From Segun Amure, (The New Diplomat’s Abuja Bureau)
The President-elect of the United States, Joe Biden on Thursday unveiled his administration $1.9 trillion stimulus package called the “American Rescue Plan,” to cushion the effect of Coronavirus in the country.
The plan would meet Biden’s goal of administering 100 million vaccines by the 100th day of his administration and also help to stabilize the economy.
“I know what I just described does not come cheaply, but we simply can’t afford not to do what I’m proposing,” Biden said in a nationwide address.
“If we invest now boldly, smartly and with unwavering focus on American workers and families, we will strengthen our economy, reduce inequity and put our nation’s long-term finances on the most sustainable course.” He said.
However, the plan also includes $1,400 checks for most Americans, which on top of $600 provided in the most recent COVID-19 bill would bring the total to the $2,000 that Biden has called for. It would also extend a temporary boost in unemployment benefits and a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures through September.
Also, the plan seeks an increase of the minimum wage to $15 an hour, expanding paid leave for workers, and increasing tax credits for families with children. The last item would make it easier for women to go back to work, which in turn would help the economy recover.
Recall that Joe Biden in his victory speech had said “Our work begins with getting COVID under control, we cannot repair the economy, restore our vitality or relish life’s most precious moments until we get it under control.”
On combating the pandemic, $400 billion would be disbursed to curtail the spread of the pandemic and the rest will focus on economic relief which will support states and localities.
On vaccination, $20 billion would be allocated to double the $8 billion earlier approved by Congress. Biden has also called for the setting up of mass vaccination centers and sending mobile units to hard-to-reach areas.
The plan provides $50 billion to expand testing, which is seen as key to reopening most schools by the end of the new administration’s first 100 days. About $130 billion would be allocated to help schools reopen without risking further contagion.
Notably, a total of 100,000 public health workers will be recruited to focus on encouraging people to get vaccinated and on tracing the contacts of those infected with the coronavirus.
Biden however urged Americans to override their sense of pandemic fatigue and be committed to wearing masks, practicing social distancing and avoiding outdoor gatherings, particularly larger ones in order to slow down the effect of Covid-19 wave in U.S.