While delivering remarks from Wilmington, Delaware, US President-elect Joe Biden on Thursday announced a new $1.9 trillion economic relief proposal, designed to "take the [corona]virus under control".
"In this pandemic in America, we cannot let people go hungry. We cannot let people get evicted. We cannot watch nurses, educators, and others lose their jobs – we so badly need them", Biden said, noting that the nation is in the middle of "a crisis of deep human suffering," and adding that "We must act now and act decisively."
As details of the plan were shared prior to Biden's speech, reactions followed from Biden's fellow Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer who released a statement praising the president-elect's approach.
"With the COVID-rescue package the President-elect announced today, [Biden] is moving swiftly to deliver that help and to meet the needs of the American people. House and Senate Democrats express gratitude toward and look forward to working with the President-elect on the rescue plan", the congressional Democrats stated.
The package, titled "American Rescue Plan" (ARP), sheds light on the president-elect's approach to several issues, including a nationwide vaccination program, aid for working families and support for communities struggling with COVID-19.
The President-elect's American Rescue Plan will:— Biden-Harris Presidential Transition (@Transition46) January 14, 2021
- Ramp up a national vaccine program
- Safely reopen majority of K-8 schools in his first 100 days
- Deliver immediate, direct relief to working families
- Support hardest-hit communities & small businesseshttps://t.co/8zS5KhWGtw pic.twitter.com/yFR120juA3
With the second part of the plan, dedicated to infrastructure, development and clean energy, to be introduced in February, Biden asked Congress to pass ARP immediately.
Vaccination & School Reopening
Under ARP, the president-elect proposed to pour money into a nationwide vaccination program and expand coronavirus testing across the United States. Among other propositions, the following were highlighted in the plan:
- $20 billion for the universal vaccination program and $50 billion for a "massive expansion" in coronavirus testing.
- Community vaccination centers to be created across the United States, and medicaid patients will have their costs covered by the federal government.
- All people in America will have the opportunity to receive the vaccine for free, regardless of their immigration status.
The plan also pours $130 billion into reopening schools, with Biden outlining his goal of "safely reopening a majority of K-8 schools in the first 100 days". Public colleges and universities will receive $35 billion to cover expenses related to the pandemic and fund emergency grants for students.
Help for Individuals, Workers, Business
As part of his plan for "rescue" and "recovery" from the coronavirus pandemic, Biden, pledging to "deliver immediate relief to working families bearing the brunt of this crisis" and "protect workers from COVID-19", rolled out a list of measures that take into consideration individuals, families and businesses.
Particularly, ARP envisages the following:
- $1,400 in direct payments to individuals, making for a $2,000 total when added to the previous $600 checks.
- The Federal minimum wage will be increased to $15 under Biden's plan, and unemployment benefits will be increased to $400 and extended to the end of September.
- A maximum paid leave of $1,400 per week will be provided for eligible workers, which will make full wage replacement to workers earning up to $73,000 annually.
- $25 billion in rental assistance to "help renters and small landlords make ends meet", in addition to $25 billion already allocated for that purpose by Congress.
- $5 billion in emergency assistance to "people experiencing or at risk of homelessness".
More than 1 million small business that were hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic will share $15 billion in grants, Biden pledged in his plan.
The Child Tax Credit will be made fully refundable for the year under the plan, increasing the credit to $3,000 per child (which is $3,600 for a child under age 6).
"The president-elect also is committed to making sure that Americans who see their earnings fall in 2021 due to the pandemic don’t see the Earned Income Tax Credit reduced as a result", the plan adds.
Most Recent US Coronavirus Package
In December 2020, the US Congress passed a coronavirus relief package that, among other things, envisaged $600 in direct payments to Americans - a move that was met with intense criticism.
Biden at the time noted that the sum was "not enough" and insisted on $2,000 stimulus checks, in a rare agreement with Trump, who also called on Congress to "give people $2,000", as under the past year they had "suffered enough".