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Biden presses Trump to act on unemployment, says 'extraordinary steps' are needed

Biden presses Trump to act on unemployment, says 'extraordinary steps' are needed

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden adds to vote margin over Trump after Milwaukee County recount Krebs says allegations of foreign interference in 2020 election 'farcical'  New DOJ rule could allow executions by electrocution, firing squad MORE pressed President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden adds to vote margin over Trump after Milwaukee County recount Krebs says allegations of foreign interference in 2020 election 'farcical'  Republicans ready to become deficit hawks again under a President Biden MORE to take “extraordinary steps” to curb the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic as a record number of Americans file for unemployment.

“The economic damage from the worst public health crisis our country has faced in generations is both rising and deepening at an alarming rate. It is putting working families and the American middle class through unimaginable financial pain — and they need to be made whole as fast as possible,” Biden, who is the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, said in a statement.

“The economic devastation that families all across this country are experiencing by no fault of their own means we have to take extraordinary steps to protect them," he continued.

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The statement comes just hours after the Department of Labor announced that more than 6.6 million people filed initial unemployment claims for the week ending March 28, more than doubling the roughly 3.3 million seasonally adjusted initial claims from the previous week, which was itself a massive spike. 

The skyrocketing unemployment claims underscore the reverberations of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has shuttered thousands of businesses.

Biden said Trump has a responsibility to help states provide economic relief to those impacted by the virus and should stop blaming state governments for what he says is inadequate action. 

“No blame games or finger-points — the President has to take responsibility for helping the states make that happen. We still need to keep as many workers on payroll as possible, and as many small businesses in business. And we need to get the direct cash relief into Americans’ bank accounts without delay.”

Trump's reelection campaign fired back at Biden, accusing him of "sniping from the sidelines" to refocus attention on his presidential bid.

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“President Trump is leading the nation through the coronavirus crisis, but Joe Biden has decided to fill the role of the opposition, ineffectively sniping from the sidelines, stumbling through television interviews, and hoping for relevance and political gain," said Tim Murtaugh, the Trump campaign's communications director.

"Meanwhile, President Trump has been hard at work, negotiating the relief package for unemployed workers and affected businesses and leading in this time of crisis. The President’s policies drove the American economy to the greatest heights in half a century, and he is the best person to lead us through this difficult period.”

Biden has been among the loudest Democratic voices accusing the Trump administration of failing to act swiftly enough to blunt the spread of the coronavirus. However, his presidential campaign said Wednesday that Biden and Trump will speak over the phone about the pandemic. 

Over 216,000 Americans have been infected with COVID-19, and more than 5,000 have died.

—Updated at 12:32 p.m.