Last Monday, president-elect Joe Biden revealed his administration’s COVID-19 task force and plans to address the pandemic. That same day, pharmaceutical company Pfizer made an uplifting announcement about a potential vaccine. Pfizer — which has worked with German drugmaker BioNTech to develop a treatment — announced its vaccine is more than 90% effective, with no signs of safety issues.
Both are positive news for Americans, particularly those struggling financially during the economic recession caused by the pandemic. Since summer, many have waited for lawmakers to pass more stimulus, but continuous arguing over provisions and price tags has left nothing to show for months of negotiations. There is hope that under a Biden presidency — and if the Democrats take key Senate seats in January — more aid will be distributed.
“Dealing with the coronavirus pandemic is one of the most important battles our administration will face, and I will be informed by science and by experts,” Biden remarked on Monday as he outlined his Emergency Action Plan to Save the Economy.
According to The Washington Post, over 100,000 new cases were confirmed throughout the previous week. That same week, more than 1,000 Americans died from the virus.
The president-elect will also reveal further information about his COVID-19 response strategy later this week, as well as additional stimulus relief. However, it’s expected that talks between the House and Senate will be just as contentious as it was before the election.
Biden’s current plan includes several key measures from the CARES Act, like stimulus checks and supplemental unemployment benefits. It also contains new provisions for financial assistance.
More Stimulus Checks
When Congress passed the CARES Act in March, they included a provision that allocated $1,200 stimulus checks to over 160 million people. These payments, which stand as one of the most popular parts of the bill, fueled household spending, the country’s overall savings rate, and saved millions from falling into poverty.
President Trump also supports more stimulus checks. However, neither has offered details about the size of the payments nor whether they would be recurrent. Lawmakers are working on another stimulus package that contains more checks, but it’s uncertain if they will approve it before it’s too late.
Additional Unemployment Benefits
The lockdown orders implemented across the country to slow the spread of COVID-19 led to historic unemployment almost immediately. In May, over 20 million Americans were laid off or furloughed due to the shutdown. Lawmakers created an unprecedented unemployment program to support these individuals. It offered an additional $600 per week, plus regular state unemployment payments.
Like the $1,200 payments, this measure was significant on the individual and national level. It helped drive consumer spending, GDP, and helped ordinary Americans stay afloat. When these benefits ended on July 31, President Trump approved a series of executive actions, one of which included the Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program.
The LWA program offered unemployed workers an extra $300 per week for six weeks, though it ended at the beginning of September. The only hope for more unemployment benefits is if Congress passes another package.
Like the stimulus checks, Biden’s plan fails to clarify how much funding the federal government would allocate toward unemployment benefits, just that it would extend the program.
Extra Funding For Monthly Social Security Payments
Neither the CARES Act nor any bill introduced since it expired has included measures to augment Social Security. However, Biden’s plan outlines an extra $200 per month for Social Security beneficiaries.
Student Loan Debt Forgiveness
The CARES Act did offer students a chance to defer federal student loans until the end of September. Borrowers still in the process of making payments would be exempt from monthly interest or statements until the end of the grace period.
When President Trump passed his executive memos, he extended the cutoff to the end of this year. Biden’s plan offers similar terms but an unspecified expiration date. However, according to Biden’s plan, the government would forgive up to $10,000 for individual borrowers.
If Biden can implement his plan when he assumes office, Americans can look forward to other relief measures such as:
- More funding for small businesses
- Emergency sick leave for workers
- Funding for state governments
- No-cost COVID-19 testing and treatments
- Gonzalez, Oscar. “Biden’s Stimulus Plan: Here’s What’s in It, Including a Second Check, Unemployment Benefits.” CNET, CNET, 9 Nov. 2020, www.cnet.com/personal-finance/bidens-stimulus-plan-heres-whats-in-it-including-a-second-check-unemployment-benefits/.