President Joe Biden’s administration has taken its first steps to revive the flagging US economy, but his ability to boost the economy clearly depends on securing the support of a divided Congress for his stimulus bill.
The Biden administration has made the $1.9tn relief plan a top priority for his first week in office.
The package includes $400bn for efforts to stop the spread of Covid-19 and increase vaccine distribution; over $1tn to assist families needing direct financial support; and $440bn in emergency funds for cash-poor small businesses and communities.
The White House’s plan, which President Biden said he plans to send to Congress soon, includes additional $1,400 direct payments to millions of Americans, on top of the $600 payments approved in December under the previous Congress.
While Biden’s $1.9tn plan has garnered widespread Democratic support, Republicans have previously balked at stimulus bills proposed in the House with such high price tags, according to CBS News.
Republican lawmakers have questioned the price tag on pandemic aid and a separate investment proposal for infrastructure, green energy projects, education and research.
The newly appointed National Economic Council director Brian Deese said “decisive action” is needed to prevent further financial fallout from the pandemic.
“We’re at a precarious moment for the virus and the economy,” he warned. “Without decisive action, we risk falling into a very serious economic hole, even more serious than the crisis we find ourselves in.”
Deese addressed criticism from some Republicans that the federal government has already provided sufficient relief through its previous $900bn Covid-19 economic relief package.
President Joe Biden’s top economic aide said the previous relief came after months of inaction, and was merely “filling a hole.”
He said there is not an issue of “acting too much,” and called the president’s plan an “appropriate response to an unprecedented economic circumstance.”
“We waited for six months or more before Congress acted, so really a lot of what that $900bn was doing was filling a hole in the second half of 2020 that desperately needed to be filled,” Deese said.
“This is not an issue of Congress acting too much, it’s an issue of not acting enough.”
Meanwhile, the US president on Friday signed two executive orders to broaden access to food stamps and unemployment benefits, while beginning a process to introduce a mandatory $15 per hour minimum wage for federal contractors.
“The bottom line is this: we’re in a national emergency. We’ve got to act like we’re in a national emergency,” Biden said as he signed the executive orders.
The executive actions signed by President Biden would expand access to food stamps and allow workers who left their jobs for health and safety reasons to receive unemployment benefits.
More than 400,000 Americans have died from the virus and millions of jobs have been lost.
“A lot of America is hurting. The virus is surging. ... Families are going hungry. People are at risk of being evicted. Job losses are mounting again. We need to act. No matter how you look at it, we need to act,” Biden said.