May 21--WASHINGTON -- Former Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday criticized President Donald Trump for threatening to stop funding to Michigan amid the coronavirus pandemic and an unfolding disaster in Midland County.
"In the wake of disaster, Donald Trump once again showed us who he is -- threatening to pull federal funding and encouraging division," Biden said in a statement first given to the Free Press. "Michigan is in the fight of its life as it battles this pandemic and flooding disaster, and now more than ever, leadership and empathy matter."
Trump made the threat on Wednesday in response to Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson's plan to send out absentee ballot applications to every state voter as a way to boost turnout without encouraging in-person voting during the pandemic.
Biden, who won Michigan's March 10 presidential primary and is the presumptive Democratic nominee to face Trump in the Nov. 3 general election, made the statement ahead of Trump's visit on Thursday afternoon to a Ford Motor Co. plant in Ypsilanti.
The plant has been making ventilators as part of the response to the coronavirus pandemic. More than 5,000 people in Michigan have died from the virus.
Mid-Michigan is also dealing this week with devastating floods after heavy rainfall led to the breaching of two dams near Midland on Tuesday. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency and has asked for federal aid with some 10,000 people forced to evacuate because of the flooding.
Biden said he sympathized with the families impacted by the failures of the Edenville and Sanford dams and credited Whitmer -- who Biden has acknowledged is on his list of possible vice presidential running mates -- with declaring a state of emergency and deploying the National Guard.
"In times of crisis, leaders don't drag their feet and they don't politicize -- they spring to action to secure needed relief," Biden said.
Trump has said he has talked to Whitmer and is sending federal resources to Midland County to help with the flooding response. He also expressed sympathy with those affected on Wednesday.
In his statement ahead of the Ypsilanti visit, Biden again criticized Trump's response to the virus outbreak in the U.S., calling it "delayed, erratic and corrupt." The Trump administration has been widely criticized for initially suggesting the outbreak might not be widespread and for not rolling out testing more quickly. But the president and his allies have routinely defended their response, saying they have reacted swiftly to requests for supplies and medical help.
Biden said Trump and Republicans, however, have failed so far to provide enough help to states and workers beyond the initial rounds of aid passed by Congress.
"Right now, workers on the front lines of this pandemic are hurting. More than 1 million Michiganders have filed for unemployment, and Donald Trump is doing everything he can to side with corporate executives over unions and workers," he said. "We also can't forget that the toll of this pandemic has been especially tough on communities of color -- exposing the dangerous consequences of inaction, injustice, and institutional racism."
"It didn't have to be this way," he said.
Trump and Republicans in Congress have so far resisted efforts to approve more funding for states and additional aid to workers. The Trump administration, however, did say that as part of its visit to Ford's plant on Thursday, it was meeting with African American community leaders to discuss the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus on blacks. In Michigan, 40% of the deaths have been among African Americans, despite accounting for just 14% of the state's population.
Biden also reiterated his role in former President Barack Obama's rescue of General Motors and Chrysler in 2009, which many credited with keeping domestic automaking afloat during the last recession.
Trump won Michigan in 2016 by two-tenths of 1% of the vote, becoming the first Republican to win the state since George H.W. Bush in 1988.
Contact Todd Spangler: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @tsspangler. Read more on Michigan politics and sign up for our elections newsletter.
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