President-elect Joe Biden is unveiling a $1.9 trillion coronavirus plan Thursday to turn the tide on the pandemic, speeding up the vaccine rollout and providing financial help to individuals, states and local governments and businesses struggling with the prolonged economic fallout.
Called the “American Rescue Plan,” the legislative proposal would meet Biden's goal of administering 100 million vaccines by the 100th day of his administration, while advancing his objective of reopening most schools by the spring. On a parallel track, it would deliver another round of aid to stabilize the economy while the public health effort seeks the upper hand on the pandemic, said aides who described the plan ahead of a speech by Biden on Thursday evening.
It includes $1,400 checks for most Americans, which on top of $600 provided in the most recent COVID-19 bill would bring the total to the $2,000 that Biden has called for. The plan would also extend a temporary boost in unemployment benefits and a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures through September. And it shoehorns in the long-term Democratic policy aim of increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour and expanding paid leave for workers across the economy.
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Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York has said Biden's proposal will be his first order of business this year. The emergency legislation would be paid for with borrowed money, adding to trillions in debt the government has already incurred to confront the pandemic.
Aides said Biden will make the case that the additional spending and borrowing is necessary to prevent the economy from sliding into an even deeper hole. Interest rates are low, making debt more manageable.
In other developments:
- The rapid expansion of COVID-19 vaccinations to senior citizens has led to bottlenecks, system crashes and hard feelings in many states because of overwhelming demand for the shots.
- The number of people seeking unemployment aid soared last week to 965,000, the most since late August, offering evidence that the resurgent virus has caused a spike in layoffs.
- U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat said Thursday that he has the coronavirus, making the New York Democrat the latest House member to report testing positive since dozens huddled together for protection during the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
- Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell sought Thursday to tamp down any concerns that the Fed might soon withdraw some of its support for the U.S. economy and stressed that any such pullback would be signaled far in advance.