President-elect Joe Biden unveiled a $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus plan on Thursday to turn the tide of the pandemic, accelerate vaccine expansion and provide financial assistance to individuals, states and local governments and companies struggling with the long-term economic downturn.
The bill was called the “American Rescue Plan” and would meet Biden’s goal of administering 100 million vaccines by the 100th day of his administration, while encouraging his goal of resuming most schools by spring. On a parallel track, it would deliver another round of aid to stabilize the economy while public health efforts seek the upper hand on the pandemic, said assistants who described the plan ahead of a speech by Biden on Thursday night.
That includes $ 1,400 checks for most Americans, which in addition to the $ 600 provided in the latest COVID-19 bill would provide the total $ 2,000 that Biden called for. The plan would also extend a temporary increase in unemployment benefits and a moratorium on expulsions and expulsions until September. And it is in the long-term democratic political goal of raising the minimum wage to $ 15 an hour and extending paid leave for workers across the economy.
In a joint statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said they would move quickly to pass legislation and bring it to Biden’s desk for his signature. “After Congress approved the latest COVID emergency bill in December, Democrats were clear that much more needed to be done,” the two leaders said. “We are pleased that the Biden-Harris package contains much of what the Congress Democrats have been fighting for.”
Crisis legislation would be paid for with borrowed money, which would increase the trillions in debt that the government has already incurred to meet the pandemic. Aides said Biden will make it possible for additional spending and borrowing to be necessary to prevent the economy from slipping into an even deeper hole. Interest rates are low, which makes debt more manageable. The helpers spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the plan before their speech on Thursday night.
Biden has long argued that economic recovery is inextricably linked to coronavirus control. “Our work begins with getting COVID under control,” he explained in his victory speech. “We cannot repair the economy, restore our vitality or enjoy life’s most precious moments until we get it under control.”
The plan comes when a divided nation is in the most dangerous wave of the pandemic to date. To date, more than 385,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the United States, and government figures on Thursday reported a jump in weekly unemployment claims, to 965,000, a sign that rising infections are forcing companies to cut and lay off workers.
According to Biden’s versatile strategy, about $ 400 billion would go directly to the fight against the pandemic, while the rest is focused on economic relief and aid to states and localities.
About $ 20 billion would be set aside for a more disciplined focus on vaccination, in addition to about $ 8 billion already approved by Congress. Biden has called for the establishment of mass vaccination centers and the sending of mobile devices to hard-to-reach areas.
The plan provides $ 50 billion to expand testing, which is seen as the key to resuming most schools by the end of the new administration’s first 100 days. About $ 130 billion would be set aside to help schools reopen without risking further infection.
The plan would fund the employment of 100,000 public health workers, to focus on encouraging people to be vaccinated and tracking the contact of those infected with the coronavirus.
There is also a proposal to increase investment in genetic sequencing, to help detect new virus strains including the more contagious variants identified in the UK and South Africa.
Throughout the plan, the focus is on ensuring that minority communities that have been affected by the pandemic are not short-term protected against vaccines and treatments, assistants said.
With the new proposals, a call will double the efforts on the foundations.
Biden asks Americans to ignore their feelings of pandemic fatigue and reuse them to wear masks, practice social distancing and avoid indoor meetings, especially larger ones. It is still the safest way to slow down the COVID-19 wave, with more than 4,400 deaths reported on Tuesday.
Biden’s biggest challenge will be to “win the hearts and minds of the American people to follow his lead,” says Dr. Leana Wen, a public health expert and emergency physician.
With the support of Congress and the expertise of private and governmental researchers, the Trump administration has delivered two very effective vaccines and more are on the way. Yet a month after the first shots were fired, the country’s vaccination campaign slowly began, with about 10.3 million people receiving the first of two shots, although more than 29 million doses have been delivered.
Biden believes that the key to accelerating this lies not only in delivering more vaccines but also in working close to states and local communities to get shots in the arms of more people. The Trump administration provided the vaccine to states and set guidelines for who would be given priority for shots, but left it largely up to government and local officials to organize their vaccination campaigns.
“This will involve coordination at all levels, as well as resources,” says Dr. Nadine Gracia, Vice President of Non-Partisan Confidence in American Health. “There is a commitment that the (incoming) administration has formulated to meet the needs of communities.”
Biden has set a goal of administering 100 million shots in its first 100 days. The vaccination rate is approaching 1 million shots per day, but 1.8 million per day would be needed to reach widespread or “flock” immunity by the summer, according to a new estimate from the American Hospital Association. Wen says the rate should be even higher – close to 3 million a day.
It is still unclear how the new administration will address the issue of vaccine uncertainty, doubts and suspicions that prevent many from getting a shot. Surveys show that this is a particular problem among black Americans. “It’s important to recognize the reasons why it exists and work to gain trust and build vaccine trust in communities,” says Gracia.
Next Wednesday, when Biden will be sworn in as president, it marks the anniversary of the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the United States.