(NEXSTAR) – President-elect Joe Biden announced Thursday that weekly unemployment benefits will be raised to $400 as part of his COVID relief plan. The boost will be extended through September, per CNBC.
“We’ll also extend unemployment insurance beyond the end of March for millions of workers,” the president-elect said during a press conference in Wilmington, Delaware.
Biden’s “American Rescue Plan” is a $1.9 trillion coronavirus plan intended to turn the tide of the pandemic, speeding up the vaccine rollout and providing financial help to individuals, states, local governments and businesses struggling with the prolonged economic fallout.
The legislative proposal would meet Biden’s goal of administering 100 million vaccines by the 100th day of his administration, while advancing his objective of reopening most schools by the spring. On a parallel track, it would deliver another round of aid to stabilize the economy while the public health effort seeks the upper hand on the pandemic, said aides who described the plan ahead of a speech by Biden on Thursday evening.
The emergency legislation would be paid for with borrowed money, adding to trillions in debt the government has already incurred to confront the pandemic. Interest rates are low, making debt more manageable. Biden said that economic experts said the cost of inaction while people are suffering would have devastating consequences.
Biden has long held that economic recovery is inextricably linked with controlling the coronavirus. “Our work begins with getting COVID under control,” he declared in his victory speech. “We cannot repair the economy, restore our vitality or relish life’s most precious moments until we get it under control.”
The plan comes as a divided nation is in the grip of the pandemic’s most dangerous wave yet. So far, more than 385,000 people have died of COVID-19 in the U.S. And 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.
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.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.