March 23 (UPI) -- Former Vice President Joe Biden urged the Trump administration Monday to take stronger action to contain the coronavirus and criticized a stimulus package being debated in the Senate as a "slush fund" for big corporations.
Biden, the leading Democrat to challenge President Donald Trump in the November election, live-streamed the speech from his home in Wilmington, Del.
He said there were warning signs in January about the coronavirus' potential to create havoc in the United States, but the Trump administration ignored them, leading states to implement stay-at-home policies to contain the virus.
"Let me be clear, Donald Trump is not to blame for the coronavirus, but he does bear responsibility for our response," Biden said. "I, along with every American, hopes he steps up and gets this right. This isn't about politics. There's too much at stake."
Biden called on the Trump administration to increase the nation's healthcare capacity to treat the sickest victims safely, to invoke the Defense Production Act to increase supplies like masks and ventilators and to create a uniform message to the American people about the disease.
Biden also slammed an economic stimulus package being debated in the Senate, which has stalled over bickering between Democrats and Republicans. Biden called the bill a "$500 billion slush fund" for big corporations with no guarantees that the funds will be used to pay employees.
The Republican Senate bill gives significant discretion to the treasury secretary in how the money must be used and the scale of the restrictions for the companies that receive loans. Democrats want more restrictions on how the money is used.
"[Companies] wouldn't have to make commitments to keep workers employed," Biden said. "They wouldn't have to tell where the money goes for months. No-string corporate bailouts make no sense."
Biden also recognized the 10th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act by calling on attorneys general from several states to end a lawsuit against it. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed earlier this month to hear that case after the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the law unconstitutional.
Biden has been highly critical of Trump's response to the COVID-19 outbreak. On Sunday, he said the pandemic shows why the Affordable Care Act is necessary and asked Trump to drop efforts to dismantle it.
In a post on Medium, Biden accused Trump of putting corporate interests ahead of American families in his response to the outbreak.
"We can't let Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell hold small businesses, workers, and communities hostage until they get their no-strings corporate bailout," he wrote
Biden holds a sizable delegate lead over rival Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. The party's convention is scheduled for Milwaukee in July.