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President-elect Joe Biden's pandemic relief package would extend income support for millions of unemployed through September 2021 and increase unemployment benefits by $ 400 a week, according to a speech outlining his plan on Thursday evening.
According to an overview of the plan received from CNBC, Biden would automatically phase out higher unemployment benefits over time, tying aid to economic and health conditions.
Such a move would relieve Congress from devising new relief measures every few months, avoiding the benefits cliff experienced by a worker in December.
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The unemployment rule is part of Biden's $ 1.9 trillion proposal, the American Rescue Plan. In addition to the additional unemployment benefits, the package includes direct relief for families in difficulty in the form of stimulus controls, eviction and foreclosure protection, and food aid.
"A crisis of deep human suffering is in sight," said Biden on Thursday. "We have to act and we have to act now."
His plan follows a $ 900 billion relief effort passed late last month.
$ 400 increase in unemployment
This law extended unemployment benefits by 11 weeks until mid-March. (Some workers may receive an additional four weeks.) Also, the standard benefits have been increased by $ 300 a week, which generally replaces half an employee's lost earnings.
Biden would increase this to $ 400 a week. That would be less than a $ 600 weekly improvement provided by the CARES Act, and is the equivalent of a subsequent Trump administration subsidy for assistance with lost wages.
"This is quickly putting money in the pockets of millions of Americans who immediately spend it on food, rent and other basic necessities," said Biden.
Six months of additional benefits
The president-elect would also extend the duration of the benefits by about six months to the end of September instead of mid-March.
This would apply to self-employed, gig and part-time workers receiving pandemic unemployment benefits, as well as recipients of pandemic unemployment benefits who have exhausted their standard allotment of government benefits.
These programs ended the day after Christmas but were resumed by the recent relief effort. They support more than 11 million Americans, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Labor on Thursday.
In total, more than 18 million people were receiving unemployment benefits at the end of last year.
"(The extension) means that 18 million Americans who are currently receiving unemployment benefits while looking for work can count on those controls to remain in place," Biden said.
Biden will attempt to automatically adjust the length and amount of the supplementary unemployment benefit based on health and economic conditions to prevent Congress from having to repeat benefits in seizures and starts according to the President-elect's plan.
According to economists, such barometers can include Covid case numbers or government unemployment rates. Biden's plan does not provide a precise measure.
Biden again called the $ 900 billion December bill a down payment for more relief for Americans amid rising coronavirus cases and a deteriorating economy.
The US cut 140,000 jobs in December, the first month of negative growth since April. Almost 1.2 million people filed new government benefits last week – more than during the worst week of the Great Recession.
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