Six days before officially taking office, President-elect Joe Biden on Thursday announced his $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan to combat the pandemic and provide aid to the tens of millions of Americans impacted by the economic effects of the coronavirus. Such a plan, made potentially viable by the new Democratic majority in the Senate, would boost many measures in the $902 billion coronavirus stimulus passed in December, a package that Biden referred to as a “down payment.”
“A crisis of deep human suffering is in plain sight, and there’s no time to waste,” Biden said in his address. “We have to act and we have to act now.”
Though the plan is not guaranteed to pass Congress in its current state, it has been praised by some unusual bedfellows: Both Bernie Sanders and the conservative lobbying group the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are in favor of the measures inside. Below is a guide to the most important pieces of the proposal, which includes $1 trillion in direct aid to individuals, $440 billion in aid to businesses, and $415 in efforts to combat the pandemic.
$1,400 checks for most Americans
Individuals making less than $75,000 per year will receive $1,400 direct payments, bringing the total from the second stimulus and the new measure to $2,000 — the amount promised by many Senate Democrats in the December round of negotiation. As in prior rounds, the tiers of eligibility still stand: Heads of household earning less than $112,500 and married couples filing jointly who earn less than $150,000 will also get the full sum.
$400 in weekly federal unemployment through September
Biden’s proposal would bring the $300-per-week in federal unemployment secured by the second stimulus package up by $100. While the initial program passed last month would only fund these benefits for 11 weeks, Biden’s goal is to extend the payments through September. The Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program for those who have exhausted state payments and the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program — for the self-employed, independent contractors, and gig workers — would also extend through September.
A $15 minimum wage
Biden is calling on Congress to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour, and to end the tipped minimum wage and sub-minimum wage for people with disabilities. Such a measure would extend well beyond the current economic crisis and boost earnings for millions of Americans: One study from 2019 found that 44 percent of American workers are employed in low-wage jobs that paid median annual wages of $18,000. Before taxes, a $15 minimum wage equates to $31,200 per year.
$350 billion in aid to state and local governments
Democrats conceded direct aid to states during the negotiations for the second stimulus, but with Mitch McConnell now in the Senate minority, the incoming administration is pushing for the option again. To help keep workers employed, distribute the vaccine, and maintain government services after losing billions in tax revenue losses, Biden aims to send $350 billion to state, local, and territorial governments.
$170 billion to K-12 schools and universities
While Congress approved $82 billion in aid for schools last month, the American Rescue Plan would provide an additional $170 billion to K-12 schools and universities to help with remote learning and in reopening.
Another $25 billion in rental assistance
In addition to the $25 billion allocated by Congress last month, Biden intends to push for another $25 billion in rental assistance for struggling households, $5 billion in aid for home energy and water costs, and $5 billion in emergency assistance to help secure housing for people who are homeless or at immediate risk of becoming so.
$20 billion for a national vaccination program
While the vaccination effort thus far has been delegated to the states, Biden proposed an additional $20 billion to establish a national vaccine program to help launch community vaccination centers, deploy mobile vaccination units to remote communities, and provide funding for 100,000 public-health workers to be employed in the effort.
$50 billion for COVID testing
As Americans continue to face significant waits for diagnostic coronavirus testing, Biden intends a $50 billion boost to the national testing apparatus, providing funds for rapid testing, expansions of lab capacity, and support for schools and local governments to implement regular testing.