WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — President-elect Joe Biden unveiled his coronavirus relief package last week, which includes $1,400 stimulus checks for most Americans. This week, the country will move one step closer to seeing that proposal become reality as Biden and two new Democratic senators from Georgia take office.
Once that happens, Democrats will be in control of the presidency and Congress — giving the $1.9 trillion plan a good chance for passage.
However, the process may take more time than many Democratic leaders hope. The checks are part of a complex and layered plan that includes increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour, expanding paid leave for workers, and increasing tax credits for families with children.
Analysts noted that a one-off bill focusing only on stimulus checks might be passed quickly, whereas the proposal totaling nearly $2 trillion may take days if not weeks of debate and discussion.
“While Biden is signaling his preference for passage of the legislation on a bipartisan basis, it remains to be seen whether there will be sufficient support for a measure of this size as well as the long neglected proposed increase in the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour,” said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate. “Years ago, the minimum wage was not seen as divisive. Indeed, many states and localities have since taken it upon themselves to boost their own minimums in the wake of action in Washington, many of which are going into effect this year.”
In the last round of stimulus relief, Republicans in the Senate blocked the prospect of raising the amount of aid for Americans.
Many experts have estimated that February would likely be the earliest to see a package approved. While Democratic leadership is hoping to quickly pass the measure, it’s unlikely all the minor details of a major plan like this could be worked through in the last week of January.
“If the economy is improving substantially by spring or early summer, that might actually help Biden get more of his agenda done … because success can beget success,” said Jason Furman, who was top economist for the Obama administration. He pointed to the possibility of growth easing the path for an infrastructure program and climate investments.
Once approved, the U.S. Department of the Treasury could distribute checks in a matter of days. They’ve improved the processing speed substantially from the first round of $1,200 checks to the more recent $600 payment.
There is some concern that impeachment proceedings against the outgoing president could delay the process. It’s expected that President Donald Trump’s trial in the Senate would begin shortly after Biden takes office. Whether it proves to be a distraction in the stimulus process remains to be seen.
The coronavirus relief plan comes as the nation is in the grip of the pandemic’s deadliest wave yet. So far, nearly 400,000 people have died of COVID-19 in the U.S. with more than 24.9 million confirmed cases of the virus, according to data complied by Johns Hopkins University. Government numbers out Thursday reported a jump in weekly unemployment claims to 965,000, a sign that rising infections are forcing businesses to cut back and lay off workers.
“The plan outlined by the president-elect is ambitious and costly, but that cost must also be viewed in the context of the combined tolls of the still raging pandemic and resulting economic damage,” said Hamrick. “In failing to contain the health crisis, the economic crisis has been both lasting and deep.”
Under Biden’s multipronged strategy, about $400 billion would go directly to combating the pandemic, while the rest is focused on economic relief and aid to states and localities.
About $20 billion would be allocated for a more disciplined focus on vaccination, on top of some $8 billion already approved by Congress. Biden has called for setting up mass vaccination centers and sending mobile units to hard-to-reach areas.
The Associated Press and Nexstar Media Wire contributed to this report.