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Last week, President-elect Joe Biden unveiled his coronavirus relief package that includes $1,400 stimulus checks for most Americans. This week, the country will take a step closer to seeing that proposal turn into an action plan when Biden and two new Democratic senators from Georgia take office.
Once that happens, Democrats will be in control of the presidency and Congress — giving the $1.9 trillion plan a good chance of passing.
That said, the process may take longer than many Democratic leaders hope. The checks are part of a complex and tiered plan that includes raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, expanding paid time off for employees and increasing tax credits for families with children.
Analysts noted that a one-time bill focused only on stimulus checks could be quickly adopted. Something totaling nearly $2 trillion can take days, if not weeks, of debate and discussion.
Many experts say early February is probably the earliest we can see a package approved. While the Democratic leadership hopes to pass the measure quickly, it’s unlikely all the small details of a big plan like this can be worked out by the last week of January.
Once approved, the US Treasury Department was able to hand out the checks within days. They have significantly improved processing speed from the first round of $1,200 checks to the more recent $600 payment.
There is some concern that impeachment proceedings against the outgoing president could delay the trial. The Senate trial of Donald Trump is expected to begin shortly after Biden takes office. Whether it turns out to be a distraction in the stimulus process remains to be seen.
The coronavirus emergency response plan comes as a divided country is gripped by the most dangerous wave of the pandemic yet. More than 385,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the US so far. Government figures released Thursday reported an increase in weekly unemployment claims to 965,000, a sign that rising infections are forcing companies to cut spending and lay off workers.
According to Biden’s multi-track strategy, about $400 billion would go directly to fighting the pandemic, with the rest focused on economic aid and aid to states and localities.
About $20 billion would be allocated for a more disciplined focus on vaccination, on top of the roughly $8 billion already approved by Congress. Biden has called for mass vaccination centers to be set up and mobile units to be sent to hard-to-reach areas.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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