Sweeping stimulus plan includes $1,400 direct payments, generous unemployment benefits
AHEAD of his inauguration on Jan. 20, President-elect Joe Biden announced on Thursday, Jan. 14 a massive coronavirus economic plan to combat the financial burdens of American families due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which includes $1,400 direct payments to taxpayers.
The sweeping $1.9 trillion package — billed as the American Rescue Plan — plans to directly address pandemic-related costs and relief, augmenting previous measures like Congress’ $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill from March and the $900 billion follow up passed in December that included $600 stimulus checks to millions of Americans.
The latter had been scaled back significantly to gain support from Republicans who fought against $2,000 direct payments. But after Democrats took control over the Senate earlier this month, Biden comes into his first presidential term with the momentum that is likely to help pass more ambitious COVID-19 relief measures.
“In this pandemic in America, we cannot let people go hungry,” Biden said on Thursday in Wilmington, Delaware where he unveiled his plan. “We cannot let people get evicted. We cannot let nurses, educators and others lose their jobs when we so badly need them. We must act now and act decisively.”
Though Biden did not elaborate on how he plans to move his sweeping plan through Congress, he spoke about the effect the pandemic has had on income gaps and inequality: “There is a real pain overwhelming the real economy — one where people rely on paychecks, not their investments, to pay for their bills and their meals and their children’s needs.”
More than $400 billion of the plan is allocated to the COVID-19 pandemic directly, including $160 billion in funding toward a national vaccine program, expansion of testing and contact tracing, more manufacturing for personal protective equipment and creating new public health jobs.
Democrats, including Biden and his team, have criticized President Donald Trump for the lack of structure and guidance regarding the slow vaccination process; in his speech, Biden called Trump’s handling of the vaccination rollout “a dismal failure.”
According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the COVID-19 vaccination campaign has only reached 3% of the entire U.S. population.
This new plan punctuates the president-elect’s plan to distribute 100 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine (which should cover two doses each for 50 million Americans) in his first 100 days in office.
“The more people we vaccinate, the faster we do it, the sooner we can save lives and put this pandemic behind us and get back to our lives and our loved ones — and the sooner we can rescue and rebuild the American economy,” Biden said in his speech.
The $1,400 stimulus checks — which is marketed as an addition to the $600 that Congress passed last month to equal the anticipated $2,000 checks that many have advocated for — would apply to American workers who have filed taxes in the past or are currently filing. Biden’s proposal also extends unemployment benefits, including $400 weekly unemployment insurance supplement through September.
In his speech on Thursday, Biden said his plan would also extend eviction and foreclosure moratoria to Sept. 30 and requested another $30 billion in rental, utility, energy and water assistance to underserved communities that continue to bear the economic brunt of the pandemic.
For those who rely on social welfare programs, the plan also extends the 15% increase in food stamp benefits through September and invests $3 billion to help women, infants and children with food security.