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Biden campaign launches ‘virtual tour’ of Michigan businesses harmed by COVID-19

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Surrogates for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden are holding a series of online events to highlight the impact of COVID-19 on Michigan businesses.

The campaign plans to criticize President Donald Trump for his handling of the pandemic, blaming Trump for mass layoffs affecting nearly a quarter of Michigan workers during the height of the coronavirus recession. Two events scheduled for Friday and Sunday, Sept. 20 will focus on laid-off casino workers and Michigan union workers, with additional events planned to highlight the impact on steelworkers, breweries and college campuses.

Eric Hyers, Michigan state director for the Biden campaign, said surrogates will also focus on Biden’s plan to spur economic recovery. The former vice president visited metro Detroit last week to unveil his plan to incentivize companies to bring back domestic jobs and his wife Jill Biden visited two cites in West Michigan Tuesday.

“President Trump admitted to downplaying the coronavirus, and Michigan continues to pay the price for his ongoing failure to address the pandemic every single day -- in lost jobs, lost lives, and lost businesses," Hyers said in a statement. “It didn’t have to be this bad. Unlike Trump, Biden has a plan to put an end to this pandemic by working with Governor Whitmer to create millions of manufacturing and innovation jobs, and to help build our economy back better.”

Biden and Trump have both argued they are best-suited to lead the economic recovery during recent campaign stops in Michigan. At an event in Warren last week, Biden said the president’s response to COVID-19 “crashed” the economy, noting he would be the first president since the Great Depression to experience a net loss in U.S. jobs while in office.

“Our economy’s down 4.7 million jobs since he took office,” Biden said in Warren.

The president said the economy is quickly recovering during a rally in Freeland last week. Trump also said Biden’s support for the North American Free Trade Agreement has caused Michigan manufacturing jobs to leave the state.

“Joe Biden devoted his career to offshoring Michigan’s jobs,” Trump said.

The economy is recovering. The unemployment rate has steadily declined during the last four months but remains much higher than the 3.5% rate in February.

There were 13.6 million unemployed Americans in August, according to federal data. The U.S. unemployment rate in August was 8.4%, with a 13% unemployment rate for Black Americans.

On Friday, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, will join laid-off union workers who were previously employed at the MGM Grand Detroit. The casino announced it would be laying off 1,100 employees less than a month after it reopened form a four-month shutdown ordered by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

On Sunday, voting rights activist Stacey Abrams will join the Michigan AFL-CIO for a discussion on how Biden will mobilize union voters.

Biden said he would be the “most friendly union president” during a campaign stop at UAW Region 1 in Warren last week. The former vice president also praised Whitmer, who attended his event in Warren.

“Governor, you’ve done an incredible job steering the people of Michigan through a turbulent time,” he said. “Much of it is brought on by Donald Trump’s lack of leadership. You’ve been rock solid, governor. You’ve listened to the experts and you’ve led with science and you put the needs of the people, who are hurting first, helping them get through this crisis.”

Additional stops will be announced by the campaign at a later date. The campaign said the events will focus on Michigan’s tourism and beer industries, which saw a significant drop in business over the summer due to COVID-19 outbreaks and state-mandated shutdown orders.

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