WASHINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden will propose a $1.9 trillion plan to combat the nation’s economic and public health emergencies, raising the curtain on a new presidency built on faith in the power of the federal government to solve problems.
In a speech to the nation due to be broadcast Thursday night, Biden is expected to call for quick congressional action on his sweeping package, which will include steps to speed production and distribution of vaccines, an additional $1,400 in direct payments to individuals, expanded unemployment benefits, aid to state and local governments, and an expansion of aid to families with children.
“It is a national emergency, and we need to treat it like one,’’ said a senior Biden official who described the plan in advance of the speech. “The president-elect has a comprehensive plan that will throw the full weight and resources of the federal government behind managing the crisis.”
Biden will cast the plan as an immediate response to a continuing pandemic and a worsening economic crisis in which already high unemployment rates have once again started to rise after months of declines from record levels last spring.
But many of the proposals also serve as down payments toward longer-run Democratic goals, including a one-year expansion of aid to families with children, which a senior Biden aide who briefed reporters said would “cut child poverty in half” over the next year.
The effort to do both comes with a big price-tag — more than twice the $908 billion in relief Congress approved just last month. That will make it a tough sell in a narrowly divided Senate where Republicans have tremendous power to slow or block legislation even though Democrats will hold the majority.
A senior Biden official said they hoped that his speech would build public support for an ambitious plan that meets what the president-elect, who takes office Wednesday, sees as urgent national needs.
“The strategy is to make the case clearly to the American people about the immediacy of the need, and to work to try to build on the spirit of bipartisanship that helped to bring together action in December,” the official said, referring to the relief approved last month. “But that was just a down payment. And so we’re going to need to work to do more.”
The centerpiece of the plan is the effort to speed up vaccinations and expand coronavirus testing.
A major criticism of the Trump administration has been that its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has been too haphazard and left too much responsibility to state and local governments, at great cost to the health and economic well being of the country. Deaths from COVID-19 are nearing 400,000 and the economy is still struggling to rebound from the blow of a protracted shutdown to slow the virus spread.