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Guest opinion

Kirkpatrick: COVID-19 requires leadership only Joe Biden offers

The COVID-19 pandemic is unlike anything we have seen before; the way we live has fundamentally changed and brought a degree of anxiety and uncertainty to our families. It is posing a unique and unprecedented public health challenge to the nation as well as severe and immediate economic implications.

In Arizona alone, close to 420,000 people have sought unemployment benefits since mid-March. The University of Arizona, one of the state's largest employers, just announced plans to furlough employees and cut pay for others. Over 25,000 Arizonans asked for the state's assistance to pay rent in the last week alone.

This moment requires true presidential leadership to help coordinate an integrated, national response to this pandemic. It is not a "strategy" to leave a global pandemic response up to the states. Our president needs to possess the understanding of the importance of working with our states to beat this pandemic, as well as a sense of empathy to understand the far-reaching toll COVID-19 is placing on families across the country. Donald Trump does not appear to possess much presidential leadership at this moment, but we do have the opportunity to shift courses in November by electing Joe Biden.

As vice president, Joe was instrumental in helping Arizonans recover following the Great Recession. Our fast-growing economy and population met an unforeseen challenge as the United States faced an economic downturn that we had not seen since the Great Depression. The moment required real leadership on behalf of the American people, who were in dire need of a clear vision and strong execution to help us recover. We got that from Vice President Biden.

In Congress at the time, I had the opportunity to work with Joe to secure the passage of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, which provided billions of dollars in funding to the state, including for community colleges, state infrastructure, and even community food banks. During the implementation process, I fought for additional resources for our rural communities and Joe delivered, putting Arizona families and working people first. I have seen Joe's effective leadership during a crisis firsthand, and I know he can deliver.

As we bear the economic repercussions of the COVID-19 impact, we need similarly clear, strong, and human-centric leadership from our president. Joe is offering just that in his comprehensive policy proposals to guide us through this pandemic and beyond.

First, Joe's "Make It Work" checklist specifically outlines best practices to ensure the best implementation of the CARES Act, put working people first, and hold the Trump administration accountable. Additionally, his recent plan to scale up employment insurance would be particularly helpful for Arizona's small businesses that are vulnerable right now. Joe has also called on lawmakers to lower the Medicare eligibility age to 60, reinforcing his commitment to making affordable healthcare accessible to Americans most vulnerable to COVID-19. And, Biden has stood in solidarity with our essential farmworkers to ensure they have access to paid sick leave and are treated with dignity as they feed our families. And, he's laid out a responsible plan to reopen America — a plan that doesn't compromise the safety of Arizonans and relies on science and facts.

For Joe, none of this is partisan or political; it's about delivering for our families and getting them the relief they need immediately. It's why he has offered up his advice to President Trump and it's what has guided Joe's entire career in public service — putting personal differences aside and making people's lives better. We need that presidential leadership now, more than ever. We must make it a reality by electing Joe Biden our next president in November.

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U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick represents Arizona’s CD 2 in Congress.

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Gage Skidmore

Biden at a February 2020 rally in Nevada.

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