PENNSYLVANIA — Ahead of Vice President Mike Pence’s campaign visit to southwestern Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairwoman Nancy Patton Mills, Representative Austin Davis (D-Allegheny), Westmoreland Democratic Party Chair Tara Yokopenic, and Greater Westmoreland Labor Council Treasurer Harriet Ellenberger hosted a virtual press conference to highlight how Trump and Pence’s failed coronavirus response and broken promises have contributed to the worst public health and economic crisis in generations — a crisis that has claimed the lives of more than 7,100 Pennsylvanians and cost millions more their jobs. 

The group pointed to the Trump administration’s ongoing failure to deliver on a national testing strategy or secure enough personal protective equipment, unwillingness to listen to medical experts, and Trump’s politically motivated rush to reopen schools without providing guidance on how to do so safely. Chairwoman Mills also called out Second Lady Karen Pence’s cynical photo-op in Pittsburgh.

A recording of the virtual press conference can be found here and an audio clip is available here. Check out some of the highlights below: 

Chairwoman Nancy Patton Mills, Pennsylvania Democratic Party:

“We’re here because Donald Trump has once again decided to put his own political interests ahead of the health and safety of our Pennsylvania families. Earlier today, Karen Pence, much to my amazement, was in my [neighborhood]— she’s on my street as we speak — for a cynical photo op. And now the Vice President — the head of the Coronavirus Task Force — is headed here for a political event instead of doing his job as we expect him to do to get our country back on track. 

These misguided trips come as COVID-19 has claimed the lives of more than 7,100 Pennsylvanians and cases continue to rise around the country. Donald Trump and Mike Pence didn’t cause the Coronavirus, but they’ve failed at nearly every turn to address the crisis appropriately. They continue to ignore the advice of medical experts….they haven’t delivered on a national testing strategy and insist on rushing schools to reopen this fall without providing guidance on how to do so safely.” 

Rep. Austin Davis (D-Allegheny), Pennsylvania House Of Representatives:

“In April, Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate reached 16.1% — the highest level in more than 40 years — and since the beginning of March Trump’s failed Coronavirus response forced nearly 2.8 million Pennsylvanians to seek unemployment benefits. And despite these figures, Donald Trump and Mike Pence and their allies in Congress still keep looking out for the wealthy and well-connected while making this crisis worse.

They recently unveiled a coronavirus relief bill that cuts unemployment for the average worker by 43% after his failed response led to millions of layoffs. There’s not increased funding for testing to the levels experts say we need to fight this virus and [the proposal] ties additional funding for schools to whether or not they reopen — no matter the danger to students, teachers, or staff. The GOP bill not only fails to meet the urgency of the moment, but will exacerbate the problems facing Pennsylvania families.” 

Chairwoman Tara Yokopenic, Westmoreland County Democratic Party:

“ As the head of the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force, Vice President Pence ought to be working to help deliver on a national testing strategy or figuring out ways to extend unemployment relief for families who are out of work, not [holding] a rally for Trump’s reelection. 

This isn’t surprising, because Donald Trump and Mike Pence have always been more concerned with their political fortunes than helping everyday families in Westmoreland County. We want life to get back to normal, but we can’t ignore the urgency of this crisis for political purposes. The virus doesn’t care about politics. And anyone who thinks we have this situation under control is simply not paying attention…

We don’t need a two hour visit from Mike Pence for a photo-op. [W]e need real support. I mean, we need leaders in Washington who will do everything in their power to make sure that Pennsylvania has what we need to beat this virus. We need a coherent national testing strategy and a real plan to get this country back on track. We need them to do their jobs.”

Harriet Ellenberger, Treasurer – Greater Westmoreland Labor Council: 

“We have union members and non union members actually, who work in nursing homes, hospitals, and caretakers, who are underpaid and they’re overworked, who deserve to get some hazard pay. These are essential workers who go to work every day so that they can earn a living and care for their own families. The [Trump] administration’s callous disregard for these frontline workers who serve every day and have been serving for months without an end in sight above and beyond the call of duty, and that need hazard pay is just unthinkable and wrong…

The unemployment system that requires a worker to go back to work when recalled or to lose their unemployment benefits puts [workers with pre-existing conditions] in a terrible and unnecessary dilemma. People who have diabetes, heart problems, asthma, not only for themselves, but members of their families that they’re taking care of are put in risk if they go back to work … This is unconscionable. Trump continues to help large corporations and his friends and has no concern for working families.” 

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