What to expect from Biden’s stimulus plan
Former Obama economic adviser Robert Wolf and WSJ Editorial Page assistant editor James Freeman have a bipartisan conversation about government stimulus and relief under the Biden administration.
President-elect Joe Biden on Thursday unveiled a $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus proposal that's designed to jump-start the nation's sputtering economy and accelerate vaccine distribution to control the deadly pandemic.
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Biden introduced the relief plan during a primetime speech from Wilmington, Del., on Thursday, just six days before he's poised to take office. He has repeatedly said that passing another round of emergency aid is a priority for his administration and has pledged to "hit the ground running" on passing legislation.
“During this pandemic, millions of Americans, through no fault of their own, have lost the dignity and respect that comes with a job and a paycheck,” Biden said. “There is real pain overwhelming the real economy.”
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More than 380,000 people in the U.S. have died of COVID-19 and more than 23.1 million infected, the most in the world. Lockdown measures adopted across the country to curb the spread of the virus have cost millions of Americans their jobs.
Here's a breakdown of specific proposals included in the measure:
Stimulus checks: The plan calls for sending a one-time $1,400 direct payment to eligible Americans. The money would be in addition to the $600 check sent out this month, bringing the total payment amount to $2,000.
Biden would expand check eligibility to include adult dependents who were previously excluded from receiving the money, including college students and individuals with disabilities. It would also include households with mixed immigration statuses after the first $1,200 payment that Congress approved in the March CARES Act left out the spouses of undocumented immigrants who did not have Social Security numbers.
Extend supplemental unemployment aid: Biden called for Congress to increase the supplemental unemployment benefit for out-of-work Americans to $400 a week, up from the $300 a week boost that lawmakers approved in December.
Over time, Biden would phase out the higher unemployment benefits, which would hinge on the health and economic conditions — therefore avoiding a so-called "fiscal cliff" that could deal a serious blow to American families relying on the aid.
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“This gets money quickly into the pockets of millions of Americans who will spend it immediately on food, rent and other basic needs,” Biden said Thursday.
Biden would extend the income support for about six months through September 2021 (boosted jobless aid is currently set to lapse in mid-March).
The proposal would also expand benefits to self-employed individuals, gig workers and those who have exhausted their state benefits by extending CARES Act programs, including the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program.
In total, more than 18 million Americans were receiving some kind of jobless benefit through Dec. 26.
Temporary tax credit expansion: Biden wants to increase the child tax credit to $3,000 for children under the age of 17, and $3,600 for children under six. Families are normally entitled to up to $2,000 annually in refundable tax credits per child. He also would make the credit fully refundable.
He also proposed raising the maximum Earned Income Tax Credit for childless adults from $530 to about $1,500. He would also raise the income limit for the credit from about $16,000 to $21,000 and expand the age range of who's eligible by eliminating a cap on older workers and expanding eligibility for younger Americans.
Rental assistance and eviction moratorium: Under Biden's proposal, the eviction and foreclosure moratorium, which is set to lapse at the end of January, would be extended through September 2021.
It would also provide $25 billion rental assistance for low- and moderate-income households that have lost jobs during the pandemic. Another $5 billion would help secure housing for people who are, or who are at risk of becoming, homeless. It would also allocate $5 billion to help cover utility costs for struggling renters.
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Minimum wage increase: The measure would increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour and end the tipped minimum wage and sub-minimum wage for people with disabilities.
The federal minimum wage rate has been stuck at $7.25 per hour for the past decade.
Provide emergency paid leave: Biden wants to reinstate the paid sick and family leave benefits, which expired in December, through the end of September. He would also extend the program to individuals at companies with more than 500 employees and fewer than 50 workers.
The proposal would also provide paid sick, family and medical leave to parents who are caring for a child whose school is closed; individuals who are quarantining due to COVID-19 exposure; and people who are caring for someone infected with the virus.
Small business assistance: Small businesses would be able to receive a grant through a $15 billion program separate from the Paycheck Protection Program under Biden's plan. The proposal would also make a $35 billion investment in some state, local, tribal and non-profit financing programs that can provide low-interest loans and venture capital to help small businesses.
Aid for state and local governments: Biden wants to provide state, local and territorial governments with $350 billion in emergency funding to help them keep front-line workers employed and aid with vaccine distribution, COVID-19 testing, reopening schools and "maintaining other vital services."
Funding for state and local governments emerged as one of the most contentious issues during nearly a half-year of relief negotiations between Democrats and Republicans, who decried the proposal as a "blue-state bailout." Unable to compromise on the issue, lawmakers eventually decided to exclude state and local government aid from the $900 billion relief deal they passed in December.
Help for the hungry: The plan would extend the 15% increase in food stamp benefits, set to expire in June, through September. In addition, it would invest $3 billion to help women, infants and children get food and give U.S. territories $1 billion in nutrition assistance.
Finally, Biden said the administration would partner with restaurants to feed American families and keep food workers employed.
WHAT'S IN THE NEW $900B CORONAVIRUS RELIEF DEAL?
Vaccine distribution: The plan would invest $20 billion in a national vaccination program, including launching community vaccination centers around the country and deploying mobile vaccination units to hard-to-reach areas.
Biden would also increase federal support to vaccinate Medicaid enrollees.
The proposal would allocate $50 billion for testing, providing funds to purchase rapid tests, expand lab capacity and help schools implement regular testing to support reopening.
It would fund the hiring of 100,000 public health workers, nearly tripling the nation's community health workforce. It would address health disparities by expanding community health centers and health services for underserved populations, including those on tribal lands.
The proposal also supports COVID-19 support to long-term care facilities and to prisons for mitigation strategies.
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