The president has proposed a $1.9 trillion bill to aid the nation’s efforts for getting back to normal life.
On Jan. 14, President Biden released his plan for what he hopes will be the next COVID-19 stimulus package. The $1.9 trillion plan, named the American Rescue Plan (APR), is aimed at targeting unemployment aid, rental and mortgage assistance, food security for struggling families, raising the federal minimum wage, funding vaccine efforts and doling out bigger stimulus checks.
As of Tuesday, 463,659 United States citizens have lost their lives due to COVID-19. Faced with these staggering statistics and a crumbling economy, President Biden has hopes that his plans will rejuvenate a suffering nation.
Let’s break each of these proposals down.
The APR would grant an extra $100 a week to those who are currently unemployed. This raises the value of weekly unemployment checks from $300 to $400.
According to December’s relief bill, Congress extended support for two major unemployment relief programs, the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program and the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, until March. However, Biden desires to extend these two programs until September.
“While Congress’s bipartisan action in December was a step in the right direction, it was only a down payment. It fell far short of the resources needed to tackle the immediate crisis,” stated the White House regarding the December bill.
This “down payment” led to a grand total of $4 trillion of federal funds spent on pandemic relief, but the president believes the federal government can do more.
Rental and mortgage assistance
Lawmakers approved $25 billion in rental assistance to struggling Americans in December. The ARP proposes another $25 billion to be given to low and moderate income households.
On top of this action, Biden’s plan provides $5 billion to local governments to aid those experiencing homelessness in their localities and another $5 billion to assist renters in paying utility bills.
Along with assistance for renters, Biden’s plan calls for Congress to extend eviction and foreclosure moratoriums until Sept. 30. The APR will also extend forbearance applications on federally-guaranteed mortgages until the end of September.
“The jobs crisis is particularly severe in communities of color, where 1 in 10 Black workers and 1 in 11 Latino workers are unemployed,” the White House asserted in a release. “Large numbers of families are struggling to pay rent or their mortgages and put food on the table.”
Biden has proposed that a previously established 15% increase in food stamp funds be extended until Sept. 30, as opposed to having the extra funding expiring in June. He hopes that this will provide much needed aid for families of color who have been struggling to make ends meet.
The president also plans on providing funds for restaurants to provide free meals in their communities and granting $1 billion to U.S. territories for nutrition assistance.
Minimum wage increase
The federal minimum wage has not been modified since President Obama’s first term. To address this issue, the ARP proposes that the federal minimum wage be increased from $7.25 to $15 an hour. Biden’s proposal also seeks to eliminate the tipped minimum wage and the sub-minimum wage for workers with disabilities.
Biden’s plan of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 has been met with ample praise. Concerning the wage hike, economic analyst Mark Hamrick commented, “If the federal minimum wage were to be raised it would provide a much-needed financial shot in the arm for many of those still in a position of financial fragility.”
In the face of large Democratic support, the Congressional Budget Office reported that raising the minimum wage will cut 1.4 million jobs from the market.
Biden’s nominee for head of the U.S. Office of Budget and Management, Neera Tanden, was questioned about this raise in her confirmation hearing before the Senate. When asked about this potential job loss, she replied saying that the losses Americans would suffer would be “relatively low.”
“I think the important thing is to be guided by facts and evidence,” she said, insisting that she believes the loss of jobs will be worth the extra dollars in Americans’ paychecks.
COVID-19 vaccine and recovery efforts
According to the Associated Press, Biden has referred to the vaccine rollout as “a dismal failure so far.” In order to galvanize the vaccine effort, Biden is asking for $50 billion to expand COVID-19 testing, hire 100,000 health care workers, track virus mutations in foreign lands, aid the purchase of rapid tests and assist schools in their efforts to institute regular testing for students and employees. Biden put an emphasis on the fact that he hopes that the aid given to schools will permit the education system to reopen within the coming months.
The administration’s largest goal for education is to see in-person, “teaching at least one day a week in the majority of schools by day 100,” according to Press Secretary Jen Psaki.
The ARP will also provide $20 billion in a national vaccination program which seeks to vaccinate all Medicaid recipients, as well as citizens in rural areas.
The most popular proposal from the ARP is Biden’s stimulus package. Biden is proposing that $1,400 stimulus checks be sent to the nearly 160 million eligible Americans.
“Generally, the payments would be $1,400 per individual, or $2,800 per married couple who file jointly, plus $1,400 per dependent,” CNBC reported. “Unlike previous stimulus checks, both children and adult dependents would qualify.”
Individuals earning up to $75,000, heads of household earning up $112,500 and married couples filing jointly up to $150,000 will receive full payments.
President Biden has made it clear that he is willing to be a big spender when it comes to reviving the life of our nation. His Keynesian approach has been hailed by many of Washington’s Democrats and has met opposition from Washington’s Republicans.
The Republican party proposed their own version of the American Rescue Plan in hopes of countering Biden’s proposal, but the president plans on utilizing budget reconciliation to bypass the need for Republican approval.
With the unwavering support of House Democrats and Senate Majority Leader, Sen. Chuck Schumer, the American Relief Plan is set to be initiated within the coming weeks.