U.S. President-elect Joe Biden on Thursday unveiled a $1.9 trillion stimulus package to jump-start the economy and speed up the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The package includes $415 billion to bolster the response to the virus and the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.
There are some $1 trillion in direct relief to households, and roughly $440 billion for small businesses and communities particularly hard hit by the pandemic.
Stimulus payment checks would be issued for $1,400 – topping up the $600 checks issued under the last congressional stimulus legislation.
Supplemental unemployment insurance would also increase to $400 a week from $300 a week now and would be extended to September.
“It’s not hard to see that we’re in the middle of a once-in-several-generations economic crisis with a once-in-several-generations public health crisis.
“A crisis of deep human suffering is in plain sight and there’s no time to waste,” Biden said in a prime-time address on Thursday evening.
“We have to act and we have to act now.”
The plan would also extend a temporary boost in unemployment benefits and a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures through September.
And it shoehorns in long-term Democratic policy aims such as increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour, expanding paid leave for workers, and increasing tax credits for families with children.
The last item would make it easier for women to go back to work, which in turn would help the economy recover.
Biden’s plan is meant to kick off his time in office with a large bill that sets his short-term agenda into motion quickly: helping the economy and getting a handle on a virus that has killed more than 385,000 people in the United States as of Thursday.
It also provides a sharp contrast with Trump, who spent the last months of his administration seeking to undermine Biden’s election victory rather than focusing on additional coronavirus relief.
Trump, who leaves office on Wednesday, did support $2,000 payments to Americans, however.
Watch Biden deliver the plan:
The political outlook for the legislation remained unclear. In a joint statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer praised Biden for including liberal priorities, saying they would move quickly to pass it after Biden takes office next Wednesday.
But Democrats have narrow margins in both chambers of Congress, and Republicans will push back on issues that range from increasing the minimum wage to providing more money for states, while demanding inclusion of their priorities, such as liability protection for businesses.
“Remember that a bipartisan $900 billion #COVID19 relief bill became law just 18 days ago,” tweeted Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.
But Biden said that was only a down payment, and he promised more major legislation next month, focused on rebuilding the economy.