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At online town hall, Warren denounces Trump for handling of pandemic

Senator calls administration's response "cruel, heartless, and incompetent"

Elizabeth Warren
Elizabeth WarrenMichael Short/Bloomberg

Senator Elizabeth Warren on Monday denounced President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, calling for the federal government to increase testing and provide more resources to states.

“The Trump administration’s response to this public health crisis has been cruel, heartless, and incompetent,” she said at an online town hall that drew more than 80,000 views. “If we don’t get our act together, thousands more in this country will die and our economy will be brought to its knees.”

After her opening remarks, Warren began taking questions from the audience, starting with a Quincy woman, Raija, who asked about plans to improve access to child care.

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Warren said she is working with US Representative Katherine Clark on a government bailout to keep child-care centers in business.

“Without it we’re going to keep dragging this economy down, dragging families down, and putting our babies at risk,” Warren said.

Asked what Congress can do to help residents during the pandemic, Warren emphasized the importance of protecting voting rights by increasing support for polling staff and making voting by mail available to all.

"The pandemic is layered on top of another problem, and that is for years now the Republican party has taken as its mission to do what it can to suppress voters, and that means particularly suppressing voting in communities of color," she said.

A man named Levi, from East Boston, asked how Warren planned to address racial discrimination in housing, law enforcement, and other areas.

Warren said reform should begin with changes to the criminal justice system and should extend to other measures, like canceling student loan debt, and mobilizing more resources to communities of color.

“The way I see this, racism for generations has shaped crucial aspects of our economic and political system, so just being race-neutral is not going to do the work that we need to get done,” she said.

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Warren described climate change as a crisis that also offers an opportunity.

“It’s an opportunity to create good, union, American jobs in clean and renewable energy. It’s an opportunity to create jobs in infrastructure and manufacturing, and to directly confront the racial and economic inequality that has been embedded in our fossil fuel economy.”

Warren said public officials must make sure schools have the resources to adopt new safety measures against the virus and criticized Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos for leveraging the pandemic to pull money out of public education.

“I’ve just had it,” she said. “We need a secretary of education who’s going to work with teachers and with states and with districts to try to develop reopening plans that actually work and are based in science.”

Warren also responded to questions about mental health resources and her plans to safeguard access to abortions. She said the state and federal government should be ensuring access to all forms of health care.

“If this is what the majority of people in this country want, then let’s step up and make sure everyone in this nation has access to the full range of healthcare, and that includes reproductive health care and the right to a safe, legal abortion,” she said.