By Tanveer Kaur
President Joe Biden introduced a $1.9 trillion economic relief package before his inauguration that would aim to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and ease the nation’s economic setbacks. It provides generous amounts of money to reel back the effect of the pandemic. State and local aid, more unemployment benefits and mass vaccinations are all covered in the relief package.
Biden is asking legislators on both sides of the political aisle to pass this relief package. There isn’t much Republican support behind this proposal, but seeing as Democrats control both houses of Congress with Vice President Kamala Harris’s tie-breaking vote, this relief package could be passed within Biden’s first 100 days.
Biden is asking Congress to extend unemployment insurance programs through the end of September—they are set to expire in March—while providing “a $400 per week unemployment insurance supplement to help hard-hit workers.” That amount is an increase from the money provided in the December 2020 package that was passed by Congress. The December stimulus provided a $300 supplement for about 11 weeks, but it is lower than the $600 weekly benefit included in the first package at the start of the pandemic. The proposal would give $1,400 per person for people under certain income thresholds.
Biden also plans to include aid for safely re-opening Kindergarten-to-eighth grade schools in his administration’s first 100 days. The administration is requesting a budget of $170 billion for schools. $130 billion would go toward reopening schools. There would also be a significant amount of money allocated to colleges dealing with pandemic-related problems.
The minimum wage could see a rise for the first in more than a decade. Under this economic proposal, the minimum wage would be incrementally increased to $15 per hour from $7.25 per hour.
Biden’s plan would provide $440 billion in aid to communities and small businesses—in addition to the funds for school reopening. State and local governments have seen a decline in revenue due to the COVID-19 related restrictions. They have reduced payrolls due to the virus, which is concerning because they employ about 13 percent of America’s workers.
The Biden administration is seeking $160 billion in funding for a national vaccination program, expanded testing, a public health jobs program and speeding up Operation Warp Speed according to the administration’s summary. The administration’s plan would invest $20 billion in a national vaccination program that would include U.S. states, localities, tribes and territories.
The proposal would also seek to expand paid leave. The provision was left out of the December package, and the Biden administration is adding it to its proposal. The plan would allow for fourteen weeks of paid sick, family and medical leave for caregivers dealing with closed schools or care centers while providing for a $1,400 leave benefit for eligible workers. State and local governments and employers with fewer than 500 employees would be reimbursed for the cost via refundable tax credits. Emergency leave provisions would last through the end of September 2021.
The plan would temporarily increase the size of tax credits for more families and make them refundable—meaning people would get cash even if they do not earn enough to owe income taxes. Under the proposal of the expanded child care tax credit, families with children up to age thirteen could receive a total of up to $4,000 for one child or $8,000 for two or more kids. Families making less than $125,000 per year would receive the full credit.