Another round of stimulus checks. Extended unemployment benefits. A national vaccine program. These are some of the biggest takeaways from President-elect Joe Biden’s relief bill — a whopping $1.9 trillion effort to help prop up an American economy crippled by the coronavirus pandemic.
Named the American Rescue Plan, the package — which was announced during a primetime address on Thursday evening — offers a boost to the previous legislations passed by congressional lawmakers and the current administration: the $2 trillion CARES Act enacted in March and the more recent $900 billion measure in December.
“While Congress’ bipartisan action in December was a step in the right direction, it was only a down payment. It fell far short of the resources needed to tackle the immediate crisis,” read a fact sheet from the incoming 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.”
Here, some of the key points of Biden’s stimulus plan.
Biden called for another $1,400 in direct payments to qualified Americans. Added with the $600 checks as part of the most recently enacted bill, this amounts to financial assistance of $2,000 per person. The plan would also expand eligibility to adult dependents who were left out of previous rounds of relief, including children over the age of 17, as well as households with mixed immigration status. (The first round of $1,200 checks did not include the spouses of undocumented immigrants without Social Security Numbers.)
With jobless aid currently set to expire in mid-March, the president-elect is seeking a $400 per week unemployment insurance supplement extended through September. (That’s compared with the additional $300 as part of the bill passed in December.) He also plans to increase the number of weeks provided under the emergency unemployment insurance program for those who have exhausted their regular state jobless payments, plus extend support for self-employed and gig workers, who do not typically qualify for regular unemployment compensation.
Evictions and foreclosures
Biden announced that he intends to extend the eviction and foreclosure moratoriums as well as continue applications for forbearance on federally-guaranteed mortgages through September. What’s more, on top of the $25 billion lawmakers provided in December, he proposed an additional $25 billion in rental assistance for low-and moderate-income households who have lost jobs amid the health crisis. He also earmarked another $5 billion in emergency assistance for people who are at risk of homelessness.
COVID-19 vaccinations and testing
The president-elect has proposed to invest $20 billion in a national vaccination program in partnership with states, localities, tribes and territories. This would include launching community vaccination centers around the country and deploying mobile vaccination units to “hard-to-reach” areas. The plan would also provide $50 billion to expand COVID-19 testing; provide funds for the purchase of rapid tests; expand lab capacity; and help schools and local governments implement regular testing protocols.
Emergency paid leave
While the December bill extended the Families First employer tax credits through March, it did not renew the requirement that employers provide leave. Biden’s plan would reinstate those benefits through September — as well as eliminate exemptions for workers at businesses with more than 500 employees and less than 50, plus federal workers who were excluded from the original program. He also intends to provide more than 14 weeks of paid sick and family and medical leave to help people with additional caregiving responsibilities.
Small business aid
The proposal aims to provide $15 billion in flexible, equitably distributed grants to small business owners. This would be separate from the existing Paycheck Protection Program. In addition, it would invest $35 billion in some state, local, tribal and nonprofit financing programs, which can generate as much as $175 billion in low-interest loans and venture capital to entrepreneurs.
The president-elect called on Congress to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour, as well as end the tipped minimum wage and sub-minimum wage for people with disabilities.