US President-elect Joe Biden has unveiled a $US1.9 trillion ($A2.5 trillion) stimulus package proposal designed to jump-start the economy and speed up the US response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Biden campaigned before the November election on a promise to take the pandemic more seriously than President Donald Trump.
The package aims to put that pledge into action with an influx of resources for the coronavirus response and economic recovery.
“It’s not hard to see that we’re in the middle of a once-in-several-generations economic crisis with a once-in-several-generations public health crisis. A crisis of deep human suffering is in plain sight and there’s no time to waste,” Mr Biden said in a prime-time address on Thursday (US time).
“We have to act and we have to act now.”
Details of the aid package were released by Mr Biden’s transition team earlier on Thursday.
It includes $US415 billion to bolster the response to the virus and the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, some $US1 trillion in direct relief to households, and roughly $US440 billion for small businesses and communities particularly hard hit by the pandemic.
Stimulus payment cheques would be issued for $US1400 – topping up the $US600 cheques issued under the last congressional stimulus legislation. Supplemental unemployment insurance would also increase to $US400 a week from $US300 a week and extended to September.
Mr Biden’s plan is meant to kick off his time in office with a large bill that sets his short-term agenda into motion quickly: Helping the economy and getting a handle on a virus that has killed more than 385,000 people in the US as of Thursday.
It also provides a sharp contrast with Mr Trump, who spent the last months of his administration seeking to undermine Mr Biden’s election victory rather than focusing on additional coronavirus relief. Mr Trump, who leaves office next Wednesday, did support $US2000 payments to Americans, however.
Many Republicans in Congress baulked at the price tag for such payments. Mr Biden will face similar hurdles with his proposals, though he will be helped by his fellow Democrats controlling both the House and the Senate.
The incoming president will seek to pass the legislation even as his predecessor faces an impeachment trial.
The Democratic-led House of Representatives voted to impeach Mr Trump on Wednesday, making him the first president in US history to be impeached twice. Ten of his fellow Republicans joined Democrats to charge him with inciting an insurrection in last week’s deadly rampage at the Capitol.
Mr Biden has encouraged lawmakers to handle the trial while also moving forward with his agenda.
Transition officials said Mr Biden’s plan would be a rescue package that would be followed up with another recovery package in coming weeks.
The plan would extend moratoriums on foreclosures and evictions until September and include funding for rental and utility assistance.
The coronavirus relief-related funds will go toward a national vaccine program, testing, investments for workers to do vaccine outreach and contact tracing, and money for states.