Ahead of his presidential inauguration, President Joe Biden unveiled a $1.9 trillion stimulus plan that outlines measures that are meant to help the economy not only recover from the coronavirus pandemic, but rebuild a stronger foundation for future growth.
The proposal, called the American Rescue Plan, includes several stimulus measures found in other recent packages, like direct aid to families and unemployment benefits as well as small business aid, in effort to help boost family incomes and help keep businesses afloat until the coronavirus vaccine is more widely available.
Key aid to help individuals includes direct payments of $1,400 to most Americans, which will bring the total of recent relief to $2,000 when added to December's $600 payments; increased weekly federal unemployment benefits by $400 and extend those benefits through September; and the extension of eviction and foreclosure moratoriums until the end of September.
Beyond individuals, the plan calls for community aid as well, offering $350 billion in relief for state and local governments and $170 billion for K-12 schools and higher learning institutions to help with reopening. Biden's plan also provides funds to combat the coronavirus pandemic directly through provisions for increased testing efforts and stimulus to build a better national vaccine program.
Other highlights of the package include Democratic policy goals like increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, expanding paid leave for workers, and increasing child tax credits to $3,000 per child and $3,600 for every child under the age of 6. Biden's bill also includes a provision for $10 billion in funds to support the modernization of the government's cybersecurity infrastructure in the wake of the SolarWinds
While the political outlook for this plan remains unclear as Biden assumes his position as president, both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer issued in a joint statement that they will move quickly to pass the legislation. Nevertheless, the bill is likely to face an uphill battle in Congress as many lawmakers may be wary to pass another stimulus package so close to the $900 billion measure passed in December.
In his speech given to unveil the new bill last Thursday, Biden acknowledged the high price tag, stating the the nation could not afford anything less as "the very health of [the] nation is at stake," quoted by the New York Times. Biden added that the stimulus package "does not come cheaply, but failure to do so will cost us dearly.
The relief bill would be paid with borrowed money, which will add to the trillions of debt the federal government has amassed in it's fight to keep the economy afloat throughout the pandemic. Biden remarked that interest rates are low, which benefits borrowers, and additional spending will help the economy from irreversible damage.
This plan is the first of two major spending initiatives the new president plans to push forward in the first few months of his first term, according to senior Biden officials reported by CNBC. A second bill, expected to be released in February, will outline Biden's long-term goals like creating jobs, combating climate change, reforming the nation's infrastructure and measures to advance racial equity.