“We have to act now”: Biden outlines economic rescue legislative package

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FILE – In this Jan. 8, 2021, file photo, President-elect Joe Biden speaks during an event at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Del. A coronavirus action plan fromBiden centers on a mass vaccination campaign and closer coordination among all levels of government. The Biden plan comes as a divided nation remains caught in the grip of the pandemic’s most dangerous wave yet. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President-elect Joe Biden outlined his COVID-19 relief proposal in Wilmington, Delaware, on Thursday. The massive stimulus bill is expected to cost roughly $1.9 trillion to fund vaccinations and provide immediate, direct relief to working families and communities bearing the brunt of the crisis.

“A crisis of deep human suffering is in plain sight, and there’s no time to waste. We have to act and we have to act now,” Mr. Biden said.

The president-elect said his plan is two-pronged — a “rescue” plan, which he outlined Thursday night, and a “recovery” plan, which he will outline after he’s in office. The vice president claims his rescue plan will lift millions of out poverty. Mr. Biden was expected to announce his vaccine rollout plan Thursday night too, but said he will do so soon.

Included in Mr. Biden’s relief plan are the following things:

  • $1,400 checks to American adults (on top of the $600 Congress already passed)
  • Boosting child tax credit to $3,000 per child and $3,600 for children under 6
  • Implementing a $15 federal minimum wage
  • $25 billion for child care centers
  • Expanded paid sick, family and medical leave
  • Extend moratoriums on evictions

The relief push will also include $160 billion for a national vaccination program, funding to expand COVID-19 testing, $170 billion for schools, $15 billion for the hardest-hit 1 million small businesses and $20 billion for the hardest-hit public transit agencies, among other things.

“I know what I just described does not come cheaply,” the president-elect said, adding that “failure to do so will cost us dearly.”

Mr. Biden took no questions from reporters after his speech.

The package is likely to pass Congress, as Democrats control the House and, once the Georgia Senate election results are certified, there will be a 50-50 party split in the Senate, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris breaking any ties. Some elements of the legislation, like the $1,400 stimulus checks, already have bipartisan support, but lobbying from congressional members and special interests could affect the package’s overall price tag.

Mr. Biden is also taking steps to accelerate the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines once he takes office. The Trump administration pledged to vaccinate 20 million Americans by the end of 2020. However, two weeks into the new year, only over 10 million people have received their first dose of vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID Data Tracker.

Last week, eight Democratic governors sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Army General Gustave Perna, who is in charge of overseeing vaccine distribution for Operation Warp Speed, requesting that they accelerate the distribution of vaccines and not hold back doses in reserves while awaiting further shipments. On Tuesday, Azar announced several major changes to the federal government’s vaccine distribution plan, including its decision to release a large supply of doses it had been withholding to ensure that vaccinated Americans got their second dose.

Azar said the change was made possible because manufacturing capabilities are now in place to meet demand. “We now have a consistent pace of production, we can now ship all of the doses that had been held in physical reserve, with second doses being supplied by doses coming off of manufacturing lines with quality control,” the secretary said. “Going forward, each week, doses available will be released to first cover the second doses and then cover additional first vaccinations.”

Mr. Biden has set a goal to vaccinate 100 million people during his first 100 days as president. “I’m absolutely convinced that in 100 days, we can change the course of the disease and change life in America for the better,” the president-elect said last month.

Michael Osterholm, an epidemiologist and member of Biden’s coronavirus advisory board, told “CBS This Morning” on Tuesday that he’d view it as an “aspirational goal.”

“I’d call it an aspirational goal and one I think we must strive for,” Osterholm said. “We know right now that every day we don’t have vaccine in people’s arms, people are getting sick and dying. And so, I think every effort must be made to do that, and the team is behind him in every way they can to help make it a reality.”

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