Just days before his inauguration, President-elect Joe Biden announced the “American Rescue Plan,” a $1.9 trillion recovery plan to combat COVID-19 and get the economy and the nation on track. In remarks Thursday night, Biden called for expanding direct financial assistance and relief including another round of direct cash payments to individuals, $400 in supplemental unemployment insurance, economic support for states and local communities.
Urging immediate action Biden challenged the country to take bold steps to get the country on track. “[This is] a crisis of deep human suffering in plain sight,” said Biden. “And there is no time to wait. We have to act and act now.”
Biden says his plan would cut child poverty in half, lifting 5 million children out of poverty. A preliminary analysis from the Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University estimated the Biden proposal would reduce the poverty rate for children by 51.1 percent. In addition, the poverty rate for Black and Latino communities, hardest hit by COVID-19, could potentially reduce by a third.
He leveraged the recovery plan to push for economic policies such as a $15 minimum wage, eliminating the tipped wage, and getting rid of the sub-minimum wage paid to disabled workers. Unemployment insurance benefit supplement will increase to $400 per week and extend through September.
The proposed extension in unemployment benefits comes as claims last week reached nearly one million claims for initial payment. This does not include those eligible for benefits through the pandemic unemployment assistance program including gig workers, self-employed people, and those not otherwise qualified for regular unemployment compensation.
Calling for a “total of $2,000 in direct relief” Biden’s proposal would provide individuals with an additional $1,400 payment. Unlike prior relief payments, under Biden’s proposal adult dependents including children over 17 would be eligible for benefits.
Some have challenged the announced direct relief payment saying it falls short of the promise of a $2,000 check if Democrats won the senate. Last week, Sen. Chuck Schumer said passing $2,000 stimulus checks would be the first priority of the new Senate.
Other components of the proposal include extending the federal eviction through September and additional aid for renters and $15 billion in grants to small businesses. Building out a national vaccination program and increasing testing capacity. Biden also proposes money to support safe reopening of schools and expanding paid sick leave benefits.
The Groundwork Collaborative, an economic policy organization, said the plan was a promising first step. “The plan includes key provisions for people-centered relief,” said Claire Guzdar, director of campaigns and partnerships at The Groundwork Collaborative. “Congress should immediately move to pass President-elect Biden’s plan and send it to his desk to be signed into law as quickly as possible.”