Now that he’s assumed office, President Joe Biden is expected to try to get his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan passed as quickly as possible. The measure includes a $1,400 stimulus checks for most Americans.
With Democrats in control of both the presidency and Congress, the overall plan has a good chance of passage. However, one Republican congressman is throwing up a roadblock of sorts.
Rep. Steve Stivers, a Republican from Ohio, suggested checks go to people who’ve received the coronavirus vaccine.
“I hope the administration will look at that option because we actually buy something with our $1,400 — and that’s herd immunity,” Stivers said in an interview with Yahoo Finance.
He suggested the quickest way to get the economy going is to get people vaccinated and back to work or school.
“While I am not for giving a $1,400 stimulus check for anything, I’d be willing to sign off on a stimulus check of $1,400 for people who take the vaccine,” Stivers said.
While that suggestion is not likely to move forward, Biden’s plan isn’t moving as quickly as some hoped. 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.
So far, the White House has declined to provide a timeline for getting the president’s proposed relief package through, saying that officials are beginning to schedule meetings with lawmakers to discuss the proposal.
At this point, February would likely be the earliest a package could get approved.
But once passed, 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. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to send the article of impeachment against Donald Trump to the Senate on Monday, launching the start of the former president’s trial on a charge of incitement of insurrection over the deadly Capitol riot.
It’s expected that Trump’s trial in the Senate would begin at some point in the next few weeks. Of course, whether it proves to be a distraction in the stimulus process remains to be seen.
The coronavirus relief plan comes as a divided nation is in the grip of the pandemic’s most dangerous wave yet. More than 400,000 people have died of COVID-19 in the U.S., and recent government numbers 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.
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 contributed to this report.