• 22 million Americans have filed initial unemployment claims in the past four weeks
  • Biden says keeping people on reduced hours would position companies for rapid scale up
  • President Trump was poised to announce guidelines for reopening the economy

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Thursday released a short-term compensation plan to help companies keep employees on the payroll in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, changing the way unemployment insurance is viewed.

“We should be committed to keeping as many people as possible attached to their employment, so they can easily return to work when appropriate, and maintain their income and benefits,” the former vice president said in an emailed statement.

The announcement came as the Department of Labor announced more than 5 million Americans filed first-time unemployment claims last week, bringing to 22 million the number who have been filed in the last four weeks and wiping out all the gains made since the Great Recession.

Biden called for revamping unemployment systems across the country so that companies reduce hours rather than lay off workers and have the government pick up the difference in wages. Twenty-seven states already have such compensation plans in place, changing the way we think about the situation as employment insurance rather than unemployment insurance.

“This dire economic dislocation stems from the need to protect public health through strong social distancing measures,” Biden said. “But let’s not forget: These measures are required to the extent they are because we didn’t prepare early enough, and when the virus surfaced in our communities, we didn’t test sufficiently to contain it. This pain is a product of poor decision making by Donald Trump.”

Biden said Americans must be made whole, compensated for lost wages and health benefits.

“This is more than just the right thing to do — it is the surest road to a rapid recovery, because the faster everyone returns to their jobs, the faster we can improve demand and get our economy running again,” he said.

President Trump was poised to release guidelines on when it would be safe to reopen their economies.