President-elect Biden announced his intention to go big with a COVID-19 relief package Monday in his first economic address since winning the election.
“We all agree that we want to get the economy back on track,” Biden said, speaking in Wilmington, Del. “We need our workers to be back on the job by getting the virus under control.”
Biden urged President Trump to acknowledge the election results and commit his administration to working with Biden’s transition team ahead of the inauguration, scheduled for Jan. 20. Pointing out that the logistics of getting any COVID-19 vaccine to 300 million U.S. citizens will be complicated and demanding, Biden warned, “People will die if we don’t coordinate.”
Biden called for passage of the HEROES Act or some equally ambitious coronavirus relief package. Passed by the U.S. House in May, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act is a $3 trillion relief package including aid to states and local governments to make up for tax revenue lost in the pandemic and the economic collapse it’s caused, as well as revival of $1,200 stimulus checks and $600 a week in extra unemployment benefits. It also includes additional coronavirus funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and $75 billion for testing, tracing, and treatment to bring the pandemic under control as a first step to revive the economy. Biden couched his call for action in a commitment to U.S. workers.
“We’re going into a very dark winter,” Biden said. “Things are going to get much tougher before they get easier. And that requires sparing no effort to fight COVID so that we can open our businesses safely, resume our lives, and put this pandemic behind us.
“It’s going to be difficult, but it can be done,” he added. “When we build back better, we’ll do so with higher wages, including a $15 minimum wage nationwide, better benefits, stronger collective-bargaining rights — that you can raise a family on. That’s how we build back the middle class better than ever. That’s how we make sure workers are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.”
The HEROES Act has gone nowhere in the Republican-controlled Senate, but there may be an opportunity to push for passage. Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, who will head the Senate, could attempt to entice support from Republican senators with the benefits their own constituents stand to gain if the ambitious legislation is passed and signed into law — especially senators up for reelection in two years. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has resisted calling legislation that would potentially split his party, and could continue to try to keep it bottled up, as he already has for six months.