Washington: President-elect Joe Biden has announced a USD 1.9 trillion stimulus package for the coronavirus-sapped US economy, including direct financial aid to average Americans, support to small businesses and a national vaccination plan.
“During this pandemic, millions of Americans, through no fault of their own, have lost the dignity and respect that comes with a paycheck, Biden said in an address introducing the American Rescue Plan.
The relief package, announced on Thursday, includes USD 415 billion focused on combating the COVID-19 pandemic, over USD 1 trillion in direct aid to individuals and families and USD 440 billion in assistance to businesses.
It includes USD 1,400 in additional stimulus cheques to Americans, an extension for key unemployment programmes from mid-March to the end of September and an increase in weekly additional unemployment assistance from USD 300 to USD 400 and increasing the federal minimum wage to USD 15 an hour over time.
Biden’s proposal also sets aside USD 20 billion for a national vaccination programme and USD 50 billion to scale up coronavirus testing.
During his election campaign, Biden made tackling COVID-19 and the economic hardships it had put on Americans a core pitch to voters.
It’s not hard to see that we are in the middle of a once-in-several generation economic crisis within a once-in-several generation public health crisis. A crisis of deep human suffering in plain sight. And there is no time to wait, Biden, who is set to be sworn in as the 46th President of the US on January 20, said in his address from his hometown, Wilmington in Delaware.
Biden, a Democrat, described the outgoing Trump administration’s vaccine rollout as a “dismal failure.”
“The vaccine rollout in the United States has been a dismal failure thus far,” he said, noting that he would lay out his vaccination plan on Friday to “correct course” and to meet his goal of 100 million shots over his first 100 days.
“This is one of the most challenging operational efforts we have ever undertaken as a nation,” he said.
At the same time, Biden said, “There will be stumbles, but I will always be honest with you about both the progress we’re making and what setbacks we meet.”
We have to act and act now. This is what the economists are telling us. More importantly, it is what the values we hold in our hearts as Americans are telling us. A growing chorus of top economists agree that, in this moment of crisis, with interest rates at historic lows, we cannot afford inaction, he said.
The US is the worst affected country from the pandemic with 23,308,712 people hit with the coronavirus, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus tracker.
In just one year, nearly 400,000 Americans have lost their lives due to this deadly virus, and millions of Americans through no fault of their own have lost the dignity and respect that comes with a job and a paycheck, he said.
Some 18 million Americans are still relying on unemployment insurance and some 400,000 small businesses have permanently closed their doors.
Biden said his American Rescue Plan will tackle the pandemic and get direct financial assistance and relief to Americans who need it the most.
Biden said that in the first appearance before a Joint Session of Congress, he will lay out a Build Back Better Recovery Plan.
It will make historic investments in infrastructure and manufacturing, innovation, research and development, and clean energy. Investments in the caregiving economy and in skills and training needed by our workers to compete and win the global economy of the future, Biden said.
The rescue and recovery plan, Biden said, is the path forward with a seriousness of purpose, a clear plan with transparency and accountability with a call for unity that is equally necessary. Unity is not a pie-in-the-sky dream, it is a practical step to getting things done, he said.
As we work to keep people from going hungry, we will also work to keep a roof over their heads to stem the growing housing crisis in America. Approximately 14 million Americans have fallen behind on rent, many at risk of eviction, he said.
I am asking Congress to do its part by funding rental assistance for 14 million hard-hit families and tenants. It will also be a bridge to economic recovery for countless mom and pop landlords, he said, adding that his rescue plan will also help small businesses that are the engines of America’s economic growth and economy as a whole.
The US Chamber of Commerce in a statement said it welcomed Biden’s economic recovery plan.
“Specifically, we applaud the President-elect’s focus on vaccinations and on economic sectors and families that continue to suffer as the pandemic rages on.
“We must defeat COVID before we can restore our economy and that requires turbocharging our vaccination efforts. We look forward to working with the new administration and Congress on the details and in ensuring that any additional economic assistance is timely, targeted, and temporary, it said in a statement.
Republicans are likely to object to piling up trillions more in debt that the US has already incurred to tackle the pandemic, and the incoming president acknowledged his plan “does not come cheaply”.
But Biden will be helped by his fellow Democrats controlling both chambers of the US Congress, if only by narrow margins, media reports said.