Joe Biden unveils $2.5 trillion coronavirus stimulus plan to ward off 'a crisis of deep human suffering'

US President-elect Joe Biden has unveiled a trillion-dollar spending package to combat the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the economy.

US President-elect Joe Biden has promised a slew of 'day one' actions.

US President-elect Joe Biden has promised a slew of 'day one' actions. Source: AFP

President-elect Joe Biden has outlined a $US1.9 trillion ($A2.5 trillion) stimulus package proposal, saying bold investment was needed to jump-start the economy and accelerate the distribution of vaccines to bring COVID-19 under control.

Mr Biden campaigned last year on a promise to take the pandemic more seriously than President Donald Trump, and the package aims to put that pledge into action with an influx of resources for the COVID-19 response and economic recovery.

"A crisis of deep human suffering is in plain sight, and there's no time to waste," Mr Biden said in prime-time remarks from Delaware on Thursday (local time).

"We have to act and we have to act now."

The aid package includes $US415 billion (A$536 billion) to bolster the response to the virus and the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, some $US1 trillion (A$1.3 trillion) in direct relief to households, and roughly $US440 billion (A$568 billion) for small businesses and communities particularly hard hit by the pandemic.

Stimulus payment cheques would be issued for $US1400 (A$1,800) - on top of the $US600 (A$774) cheques delivered by the last congressional stimulus legislation. Supplemental unemployment insurance would also increase to $US400 (A$516) a week from $US300 (A$387) a week now and would be 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 United States 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 on Wednesday, did support $US2000 (A$2,600) 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, which come on the heels of a $US900 billion ($1.2 billion) aid package Congress passed in December.

But he will be helped by his fellow Democrats controlling both the House and the Senate. Chuck Schumer, who is about to lead a narrow Democratic majority in the US Senate, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Mr Biden's package was "the right approach" and pledged to begin working on legislation.

The incoming president will seek to pass the legislation even as his predecessor faces an impeachment trial.

The Democratic-led House of Representatives , 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.

Transition officials said Mr Biden's plan would be a rescue package that would be followed up with another recovery package in the coming weeks.

"I know what I just described does not come cheaply but failure to do so will cost us dearly," Mr Biden said, adding that economists, financial institutions and Wall Street banks supported the need for stimulus.

The coronavirus relief-related funds will go towards a national vaccine program, testing, investments for workers to do vaccine outreach and contact tracing, and money for states.

"The vaccines offer so much hope ... but the vaccine rollout in the United States has been a dismal failure thus far," Mr Biden said, adding that on Friday he would set out his plan to vaccinate 100 million Americans in 100 days after taking office.

"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."

4 min read
Published 15 January 2021 at 11:54am
Source: AAP, SBS