting that he can build momentum by offering a contrast to Trump’s leadership as the country is gripped by the pandemic, economic turmoil and unrest stemming from racial injustice and police brutality.

“Trump has basically had a one-point plan: Open businesses,” Biden said Thursday at an economic roundtable in Philadelphia, where he announced a plan to reopen the economy. “It does nothing to keep workers safe, to keep businesses able to stay open, and secondly it does very little to increase consumer confidence.”

If elected, Biden promised to guarantee testing and protective equipment for people called back to work, while prohibiting discrimination against elderly Americans and others at high risk of contracting the virus. He also wants to use federal funds to ensure paid leave for anyone who falls ill or cares for those who do.

He proposed a national contact tracing workforce or “job corps” of at least 100,000 to call people who test positive, track down their contacts and get them into quarantine. That figure aligns with an estimate from the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. Health experts agree that contact tracing is crucial to slowing the spread of the virus and that there aren’t enough public health workers today to achieve what’s needed.

Biden also pledged a “Nationwide Pandemic Dashboard,” where Americans could check the virus’ spreading by zip code. Josh Michaud, associate director of global health policy with the Kaiser Family Foundation in Washington, said it remains unclear “if that information would be timely and accurate enough to reflect true levels of risk in a way that would be helpful to individuals, businesses and institutions in each community.”

Still, “It might be helpful to have such information to better target resources and identify the most at risk communities on a more fine grain level,” Michaud said. “As we have seen done in a few places like different New York City boroughs.”

Biden backed more funding for schools and child care centers as they reopen and the creation of a “safe shopper” program meant to make returning consumers less wary of getting sick.

He referenced the potentially eye-popping price tag of all that, joking, “There goes that big spending Democrat again” but added, “If we don’t do this, we’re going to be in deep, deep, deeper trouble economically.”

As the plan was being released, his campaign circulated an online petition urging Facebook to strengthen its misinformation rules. Social media giant Twitter has already drawn Trump’s ire by imposing stricter limits on how he and others use the social media network.

“We’re sending Facebook a letter demanding that the company change its policies to crack down on misinformation in ads and ensure a fair election,” the petition reads. Facebook responded that “the people’s elected representatives should set the rules, and we will follow them.

“There is an election coming in November and we will protect political speech,” the company said in a statement “even when we strongly disagree with it.”

As his campaign strikes at Facebook, Biden is also dramatically increasing spending on the platform. It outlaid millions of dollars on ads that are themed around the protests sweeping the country and Trump’s response to them.

After remaining at home for months, Biden has begun holding public events within driving distance of his house in Delaware. But his more aggressive approach has so far not extended to resuming large campaign rallies.

That is in contrast to Trump, who flew to Dallas on Thursday for a $10 million fundraiser and says he’ll begin holding a series of rallies starting next week in Oklahoma. Biden’s campaign says it will resume normal campaign travel and events when public health officials and authorities say it’s safe.

Melissa Reed, a spokesperson for Trump Victory in Pennsylvania, said voters “don’t want to return to the stagnant economic growth under the Obama-Biden Administration, they want a Great American Comeback under President Trump.” The president’s reelection campaign also criticized Biden for offering a plan to jump start the economy “six weeks too late.”

Biden’s economic proposals and Facebook criticism followed him saying Trump will attempt to “steal” November’s election.

“My single greatest concern: This president’s going to try and steal this election,” Biden said on “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah,” which aired Wednesday night. “This is a guy who said all mail-in ballots are fraudulent, voting by mail, while he sits behind the desk in the Oval Office and writes his mail-in ballot to vote in the primary.”

Biden said he’d considered what would happen if Trump refused to vacate the presidency in the event he wasn’t reelected, before suggesting that the military could step in to ensure a peaceful transition of power.

“I am absolutely convinced they will escort him from the White House with great dispatch,” he said.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany responded that Biden was making “a ridiculous proposition.”

Trump argues that absentee voting, which many states are expanding to avoid large crowds at polling places during the coronavirus outbreak, increases the possibility of fraud. There is little evidence to support that assertion, and Trump himself has voted by mail in the past.

