President-elect Joe Biden is calling for an expansive $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief and economic stimulus package called the American Rescue Plan.
The plan calls for investing $20 billion in a national vaccine program and setting up community vaccination sites nationwide – the latter effort an initiative announced by Operation Warp Speed earlier this week.
The proposal would invest $50 billion in testing, provide funds to purchase rapid tests, expand lab capacity and help schools implement regular testing to support reopening. Biden's plan calls for safely reopening a majority of K-8 schools in his first 100 days in office.
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The plan would fund the hiring of 100,000 public health workers, nearly tripling the community health workforce. It would address health disparities by expanding community health centers and health services on tribal lands. And it would provide support to long-term care facilities experiencing outbreaks and to prisons for mitigation strategies.
The plan would also provide paid sick leave to contain the spread of the virus and it would extend unemployment insurance.
Biden wants to increase and expand the Affordable Care Act's premium subsidies so that enrollees don't have to pay more than 8.5% of their income for coverage, which is also one of his campaign promises, according to CNN. The law is facing a challenge from Republican-led states and is currently before the Supreme Court.
Also, Biden wants Congress to provide $4 billion for mental health and substance use disorder services and $20 billion to meet the healthcare needs of veterans, the CNN report said.
Under the American Rescue Plan, families would receive $1,400 per-person checks, including households with mixed immigration status who were left out of the $1,200 stimulus funding released in December.
The president-elect's plan would also provide emergency funding to upgrade federal information technology infrastructure and address the recent breaches of federal government data systems.
"President-elect Biden's $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan is ambitious, but achievable, and will rescue the American economy and start beating the virus," Biden's Build Back Better page said. "Congress should act expeditiously to help working families, communities, and small businesses persevere through the pandemic."
WHY THIS MATTERS
When Biden is inaugurated on Wednesday, he comes into office with a Democratic majority in the House and an evenly split Senate, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris providing the tie-breaking vote.
The $1.9 trillion package is much more ambitious than the $900 billion Congress passed in December, but Biden could have the votes to make it happen.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-MA) applauded the next COVID-19 relief package: "From extending unemployment insurance, to expanding key tax measures, to providing critical child care supports, this plan builds on several successful provisions spearheaded by the Ways and Means Committee that we know work," he said.
THE LARGER TREND
Healthcare organizations such as the American Medical Association have called for a national strategy to get vaccines distributed faster, as earlier this week Operation Warp Speed announced that nine million of the 38 million doses distributed have been given.
"With two safe and effective vaccines now in hand, it has been disheartening to see the distribution process in many states slowed and severely hampered by unrealistic expectations and a lack of coordination at the federal level," AMA President Dr. Susan R. Bailey said by statement.
ON THE RECORD
The Association of American Medical Colleges president and CEO Dr. David J. Skorton, MD, said, "The healthcare workforce and researchers at the nation's teaching hospitals and medical schools are being pushed to the limit as they continue to define the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is crucial to pass legislation that ensures healthcare providers and scientists have the resources necessary to serve patients and communities during this public health crisis."
American Clinical Laboratory Association president Julie Khani said, "After performing more than 90 million PCR tests for COVID-19, we remain focused on our efforts to expand access to, and coverage of, accurate and reliable testing for every American. Meeting the evolving needs of patients nationwide requires significant investment in high-precision instruments, adequate testing supplies, a highly trained workforce, modernized reporting systems, cutting edge research and specialized transportation logistics."
David C. Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors, said, "This emergency relief package is the first step in recovering from the consequences of the fractured response to COVID-19 and the devastating effect it has had on all Americans, particularly communities of color."
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