President-elect Joe Biden is unveiling a $1.9 trillion coronavirus plan to turn the tide on the pandemic, speeding up the vaccine roll-out and providing financial help to individuals, states and local governments and businesses struggling with the prolonged economic fallout.
Called the "American Rescue Plan," the legislative proposal would meet Biden's goal of administering 100 million vaccines by the 100th day of his administration, while advancing his objective of reopening most schools by the spring. On a parallel track, it would deliver another round of aid to stabilise the economy while the public health effort seeks the upper hand on the pandemic, said aides who described the plan ahead of a speech by Biden on Thursday evening.
It includes $1,400 checks for most Americans, which on top of $600 provided in the most recent COVID-19 bill would bring the total to the $2,000 that Biden has called for.
The plan would also extend a temporary boost in unemployment benefits and a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures through September. And it shoehorns in the long-term Democratic policy aim of increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour and expanding paid leave for workers across the economy.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York has said Biden''s proposal will be his first order of business this year. The emergency legislation would be paid for with borrowed money, adding to trillions in debt the government has already incurred to confront the pandemic.
Aides said Biden will make the case that the additional spending and borrowing is necessary to prevent the economy from sliding into an even deeper hole. Interest rates are low, making debt more manageable. The aides spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the plan ahead of his speech Thursday night.
Biden has long held that economic recovery is inextricably linked with controlling the coronavirus. "Our work begins with getting COVID under control," he declared in his victory speech. "We cannot repair the economy, restore our vitality or relish life''s most precious moments until we get it under control."
The plan comes as a divided nation is in the grip of the pandemic's most dangerous wave yet. So far, more than 385,000 people have died of COVID-19 in the US. And government numbers out Thursday reported a jump in weekly unemployment claims, to 965,000, a sign that rising infections are forcing businesses to cut back and lay off workers.
Next Wednesday, when Biden will be sworn in as president, marks the anniversary of the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the United States.
Copyright©2022 Living Media India Limited. For reprint rights: Syndications Today