Biden to announce vaccination plan, economic rescue package in evening address

Biden to announce vaccination plan, economic rescue package in evening address

President-elect Joe Biden unveiled a $1.9 trillion stimulus package proposal on Thursday created to jump-start the economy and speed up the US response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Tweeting ahead of his remarks Biden said: "We need to tackle the public health and economic crises we're facing head-on".

Stimulus payment checks would be issued for $1,400 - topping up the $600 checks issued under the last congressional stimulus legislation.

"After almost a year of the public health crisis, our nation remains in this dark winter of the pandemic and facing a deep economic crisis", reads a statement from Biden's transition team.

"Our work begins with getting COVID under control", he declared in his victory speech. "We'll have to move heaven and earth to get more people vaccinated". Many Democratic operatives and lawyers have spent the past week building support and charting out a strategy for impeachment instead of focusing exclusively on the billions of dollars at stake with this COVID-19 package.

Biden sees the pandemic as the country's biggest problem.

Biden will outline more of the plan later on Thursday, but Senate Democrats are also talking seriously about merging pandemic relief with a completely unrelated infrastructure bill.

The plan is also calling for US$170 billion to help schools to open - something Biden has said would allow many parents, especially women, to rejoin the labour force after they dropped out to care for children learning at home. "This should be understood as the first step". And government numbers on Thursday reported a jump in weekly unemployment claims, to 965,000, a sign that rising infections are forcing businesses to cut back and lay off workers.

US President Donald Trump arrives on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington after a trip to Texas, January 12, 2021.

The president-elect has already said that it is part of his administration's goal to deliver 100 million shots of COVID-19 vaccines in his first 100 days in office. The mob rampaged through the Capitol building, leaving five people dead.

The payments start phasing out for people making more money, at a rate of $5 per $100 of additional income.

It is unclear how quickly the Senate will proceed - or whether it will vote to convict President Trump - but it is expected to distract from the new Biden administration's agenda.

Biden's plan however also includes $350 billion in funding to state and local governments, which Republican lawmakers blocked throughout a year ago. Trump, who leaves office on Wednesday, did support $2,000 payments to Americans, however.

Democrats hold only the slimmest of majorities in the House and the Senate, and Republicans have recently resisted efforts to pass Covid-19 relief on a multi-trillion dollar scale.

One Democratic senator has already expressed hesitation over increasing the payments, but earlier this week Republican Senator Marco Rubio told Biden he would back the additional aid.

The proposal would, in addition, help states deploy "strike teams" to nursing homes and other long-term care facilities with outbreaks of covid-19, as well as to help slow the virus spread in prisons and detention centers. He's also said that he plans to institute a mask mandate "where he can" - including while on federal property and during interstate public transit.

The minimum wage would be increased to $15 an hour and there would be increased tax credits for families with children.

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