Source: The New York Times
By Jim Tankersley and Michael Crowley
January 14, 2021
President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Thursday proposed a $1.9 trillion rescue package to combat the economic downturn and the Covid-19 crisis, outlining the type of sweeping aid that Democrats have demanded for months and signaling the shift in the federal government’s pandemic response as Mr. Biden prepares to take office next week.
The package includes more than $400 billion to combat the pandemic directly, including money to accelerate vaccine deployment and to safely reopen most schools within 100 days. An additional $350 billion would help state and local governments bridge budget shortfalls, while the plan would also include $1,400 direct payments to individuals, more generous unemployment benefits, federally mandated paid leave for workers and large subsidies for child care costs.
“During this pandemic, millions of Americans, through no fault of their own, have lost the dignity and respect that comes with a job and a paycheck,” Mr. Biden said in a speech to the nation on Tuesday evening. “There is real pain overwhelming the real economy.”
He acknowledged the high price tag but said the nation could not afford to do anything less. “The very health of our nation is at stake,” Mr. Biden said, speaking from Delaware. “We have to act and we have to act now.”
Here are some of the highlights of Mr. Biden’s so-called American Rescue Plan:
- The “rescue” proposal would be financed entirely through increased federal borrowing, and flows from the idea that the virus and the recovery are intertwined.
- The $20 billion “national vaccine program” he announced envisions nationwide community vaccination centers.
- He also called for a “public health jobs program” that would address his goals of bolstering the economy and the coronavirus response while also rebuilding the nation’s public health infrastructure. The proposal would fund 100,000 public health workers to engage in vaccine outreach and contact tracing.
- To address the racial disparities in health exposed by the coronavirus pandemic, which has disproportionately claimed the lives of people of color, he pledged to increase funding for community health centers, and also intends to fund efforts to mitigate the pandemic in prisons and jails, where African-Americans and Latinos are overrepresented.
- Mr. Biden proposed a wide range of efforts to help those who have suffered the most under the economic shutdowns, including emergency paid leave to 106 million Americans, regardless of the size of their employer, and extending tax credits to many families to offset up to $8,000 in annual child care costs.
- The plan gives billions of dollars in aid to renters struggling to keep up with mounting unpaid liabilities to landlords, and it would give grants to millions of the hardest-hit small businesses.
- The proposal would temporarily increase the size of two tax credits in a manner that would effectively provide more cash from the government to low-income workers and families.
- Mr. Biden called on Congress to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, and he proposed extending expanded unemployment benefits through the end of September, with an extra $400 weekly supplement.