President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Thursday proposed a $1.9 trillion rescue package to address the economic downturn and the coronavirus, outlining the type of sweeping aid that Democrats have demanded for months and signaling a shift in the federal government’s pandemic response as Mr. Biden prepares to take office.
The package includes more than $400 billion to respond to the pandemic directly, including money to accelerate vaccine deployment and safely reopen most schools within 100 days. Here’s a look at what’s in the plan.
He acknowledged the high price tag but said the country could not afford to do anything less. “The very health of our nation is at stake,” Mr. Biden said. “We have to act, and we have to act now.”
Mr. Biden detailed the initiative, called the American Rescue Plan, in an evening speech in Delaware, effectively kicking off his presidency. The package, which would be financed entirely through increased federal borrowing, flows from the idea that the virus and the recovery are intertwined.
A $20 billion “national vaccine program” he announced envisions community vaccination centers around the country.
Mr. Biden has promised 100 million Covid-19 vaccine shots will be administered during his first 100 days in office. Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the United States, told the “Today” show on Friday that he believe the ambitious mark is “quite feasible” though the vaccination rollout “has not worked as smoothly as possible.”
A second address was held in Wilmington, Del., on Friday afternoon, at which Mr. Biden shared further details of his distribution plan. He called for greatly expanding access while emphasizing equity in distribution, including to those in jail. The president-elect said he would invoke the Defense Production Act, if necessary, to build up supply.
He also said he intends for the federal government not only to develop mass vaccination sites, but also to reimburse states for the use of National Guard troops to administer vaccines.
Mr. Biden also called for a “public health jobs program” to address his goals of bolstering the economy and the Covid-19 response while also rebuilding the nation’s fragile public health infrastructure. The proposal would fund 100,000 public health workers to engage in vaccine outreach and contact tracing.
At the same time, Mr. Biden is keen to address the racial disparities in health that have been exposed by the pandemic, which has also disproportionately claimed the lives of people of color. He pledged to increase funding for community health centers and intends to fund efforts to mitigate the pandemic in prisons and jails, where Black and Hispanic people and are overrepresented.