Biden Unveils Pandemic Spending Package Featuring $15 Minimum Wage, Expanded Unemployment

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A man waits at a bus stop that displays the national debt of the United States on June 19, 2020 in Washington, DC. Senate Democrats pushed through the controversial $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 by a 50 - 49 partisan vote.

President-elect Joe Biden unveiled his $1.9 trillion pandemic spending package on Thursday, dubbed the America Rescue Plan (ARP), according to the Biden-Harris website,

According to the plan’s Fact Sheet, the “pandemic has shined a light on the persistence of racial injustice in our healthcare system and our economy,” and so the plan intends “to change the course of the pandemic, build a bridge towards economic recovery, and invest in racial justice,” because “Americans of color are being infected and are dying from COVID-19 at greater rates because of lasting systemic racism in our health care system.”

Biden and Harris’s legislation will be step one of a two-part plan in addition to the $900 billion bipartisan spending bill passed by Congress in December and the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Securities (CARES ) Act passed in March 2020. 

Three main points are emphasized in the ARP. The first is an expanded national vaccination program for the CCP Virus that will include nationwide vaccination sites, increased testing and tracing, paid sick leave, and a goal of reopening the majority of K-8 schools within the first 100 days. 

The second is that each household in America will receive $1,400 to assist with “safe and reliable childcare and affordable healthcare,” while also increasing the minimum wage and extending unemployment insurance.

And third, support for small businesses that have been heavily impacted by lockdown measures in response to the pandemic, with a specific focus on “businesses owned by entrepreneurs of color” and protection for the jobs of first responders and essential workers. 

The spending program intends to allocate $20 billion to the national vaccination program and $50 billion to expand national testing, with a focus on installing “regular testing protocols” in schools and at the level of local governments.

“All of the free money makes work less essential and — in many cases — less financially attractive than getting off the couch and working. That’s some stimulus.” Fox News Economist Steve Moore

The ARP intends to provide funding to hire an additional 100,000 public health workers to advocate and promote vaccination and to conduct contact tracing surveillance with a long-term goal for these workers “to transition into community health roles to build our long-term public health capacity that will help improve quality of care and reduce hospitalization for low-income and underserved communities.”

The Fact Sheet clarifies its comments on race somewhat, explaining that long-term care residents and workers account for 40 percent of all COVID-19 deaths and that black and Latina women are overrepresented among these workers. It also notes that 20 percent of incarcerated individuals have tested positive for the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 Virus that causes COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019), saying blacks and Latinos are “overrepresented” among incarcerated individuals. 

The Fact Sheet sources an Associated Press article showing 275,000 prisoners have been infected and 1,700 have died since the beginning of the pandemic. Meanwhile, there have been 23.9 million positive tests and 389,000 deaths associated with COVID-19 nationwide. While there is a high rate of infection in prisons, these statistics yield a lower death rate per positive test in prisons than nationwide, with the ratio being 0.618 percent deaths in prisons to 1.628 percent deaths nationwide.

Biden’s plan will also invest $10 billion into domestic manufacturing and notes the President-elect intends to use the Defense Production Act to “safeguard the country by producing more pandemic supplies in the U.S.”

A greater amount, however, will go to unspecified international entities to “support to the international health and humanitarian response; mitigate the pandemic’s devastating impact on global health, food security, and gender-based violence; support international efforts to develop and distribute medical countermeasures for COVID-19; and build the capacity required to fight COVID-19, its variants, and emerging biological threats.” These entities will receive $11 billion. 

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden (L) and U.S. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris (R) leave after he laid out his plan on combating the coronavirus at the Queen theater on January 15, 2021, in Wilmington, Delaware. President-elect Biden is announcing his plan to administer COVID-19 vaccines to Americans. (Image: by Alex Wong / Getty Images)

A large portion of the funding, $170 billion, will be distributed to K-12 schools and “institutes of higher education,” while an additional $35 billion will be given to colleges and public institutions such as “community colleges, as well as, public and private Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other Minority Serving Institutions.”

The Plan provides employee benefits such as a maximum paid sick leave of $1,400 per week while further extending and expanding unemployment insurance coverage. The minimum wage will also be raised to $15 per hour. 

Since the pandemic began at the beginning of 2020, the Federal Reserve has increased the M0 Money Supply, which is composed of all physical currency such as Federal Reserve Notes, U.S. Notes, and coins and bills, from 3.5 trillion to slightly over 5.0 trillion. The national debt has increased by 23 percent during this time, from $21.9 trillion in 2019 to over $27 trillion today. 

According to the Federal Reserve, the third quarter 2020 U.S. Gross Domestic Product was $21.7 trillion. The US Dollar Index meanwhile has fallen from a high of almost $1.03 in March to a low of $0.892 last week.

Fox News economist Steve Moore says that he and Casey Mulligan of the University of Chicago estimate that more than 4 million jobs will be destroyed by the Biden-Harris plan “because all of the free money makes work less essential and — in many cases — less financially attractive than getting off the couch and working. That’s some stimulus.”

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  • Neil lives in Canada and writes about society and politics.