$1,400 Checks And Jobless Benefits: What's In Biden's Plan To Rescue The Ecomy President-elect Joe Biden is proposing a $1.9 trillion plan to address the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic crisis.
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$1,400 Checks And Help For The Jobless: What's In Biden's Plan To Rescue The Economy

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$1,400 Checks And Help For The Jobless: What's In Biden's Plan To Rescue The Economy

$1,400 Checks And Help For The Jobless: What's In Biden's Plan To Rescue The Economy

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

President-elect Joe Biden says if the U.S. is going to come back from this pandemic, it has to spend big. Biden outlined his strategy last night. It's an ambitious plan with a total price tag of $1.9 trillion in additional congressional aide.

NPR's Scott Horsley is with us this morning. Hi, Scott.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: At this point, Congress has already allocated around $4 trillion in federal relief aid for the pandemic, but Biden now clearly saying that's not enough.

HORSLEY: That's right. He acknowledged the fixes he's proposing won't come cheap, but he warned the cost of inaction would be even higher. He spoke at a time when we're losing more than 4,000 people every day to COVID-19 and more than 18 million Americans are still out of work.

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JOE BIDEN: A crisis of deep human suffering is in plain sight, and there's no time to waste. We have to act, and we have to act now.

HORSLEY: In recent weeks, we've seen a frightening surge in both death and new infections. And beyond the illness and the loss of life, there's been a serious toll on the economy, Rachel. Just last week, more than 1.2 million people filed new applications for unemployment relief. You know, we're still short millions of jobs, and we actually lost jobs in December for the first time since April.

MARTIN: Let's focus in on specifically the pandemic. How does Biden propose getting ahead of that?

HORSLEY: He wants a more aggressive federal response. You know, President Trump put a lot of emphasis on developing new vaccines in record time. But once they were in hand, the administration really left it up to states to distribute them, and it's gone much more slowly than promised. In fact, Biden branded the rollout so far a, quote, "dismal failure." The president-elect is calling on Congress to spend $20 billion on a nationwide vaccine campaign, and he wants to hire 100,000 additional public health workers.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BIDEN: We'll have to move heaven and earth to get more people vaccinated, to create more places for them to get vaccinated, to mobilize more medical teams to get shots in people's arms, to increase vaccine supply and to get it out the door as fast as possible.

HORSLEY: You know, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell underscored that point yesterday, saying the single most important economic policy in the country right now is health care policy.

MARTIN: Right. They're completely entwined. So even if Biden meets his goal of delivering 100 million shots in his first 100 days - which experts say is a stretch, right? - that's not suddenly going to fix the job market. What is Biden saying about that?

HORSLEY: Right. So he's calling for another round of direct payments of $1,400 for most Americans. That's on top of the $600 payments that were approved last month. He also wants to increase unemployment benefits, and, importantly, he wants to extend those benefits through September or even longer if conditions warrant. He's also calling for hundreds of billions of dollars in spending to help schools reopen safely and help state and local governments keep teachers and police and firefighters on the job. And he's proposing some longer-term measures, including a boost in the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

MARTIN: I mean, I guess he's got some support in Congress. It's tipping his direction. But what are the chances it actually gets through?

HORSLEY: Uncertain - you know, Democrats have the narrowest possible margin in the Senate and a not much bigger majority in the House. As much as the president-elect is urging lawmakers to act quickly, he acknowledged this is not going to be like throwing a light switch when he takes office next week.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BIDEN: We didn't get into all this overnight; we won't get out of it overnight. And we can't do it as a separated and divided nation. The only way we can do it is to come together - to come together as fellow Americans, as neighbors.

HORSLEY: That is obviously a very different tone than what we've been hearing in Washington lately. Certainly, parts of the Biden plan are not going to win bipartisan support. Parts of the Chamber of Commerce, for example, are very skeptical of that $15 minimum wage. But the chamber put out a supportive statement, especially about the vaccine turbocharging. You know, everybody wants to put this pandemic behind them as quickly as possible.

MARTIN: NPR's Scott Horsley, thank you.

HORSLEY: You're welcome.

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