Biden unveils $1.9 trillion relief package: 10 things to know

President-elect Joe Biden unveiled a $1.9 trillion relief package Jan. 14 that includes more than $400 billion to fight the COVID-19 pandemic directly. 

President-elect Biden detailed the first of two relief proposals, called the American Rescue Plan, at a speech in Delaware. President-elect Biden plans to release a second spending proposal next month that will include funding for infrastructure, research and clean energy. 

"We cannot afford inaction," President-elect Biden said in announcing his American Rescue Plan. "It's not just that smart fiscal investments are more important than ever … the return on those investments, in jobs, in racial equity, will prevent long-term economic damage and the benefits will far outweigh the cost."

Here is a breakdown of 10 things to know about the proposal:

1. National vaccine program. President-elect Biden's proposal would establish a $20 billion national vaccine distribution program that will offer free shots to all U.S. residents. The program also calls for establishing community vaccination centers across the country and deploying mobile units in rural communities. "The vaccine rollout in the United States has been a dismal failure thus far, " President-elect Biden said. "We will have to move heaven and earth to get more people vaccinated, to create more places for them to get vaccinated." More details on his vaccination program are expected to be released Jan. 15. 

2. COVID-19 testing. The proposal injects $50 billion to expand COVID-19 testing. This funding would help purchase rapid-result tests, expand lab capacity and assist local jurisdictions in setting up testing plans.

3. Personal protective gear funds. President-elect Biden proposes spending $30 billion to purchase supplies such as ventilators and personal protective gear.

4. Public health jobs program. If the package is passed by Congress, it would establish a program to fund 100,000 public health jobs. The workers would perform vital tasks like vaccine outreach and contact tracing. 

5. Funds to reduce health inequities. President-elect Biden pledged to increase funding for community health centers and reduce pandemic spread in prisons and jails, where Black and Latinx individuals are overrepresented. 

6. Federal wage increase. The proposal includes increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, more than double the current federal wage of $7.25 per hour. This is one of the items President-elect Biden promised while on the campaign trail. 

7. Local aid. The relief package would allocate $350 billion to help state and local governments bridge budget shortfalls. This local aid was kept out of the $900 billion relief package signed by President Donald Trump Dec. 27. 

8. Direct payments to Americans. The relief package would include $1,400 in direct payments to Americans. This adds to the $600 already given to individuals this year who made less than $75,000 annually. 

9. Emergency paid leave. The proposal would extend emergency paid leave to 106 million Americans. The plan would mandate employers, regardless of size, to offer paid sick leave during the pandemic to its employees. 

10. Small businesses loans. President-elect Biden is proposing $15 billion in grants for small businesses hardest hit by the pandemic. He also called for placing $35 billion of government funds into low-interest loans to help small businesses.

The American Hospital Association applauded President-elect Biden's plan focused on the pandemic, but said it believes more can be done.

"America's hospitals and health systems, and our heroic front-line caregivers, applaud President-elect Biden’s focus and broad approach in bringing the COVID-19 pandemic to an end. We both share this as among the highest priorities for the nation. We continue to call for increased federal leadership, support and resources to combat this virus that has devastated countless families and communities and this plan makes important strides in these directions," an AHA statement reads. 

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