Washington, Dec 4 (efe-epa).- “Americans need help, and they need it now,” US President-elect Joe Biden said Friday, urging lawmakers to agree quickly on a new package to address the economic harm done by the coronavirus pandemic.
As a group of Democrats and Republicans in Congress pushes a $908 billion that does not include a second of direct payments to individuals, Biden expressed support while stressing that the sum is not equal to the problem.
“I think they’re on their way to being able to come up with a package that meets the basic immediate needs that we have, but I’ve made it real clear, it’s just a down payment. This is not the end of the deal,” he told a news conference in Wilmington, Delaware.
“I think it would be better if it had the $1,200 (direct payment to individuals), I understand that may still be in play,” Biden said.
Speaking hours after the release of what the former vice president called a “grim” jobs report, he said that the data show “an economy that’s stalling.”
“We remain in the midst of one of the worst economic and job crises in modern history. But it doesn’t have to stay that way,” Biden said.
The unemployment rate in the United States fell by two-tenths of a percentage point to 6.7 percent in November, but the world’s largest economy added only 245,000 jobs, compared with 610,000 in October.
In fact, the November increase was the lowest since the US labor market began to recover from the impact of states’ lockdown orders, which led to the elimination of 20.7 million jobs in April and May.
“The whole purpose of this is we’ve got to make sure people aren’t thrown out of their apartments, lose their homes, are able to have unemployment insurance they can continue to feed their families on as we grow back the economy,” the president-elect said.
Failure to act could lead to “a much broader economic cost due to long-term unemployment and businesses failing,” he said.
“The sooner we pass the funding, the sooner we can turn the corner on Covid-19,” Biden said of the pandemic, which has claimed more than 277,000 lives in the US.
He said the legislation must include money for vaccines and testing, which are necessary to hasten the re-opening of businesses and schools as the number of confirmed cases tops 14 million.
Biden, set to take office Jan. 20 after defeating Republican incumbent Donald Trump in the Nov. 3 election, did not respond when asked whether he had been in touch with the leader of the Republican majority in the Senate, Mitch McConnell.
“We’ll be in dire trouble if we don’t get cooperation. I believe we will,” Biden, who spent more than three decades in the Senate, said.
After months of inaction, there are signs that Congress is closer to approving a second coronavirus stimulus package.
The first response to the pandemic, the $2.2-trillion CARES Act, was passed by Congress and signed into law by Trump in late March.
The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives approved a second package, valued at $2.4 trillion, over the summer, but McConnell has refused to bring the measure to a vote in the Senate, instead proposing roughly $500 million in additional spending to deal with the crisis. EFE