‘No time to waste’: Biden unveils $1.9trn plan to help US fight coronavirus

US News

President-elect Joe Biden has revealed a $1.9trn (£1.4trn) stimulus package to help the US get through the coronavirus pandemic.

The package includes $415bn for the virus response, around $1trn for households, and roughly $440bn for small businesses and hard-hit communities.

Mr Biden said: “A 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.”

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Some 388,000 people have died with COVID-19 in the US, the highest number of any country, while the shutdowns and restrictions have cost millions of jobs.

The funds devoted to the virus fight will go towards testing, contact tracing, and the vaccination programme, which Mr Biden admitted had been “a dismal failure so far”.

He said: “The vaccines offer so much hope… but the vaccine rollout in the United States has been a dismal failure thus far.”

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Part of Mr Biden’s plan to fight the virus is to vaccinate 100 million Americans in his first 100 days in office.

He said: “This will be one of the most challenging operations efforts we’ve ever undertaken as a nation. We’ll have to move heaven and earth to get more people vaccinated.”

Mr Biden might find it difficult to convince Republicans that his package is not too expensive.

However, the path of the legislation will be smoothed by the fact that his Democratic party controls both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

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A second plan is expected in the coming weeks which will look more closely at support for households – extending a ban on foreclosures and evictions until September and help with rental and utility payments.

Mr Biden will push for the minimum wage to be increased to $15 an hour and there will also be assistance to fight hunger.

He said: “I know what I just described does not come cheaply, but failure to do so will cost us dearly.

“If we invest now – boldly, smartly, with unwavering focus on American workers and families – we will strengthen our economy, reduce inequality and put our nation’s long-term finances on the most sustainable course.”

Wall Street is expected to open higher on Friday, with markets likely to welcome the plan.

Jake Dollarhide, chief executive at Longbow Asset Management in Tulsa, Oklahoma, said it was “one piece in the overall puzzle”.

“It bridges the gap to getting restaurant workers, airline workers and other employees back to work.”

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