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. Biden also 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 an additional $100, providing $400 a week, and extend it 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 agreed with Trump’s call but was stalled for a vote in the Senate when Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) 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 the restaurant and hospitality industry.
Biden’s two-step plan, he claims 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 pledged to deliver 100 million vaccine doses in his first 100 days. The U.S. has administered about 10.8 million doses since Wednesday, according to The CDC tracker.
Biden offered limited details on how his administration plans to scale up the nationwide efforts. Along with funding new immunization sites and mobile clinics, Biden calls for boosting funding to states to administer the vaccine to patients on Medicaid and plans to provide the vaccine free to all people in the U.S., regardless of immigration status.
Biden is also calling for $50 billion to ramp up testing efforts, including purchasing rapid-result tests, expanding lab capacity, and helping local jurisdictions implement testing regimens. He is also pushing for $350 billion in funding assistance for state, local, and territorial governments plus $20 billion for public transit systems.
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.
Biden said he wants to a relief bill ready to sign on his desk by the end of January. However, his calls might be complicated due to an impending impeachment trial that is expected to occur once Biden is sworn-in.