As we hit the one-year anniversary of COVID-19 striking the United States, it is time we get serious about dealing with the pandemic. 2020 was an unbearable year for everyone and those experiences unfortunately carried into 2021. But as a vaccine is being distributed, we need to get over the “controversy” of COVID-19 and start fixing things, starting with educating ourselves on President Joe Biden’s relief plan.
COVID-19 has infected more than 29 million Americans and killed more than 534 thousand individuals. Under former President Donald Trump, there was a lot of mishandling behind dealing with the virus, which included his decision to remove the United States from the World Health Organization. His actions are one of the largest contributors to why COVID-19 had such a devastating loss for the United States, but with Biden stepping into the scene, America might have a chance of going back to normal.
Starting with his COVID-19 stimulus package, one thing this pandemic has shown us is that our economy is failing. While the $1,200 stimulus check introduced by the Republican party partially stabilized our economy, it was not enough to continuously support larger families, which Biden realized. That is why a $1,400 stimulus check per person was released. A family of four could receive a $5,600 check, but the check is not being distributed the same way it was last time. It cuts off individuals that make more than $80,000 in a year, and families that make more than $160,000 in a year, which is calculated from their 2019 or 2020 income.
There have also been temporary programs instituted that help support the unemployed by providing benefits to people such as freelancers, gig workers and independent contractors. The benefits are supposed to last through the end of September, and it also increases the payments of those that deal with unemployment in a more traditional sense. These benefits include the weekly enhancement aid of the $300 and it extends the CARE Act Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which is for gig workers, as well as the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, for those that are unemployed long-term.
Not to mention the package additionally includes support for housing aid and education. The legislation sent $19.1 billion to both states and local governments as a way to help low-income households cover rent and utility bills, and $10 billion to assist struggling homeowners with their mortgages, utilities and property taxes. There is also an additional $5 billion to help states assist those that are at risk of facing homelessness. As for education, a bill would provide $130 billion to K-12 schools to help put students back into classrooms. The bill would require that 20 percent of that funding would go into extended school days or summer school to catch up on the learning time loss this year, but the other 80 percent could go into bettering schools to combat COVID-19.
There is much more in the COVID-19 stimulus package, such as health insurance, additional aid to states, and food programs, but one of the more crucials parts to actually slowing the spread of the virus is his proposal of a vaccination program. The first COVID-19 vaccine to be approved and distributed in the U.S. was by Pfizer-BioNTech, which was on Dec. 11, 2020. Since then, a distribution plan was created by each state for the more than 123 million doses that were distributed to the U.S. The federal government is responsible for distributing the vaccines to each state based on its adult population and sends allotments to large retail pharmacies as well as community health-care centers. As of March 20, 13.45 percent, or 124 million, of the U.S. has been vaccinated. Of that, 44.1 million have received all doses of the vaccine which brings Biden one step closer to his goal of getting 100 million shots administered on his 100th day in office, but his end goal is to have a national vaccination program to be able to safely reopen schools again. This program would set up community vaccination sites nationwide, increase COVID-19 testing and tracing, reducing supply shortages, providing paid sick leaves to those that test positive for COVID-19, and so much more.
$14 billion would be used to research, distribute and administer the COVID-19 vaccine, and it would put an additional $47.8 billion towards testing, contact tracing, community and mobile testing sites. Not to mention the $7.6 billion that would go to hiring 100,000 public health workers to help support coronavirus response.
Trusting Biden’s COVID-19 relief plan is not a matter of politics, but rather unity. We have been through enough since COVID-19 struck the United States, and we need to be making strides to bettering the state our country is in right now.