Joe Biden unveils $1.9tn US economic relief package

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U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s proposal to pour $1.9 trillion into a hobbled economy could lay the foundation for a surge in jobs and spending that many economists say is needed to avoid long-term damage from a record-breaking pandemic recession.

If passed by Congress, it would include $1tn for households, with direct payments of $1,400 to all Americans, $415bn to fight the virus and $440bn for small businesses.

Biden campaigned last year vowing to do a better job handling the virus than outgoing President Donald Trump, a Republican. He has promised to beat the pandemic that has killed more than 385,000 people in the US.

The direct payments of $1,400 would come on top of $600 payments provided in a relief bill enacted last month.

In a primetime speech on Thursday night from his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, Biden said: “A crisis of deep human suffering is in plain sight and there’s no time to waste.”

“The very health of our nation is at stake,” he added. “We have to act and we have to act now.”

The incoming president said: “There will be stumbles, but I will always be honest with you about both the progress we’re making and what setbacks we meet.”

Biden wants to pump $20bn into vaccinating Americans, including setting up mass vaccination hubs and dispatching mobile units to remote areas.

Two effective vaccines were delivered under the Trump administration, but health officials say the rollout needs to speed up.

“The vaccine rollout in the United States has been a dismal failure this far,” said Mr Biden. His administration aims to deliver 100 million jabs in 100 days.

So far, about 11 million doses of the vaccine have been administered in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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His plan also calls for $50bn to expand testing and $130bn to help most schools reopen by the spring.

The plan would fund the hiring of 100,000 public health workers for contact tracing.

With nearly 11 million people unemployed across the country, supplemental jobless benefits would increase to $400 a week from $300 a week now.

They would also be extended until September, along with a moratorium on evictions and home repossessions.

The proposal for would bring payouts for families to the $2,000 figure that both Mr Biden and Mr Trump called for.

The president-elect will also call on Congress to double the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour – a Democratic priority that predates the pandemic.