President-elect Joe Biden unveiled a $1.9 trillion COVID relief package he plans to ask the new Democratic-controlled Congress that includes providing $1,400 stimulus checks, along with more funding for a nationwide vaccine distribution program.
The relief package dubbed the “American Rescue Plan” focuses on a wave of new spending, including $400 billion in Covid response funds to help schools reopen and give workers paid sick leave, over $1 trillion to help families in need of direct financial support; and $440 billion in emergency funds for cash-poor small businesses and communities.
Biden wants to send relief checks for $1,400 to millions of Americans, on top of the $600 direct payments that were approved by Congress in December, and extend and expand unemployment benefits. The proposal would increase the weekly federal benefit by providing an additional $100, to provide $400 a week instead of the current $300 and extend it from March through the end of September.
Late last month, Congress during the lame-duck session passed a massive $2.3 trillion combined COVID relief and government spending bill. $900 billion was devoted to the relief package that included $600 direct payments to individuals, $300 per week in enhanced federal unemployment benefits until March 14, as well as more than $284 billion in loans for businesses through the popular Paycheck Protection Program.
“As I said when it passed in December, the bipartisan COVID-19 relief package was an important first step,” Biden said. “But as I said at the time, it’s just a down-payment. We need more action, more bipartisanship, and we need to move fast.”
After signing the relief package into law, President Trump urged lawmakers to send Americans $2,000 relief checks. The Democratic-led House passed the bill after overwhelmingly agreeing with Trump but was stalled for a vote on the Senate when Majority Leader Mitch McConnell attached the House bill to two other resolutions.
The proposal also calls to double the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 and is seeking to end the tipped minimum wage of $2.13 an hour that is used only in restaurants and the hospitality industry.
Biden said his plan is two-pronged — the “rescue” plan he outlined Thursday night, and a “recovery” plan, which he will outline in his State of the Union speech in February. The second plan will detail sizable investments in infrastructure, job training, manufacturing, and clean energy, among other areas.
“Next month, in my first appearance before a Joint Session of Congress, I will lay out the second step, my Build Back Better Recovery Plan,” Biden said. “It will make historic investments in infrastructure and manufacturing, innovation, research and development, and clean energy. Investments in the caregiving economy and in skills and training needed by our workers to compete and win the global economy of the future.”
Biden claims his plan will lift millions of people out of poverty, rebuild American industries, reinvest in first-responders and teachers and keep essential front-line workers on the job. He based his claims on a Wall Street firm analyst — Moody Analysis that reports his plan would “create more than 18 million jobs.”
He pledged to deliver 100 million vaccine doses in his first 100 days. The U.S. so far has administered about 10.8 million doses, or 37% of the shots distributed nationwide, according to The CDC tracker. Biden offered limited details on how his administration plans to scale up the nationwide efforts. Along with the $20 billion funding to establish a nationwide program to create community vaccination centers and mobile clinics to remote communities, the plan will take additional steps to make sure of providing all people in the U.S. the vaccine for free, regardless of immigration status.
“President-elect Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan is ambitious, but achievable, and will rescue the American economy and start beating the virus,” the Biden transition team said in a statement.
An additional $350 billion would help state and local governments bridge budget shortfalls. The amount is more than double the $160 billion bipartisan compromise proposal backed before it was removed late last year in negotiations.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and other Democrats placed emphasis on the importance of including state and local aid to the relief package. The amount reflects the input from Pelosi and her Democratic caucus, as well as from governors and mayors, the Biden Transition team told reporters.
Pelosi and incoming Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) approved of the package in a joint statement Thursday before Biden’s remarks.
“These proposals by the Biden-Harris administration will be critical to getting our country through this challenging period and towards a period of recovery. We echo the president-elect’s call for bipartisan action on his proposal and hope that our Republican colleagues will work with us to quickly enact it,” the joint statement reads.
Among the elements in Biden proposal include:
- Direct payments of $1,400, on top of the $600 approved in December
- $400 per week in supplementary unemployment benefits through September
- $350 billion for state and local governments
- Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour
- $130 billion to help schools reopen
- $160 billion in funding for a national program of vaccination, testing, and other coronavirus containment efforts
- $30 billion for rental and small-landlord support
- $25 billion for childcare providers
- Expanded food assistance
- Expanded child tax credits
- Expanded medical and family leave
- $50 billion for expanded testing, including in schools and local governments
- Hiring 100,000 public-health workers for contact tracing and vaccine outreach
- $30 billion to address supply shortages and $10 billion for domestic manufacturing of medical supplies
- $130 billion to help schools re-open safely.