President-elect Joe Biden outlined a nearly $2 trillion spending proposal Thursday evening, including raising one-time federal payments to most Americans to $2,000 to boost the U.S. economy.
The "American Rescue Plan" plan comes as the coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage the U.S. economy and just days before Biden is slated to be inaugurated on Jan. 20.
Congress approved $600 checks to most Americans in December after rancorous negotiations between the Senate, House and Trump administration. Outgoing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky,) opposed larger checks.
The December effort "fell far short of the resources needed to tackle the immediate crisis," a statement released by Biden's team said. "We are in a race against time, and absent additional government assistance, the economic and public health crises could worsen in the months ahead; schools will not be able to safely reopen; and vaccinations will remain far too slow."
However, with Democrats gaining control of the Senate in the new session, the additional spending is likely to win approval.
Other elements of the plan include extending supplemental unemployment payments to help the millions of Americans who lost their jobs when lockdowns and closures shuttered their employers. Travel, restaurant, and other leisure industries have been particularly hard-hit since the pandemic took hold nearly a year ago.
Some 965,000 Americans filed for first-time unemployment benefits in the past week on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to Labor Department data released Thursday. That was well above estimates.
The spending proposal also includes sharp increases in spending on vaccine deployment, as well as testing and contract tracing. Nearly 400,000 Americans have died, and more than 22 million have been infected since outgoing president Donald Trump first characterized the virus as a “hoax” 11 months ago.
Biden is also seeking money to help most schools open in order to free parents from childcare duties and allow them to re-enter the workforce.
U.S. stocks edged lower Thursday in advance of the Biden proposal’s release. The Dow fell about 70 points, or 0.2%. The S&P 500 lost 0.4%. The Nasdaq composite slipped 0.1%.