Jan. 14 (UPI) — President-elect Joe Biden on Thursday unveiled plans for streamlining COVID-19 vaccinations nationwide and a new stimulus package including another direct payment to Americans.
Biden detailed a two-part plan during a speech from Wilmington, Del., pledging to administer 100 million COVID-19 vaccines by the 100th day of his administration and provide $1,400 payments to Americans.
“It’s not hard to see that we are in the middle of a once-in-several-generations economic crisis, with a once-in-several-generations public health crisis,” he said. “The crisis of deep human suffering is in plain sight and there’s no time to waste. We have to act and we have to act now.”
Biden said his plan would seek to allocate funds to help launch a national vaccination program. He called the current administration’s vaccine rollout “a dismal failure.”
“We’ll have to move heaven and Earth to get more people vaccinated, to create more places for them to get vaccinated, to mobilize more medical teams to get shots in people’s arms, to increase vaccine supply and get it out the door as quickly as possible,” he said.
Additionally, the plan would seek to provide funding to provide America’s K-8 schools with increased testing and transportation, additional cleaning and sanitizing services, protective equipment and ventilation systems to allow them to fully reopen safely.
Biden said his plan would provide $1,400 in direct payments to Americans — fulfilling Democrats’ goal in the last stimulus plan to issue $2,000 checks.
“We will finish the job of getting a total of $2,000 in cash relief to the people who need it the most. The $600 already appropriated is simply not enough,” he said.
Most Americans began receiving a second direct payment of $600 last month after a compromise package was passed in Congress. Proposals to raise the amount to $2,000 had bipartisan support in Congress but was blocked by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.
The president-elect also said he would provide additional unemployment insurance payments of $400 per week and push to raise the national minimum wage to $15, as well as quarantine workers infected with the virus and allow workers paid time to care for their sick family members.
The plan would also seek to extend emergency nutritional assistance for 43 million children and their families enrolled in the SNAP program through the end of the year and place a restriction on evictions.
Biden, who will take office Wednesday, is expected to call on Democrats and Republicans in Congress to immediately take action on his proposals.
With Democrats soon taking control of the Senate, Biden’s plan for a third payment is expected to have a much better chance to pass. The Democratic-controlled House approved the increase before McConnell’s block.
Biden’s economic proposals, however, require 60 votes in the Senate for passage, meaning there still needs to be some GOP support. Some key Republicans in the chamber, including Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Marco Rubio of Florida, had supported $2,000 payments last month.
It remains to be seen exactly what kind of GOP support Biden will see when he takes office after House Democrats and 10 Republicans voted to impeach President Donald Trump on Wednesday for inciting an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol last week.
“[The nation] remains in the grip of a deadly virus and a reeling economy,” Biden said after the vote Wednesday.
“I hope that the Senate leadership will find a way to deal with their constitutional responsibilities on impeachment while also working on the other urgent business of this nation.”
Most Republicans in the House, 197, voted against impeachment. Several GOP senators have so far expressed willingness to convict Trump when the upper chamber holds its trial. When that will occur, however, is unknown.
The Senate is required to hold a trial when it receives the article of impeachment from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The chamber won’t reconvene until Tuesday and McConnell has ruled out returning earlier.
Pelosi didn’t say Wednesday when the article would be transmitted to the Senate. If the Senate ultimately convicts Trump, it could also bar him from ever holding federal office again.