President-elect Joe Biden on Thursday rolled out a coronavirus relief plan with a price tag of $1.9 trillion, a sweeping measure that includes cash payments to Americans and money for distributing COVID-19 vaccines.
Biden’s team released the plan ahead of his speech that was due to take place at 7:15 p.m. Eastern in Wilmington, Del. The address comes less than a week before he’s slated to be inaugurated as president, and a day after the House of Representatives voted to impeach President Donald Trump for a historic second time.
The plan calls for increasing direct payments to $2,000 from the $600 already hitting bank accounts, meaning stimulus checks of $1,400 would go out. The president-elect Biden said just before the Democratic wins in Georgia’s Jan. 5 Senate runoff elections that victories would lead to the bigger payments.
Biden’s proposal also calls for boosting federal unemployment benefits to $400 per week through September, as well as raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour and extending moratoriums on eviction and foreclosure on federally-guaranteed mortgages to Sept. 30.
“While Congress’s bipartisan action in December was a step in the right direction, it was only a down payment,” the Biden-Harris transition said in a statement as it released the proposal.
Biden’s plan also would provide $20 billion for a national vaccination program and $130 billion to help schools reopen, along with $35 billion for higher education and $5 billion for a “Hardest Hit Education Fund.”
In addition, it would increase the child tax credit to $3,000 per child, or $3,600 for a kid under 6.
CNN said early Thursday that the president-elect would propose a spending increase of roughly $2 trillion, in a report that helped to send the yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note
higher on the prospect of even larger fiscal deficits and increased debt issuance. U.S. stocks
closed with modest loss ahead of Biden’s evening speech, after trading in the green for most of Thursday’s session.
Biden is scheduled to be inaugurated on Jan. 20 but the new president may face a challenge in moving quickly with his legislative agenda if the Senate is consumed with an impeachment trial of Trump.
Earlier this week, Biden said he’d asked if the Senate could “bifurcate” its schedule to deal with impeachment and his agenda simultaneously.
Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the incoming majority leader, said in an interview published Monday that the chamber can work on both issues at the same time.
“We’re going to have to do several things at once but we got to move the agenda as well,” Schumer told the Buffalo News.
Biden is rolling out his plan as the tally of U.S. COVID-19 cases topped 23 million, and the latest Labor Department data showed jobless claims surging to a five-month high as more workers lost jobs due to business closures and restrictions to combat the pandemic’s winter resurgence.
As part of his plan to fight the pandemic, Biden says he
will release available doses of vaccines after coming into office on Jan. 20,
instead of keeping some in reserve for second doses.
Beacon Policy Advisors analysts said that while they believe Biden will try to advance a coronavirus package on a bipartisan basis, they expect pressure on the president-elect to use a process known as budget reconciliation to push through new aid. Budget reconciliation is a procedure allowing legislation to be passed using a simple rather than two-thirds majority in the Senate.
“Ultimately we expect congressional Democrats, led by Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), to convince Biden that the only practical route to achieve the level of assistance that Democrats believe is necessary is via the reconciliation process that only requires a simple majority in the Senate, thus allowing Democrats to pass the legislation on their own — if they can reach unanimous agreement on its specifics among themselves,” Beacon analysts said in a note.