President-elect Joe Biden unveiled his coronavirus plan Thursday.
Biden claims it will turn the tide on the pandemic, speed up the vaccine rollout, and provide financial help to individuals, states, and local governments and businesses struggling with the prolonged economic fallout.
The proposal reflects the priorities of Democrats, spending more money on aiding state governments, schools, and colleges than stimulus payments to individuals. It also includes a minimum wage hike, a measure sought by Democrats long before the pandemic struck.
The proposal includes:
- $350 billion in state and local government aid
- $170 billion for K-12 schools and institutions of higher education
- Direct payments of $1,400 to most Americans, costing around $320 billion according to a Breitbart News’ estimate
- Enhanced unemployment benefits increasing payments by $400 per week through the end of September
- $50 billion for Covid-19 testing
- $20 billion toward a national vaccine program
- Raising the Child Tax Credit to $3,000 per child and making it fully refundable for 2021
The non-spending proposals include:
- Hiking the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour
- Extending the eviction and foreclosure moratoriums until the end of September
- Extended family leave
Called the “American Rescue Plan,” it would amount to $1.9 trillion in spending. Despite the massive cost, the plan does not focus on creating jobs or set aside money for building American infrastructure.
Those things will have to wait for a second bill that Biden says will be introduced in February, to also include measures, his advisers say, will combat climate change and advance racial equity.
The proposal falls short of expectations for $2,000 direct stimulus payments. Instead, it provides for what Breitbart News estimates would be around $320 billion in direct payments of $1,400 for most Americans. Biden’s aides say this amounts to the promised $2,000 when coupled with the $600 included in the aid bill President Donald Trump signed last year.
The proposal includes an even larger amount of funds for state and local governments, schools, and colleges. Biden’s plan provides for $350 billion in state and local government aid and another $170 billion for K-12 schools and colleges.
Under Biden’s multipronged strategy, only about $400 billion would go directly to combating the pandemic, while the rest is focused on economic relief and aid to states and localities.
Biden’s aides claimed, without evidence, that the proposal would advance his target of administering 100 million vaccines by the 100th day of his administration and help move toward the objective of reopening most schools by the spring.
In an odd decision when unemployment is extremely high among low-income Americans, the proposal shoehorns in the long-term Democratic policy aim of hiking the minimum wage to $15 an hour. That is likely to make it harder for low-income Americans to find jobs, putting further strains on state budgets funding employment benefits.
The proposal also expands paid leave for workers and increases tax credits for families with children, goals shared by many pro-family conservatives seeking to make family formation more affordable.
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. 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.
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