Still, a chaotic Tuesday primary in Georgia may foreshadow a messy November election. Biden said on the “Daily Show” that his campaign would hire lawyers to observe balloting in “every district in the country.”

___

Weissert reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Carla K. Johnson in Washington state contributed to this report.

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Joe Biden releases plan to reopen US economy amid coronavirus

By ALEXANDRA JAFFE and WILL WEISSERT

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Joe Biden on Thursday released a plan that he says can jump-start an economy in free fall from the coronavirus pandemic and said he is better positioned than President Donald Trump to safeguard businesses and their employees and create jobs without taking unnecessary health risks.

Trump’s Democratic challenger is promising to guarantee testing for the virus and protective equipment for people called back to work, use federal money to ensure paid leave for anyone who becomes sick and oversee thousands of new hires to help track the spread of illness.

“Trump has basically had a one-point plan: open businesses,” Biden said at an event in Philadelphia with business owners and Rep. Dwight Evans, D-Pa. “It does nothing to keep workers safe, to keep businesses able to stay open, and secondly it does very little to increase consumer confidence.”

After remaining home for months during a campaign frozen by the virus, Biden has begun holding public events within driving distance of his house in Delaware. Unlike Trump, he has yet to schedule rallies. His campaign says it plans to do so when public health officials say it’s safe.

Biden’s plan would seek to protect from discrimination older people, those with disabilities and others at high risk of infection from the coronavirus. He envisions a “safer shoppers” program intended to make consumers feel more secure. It would provide state and local officials with money to certify when businesses are complying with testing rules and conducting “spot checks as necessary” to prevent the spread of the coronavrius.

He also wants to make more money available for small businesses and provide dollars for schools and child care centers reopening.

Biden announced the plan a day after saying that his chief worry is that Trump will attempt to “steal” the November election, and the Democratic challenger says he’s even considered the possibility that the Republican incumbent would refuse to leave the White House should he lose.

“My single greatest concern: This president’s going to try and steal this election,” Biden said on “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah,” which aired Wednesday night. “This is a guy who said all mail-in ballots are fraudulent, voting by mail, while he sits behind the desk in the Oval Office and writes his mail-in ballot to vote in the primary.”

Biden was asked whether he’s considered what would happen if Trump refused to vacate the presidency in the event he wasn’t reelected. “I have,” Biden said, before suggesting that the military could step in to ensure a peaceful transition of power.

“I am absolutely convinced they will escort him from the White House with great dispatch,” the former vice president said.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany responded that Biden was taking “a ridiculous proposition.”

“This president’s looking forward to November,” McEnany told Fox News Channel’s “America’s Newsroom.” “This president’s hard at work for the American people. And leave it to Democrats to go out there and grandstand and level these conspiracy theories.”

Biden’s comments come as Trump has intensified his claim that absentee voting, which many states are expanding to avoid large crowds at polling places during the coronavirus pandemic, increases the possibility of fraud. There is little evidence to support that assertion; Trump himself has voted by mail in the past.

A chaotic Tuesday primary in Georgia, where there were problems with voting machines and long lines, may foreshadow a messy November election.

Trump on Thursday planned to resume in-person fundraising events after a three-month hiatus as his campaign tries to maintain a steep cash advantage over Biden. The president has scheduled a campaign rally in Oklahoma next week.

Biden has previously suggested that Trump’s opposition to mail-in ballots could upend the presidential election. “This president, mark my words, I think he’s going to try to kick back the election somehow, come up with a rationale why it can’t be held,” he said during an April fundraiser.

“He’s already trying to undermine the election with false claims of voter fraud and threatening to block essential COVID assistance if any extra funds go to the U.S. Postal Service,” Biden said at the time. “What in God’s name was that about other than trying to let the word out that he’s going to do all that he can to make it very hard for people to vote.”

During the “Daily Show” interview, Biden also said that more than 20 states had passed 80-plus pieces of legislation “making it harder for people vote.” He said his campaign was assembling a team of lawyers to observe balloting in “every district in the country.”