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Americans Await Biden’s Stimulus Plan as Jobless Claims Soar to Five-Month High in First Week of 2021

In the first week of the new year, the United States labor force recorded the highest number of jobless claims in five months. But hopes for a recovery could come as soon as this evening, when President-elect Joe Biden is expected to unveil what could be another massive stimulus plan to help prop up the ailing economy.

According to the Department of Labor, seasonally adjusted initial claims for the week ended Jan. 9 totaled 965,000 — an increase of 181,000 from the prior week’s downwardly revised 784,000 applications. The figure was worse than economists’ predictions of 800,000 claims and marked the highest total since August, which was the month that the extra $600 per week in enhanced unemployment benefits as part of the CARES Act had expired.

At an impasse, Democratic and Republican lawmakers as well as President Donald Trump allowed months to lapse before they signed into law a $900 billion COVID-19 relief measure that includes $600 in one-time direct payments to individuals as well as an additional $300 a week for the unemployed through March 14. Those checks as well as benefits have already begun rolling out to eligible Americans.

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Tonight, however, Biden is scheduled to announce his long-awaited stimulus plan, which some outlets have reported could be as big as roughly $1 trillion. The proposal is expected to contain a boost to the recently authorized checks and an extension to the increased insurance for the jobless, plus support for households and businesses as well as state and local governments.

The new administration will have to work with Congress to swiftly pass the stimulus package following Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20. However, the fallout from President Donald Trump’s impeachment threatens to preoccupy lawmakers’ time in the coming weeks.

The financial aid would come at a critical point for the U.S. employers, which lost 140,000 jobs during the month of December — the first decline in payrolls since the mass layoffs in the spring when the pandemic touched down in the country. A continued surge in COVID-19 cases has led some states and localities to reinstate restrictions that have shuttered some businesses once again and subsequently pushed more people out of work. Since mid-March, the country has recorded more than 23.07 million infections, and at least 382,700 people have died.

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