The United States has officially surpassed 500,000 coronavirus deaths. Millions of Americans are on unemployment and living paycheck to paycheck. The supply of vaccines has been scarce, leaving millions of senior citizens and those who possess health issues short handed. In response, the Biden administration has taken initiative by spending $1.6 billion in order to provide COVID-19 relief and expand access to testing for citizens nationwide.
Domestic manufacturing of testing supplies such as pipette tips and genomic sequencing efforts will increase as well. Although COVID testing is now widely available compared to the start of the pandemic, access is scarce in places where people need it most such as schools and homeless shelters.
The $1.6 billion COVID relief plan is advancing efforts to prevent the spread of the virus for now. Now that the House Budget Committee voted to advance the relief package, the House of Representatives is soon expected to vote on the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill that will assist Americans on an even larger scale. If it were to pass, American citizens would be receiving their economic stimulus checks directly a few days later.
Stimulus checks are expected to be worth up to $1,400 and unemployment insurance will be extended to $400 weekly for individuals earning less than $75,000 and families earning less than $150,000. A family of four can receive up to $5,600. Payment qualifications will be determined on 2019 or 2020 income. The economic stimulus bill must be passed by mid-March in order to assist the millions who will be losing expanded unemployment benefits.
Additionally, the package aims to extend food stamp benefits, assist low-income households in covering rent, expand the child tax credit, and provide schools with money to help students get back into the classroom. Aid to states and small businesses is also part of the plan among many other assistance programs.
Although the economic stimulus package is around the corner, outrage has been expressed that the minimum wage increase to $15 an hour by 2025 was disqualified from being included. Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough told senators and staff that the minimum wage increase provision violates strict budgetary rules that limit what can be included in the package.
This is not the first time the Biden administration has taken steps to prevent the spread of coronavirus. President Joe Biden mandated masks in public areas nationwide, encouraged mask wearing and posted photos of him receiving the COVID-19 vaccine on social media in order to show the people that the vaccine is safe.
There is still much more work to be done before the pandemic can cease to exist. Millions of Americans are now looking to the Senate to pass the coronavirus relief package in order to save them from further crisis. COVID-19 relief is coming, but will it be enough for the American people?