President-elect Joe Biden has announced a US $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 US $415 billion focused on combating the COVID-19 pandemic, over US $1 trillion in direct aid to individuals and families and US $440 billion in assistance to businesses.
It includes US $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 US $300 to US $400 and increasing the federal minimum wage to US $15 an hour over time.
Biden’s proposal also sets aside US $20 billion for a national vaccination programme and US $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 roll-out as a “dismal failure.”
“The vaccine roll-out in the United States has been a dismal failure thus far,” he said, noting that he would lay out his vaccination plan 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.