WASHINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden is calling on Congress to approve a sweeping package for economic and pandemic relief with a price tag twice that of the emergency aid passed in December after months of acrimonious negotiations.
Biden’s $1.9 trillion proposal, which he outlined in a speech Thursday evening, is framed around boosting funding in three areas: COVID-19 response, including a new national vaccine plan and reopening assistance for schools; aid to working families; and help for struggling small businesses and cash-strapped state and local governments.
The plan will be a first governing test for Biden, who campaigned as someone who could bring together a polarized Washington and stabilize a chaotic, unfocused national response to the COVID-19 pandemic under the Trump administration.
“We are in a race against time, and absent additional government assistance, the economic and public health crises could worsen in the months ahead; schools will not be able to safely reopen; and vaccinations will remain far too slow,” stated a fact sheet from Biden’s transition team detailing the new proposal.
It’s the first part of what Biden says will be a two-step plan for “rescue” and “recovery.” The second proposal will detail major investments in infrastructure, manufacturing, clean energy and skills training for workers, he said.
Biden said the COVID-19 relief package approved by Congress last month was “just a down payment” on what’s needed economically.
“We need more action, more bipartisanship, and we need to move quickly,” Biden said Thursday evening.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and incoming Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer pledged their support for the plan in their chambers, both of which soon will be controlled by Democrats.
“We will get right to work to turn President-elect Biden’s vision into legislation that will pass both chambers and be signed into law,” they said in a joint statement.
For millions of Americans, the legislation, if made law, would mean:
- A $1,400 direct payment, supplementing the $600 payment passed by Congress in December’s package, for a total of $2,000;
- Renewal of boosted unemployment benefits, for an additional $400 a week;
- Extended protections against evictions and foreclosures;
- Aid for paying rent and utilities;
- More help with child-care costs;
- A $15-per-hour minimum wage;
- Paid sick and family and medical leave to help those burdened with additional caregiving responsibilities.
The proposal also would send a raft of aid to state governments, including $350 billion in emergency funding for state and local governments to keep public workers on the job, and $35 billion for small-business financing programs.
States also would receive:
- $20 billion in new money for their vaccine distribution efforts;
- Full federal reimbursement for critical emergency response resources, including deployment of the National Guard;
- Money for more manpower in long-term care facilities experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks;
- Funds for emergency housing;
- Additional cash assistance to low-income families;
- Relief for hard-hit public transit agencies.
As part of his goal to have most of the nation’s schools open within the first 100 days of his administration, Biden also is calling for $130 billion in new money to help schools in their reopening efforts.
The dollars could be used for a variety of steps, including reducing class sizes, modifying classrooms, improving ventilation, providing personal protective equipment, and paying for summer school or other support for students to help make up lost learning time this year.
Another $35 billion would go to higher education institutions, with $5 billion that governors can use to aid students, from early childhood through college, who have been significantly affected by the pandemic.
The coronavirus-related portions of the plan total more than $400 billion, including the Biden administration proposal for a national plan to improve the slow rollout of COVID-19 vaccines. Read more