President-elect Joe Biden spoke frankly in a rare address on the bleak reality of COVID-19 in the U.S., telling Americans “Our darkest days…are ahead of us, not behind us,” during remarks on Tuesday.
“One thing I promise you about my leadership during this crisis: I’m going to tell it to you straight. I’m going to tell you the truth. And here’s the simple truth: Our darkest days in the battle against COVID are ahead of us, not behind us,” Biden said.
The president-elect said that even with the first round of vaccine distribution underway, the virus remains a threat and the death rate, hovering around 3,000 Americans a day, is not expected to decrease any time soon.
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He reminded people that they need to take the virus seriously and continue to wear masks, remain socially distant and avoid indoor gatherings.
“We need to prepare ourselves, to steel our spines,” the President-elect continued. “As frustrating as it is to hear, it’s going to take patience, persistence and determination to beat this virus. There will be no time to waste in taking the steps we need to turn this crisis around.”
Biden’s words, urging Americans to address the virus in a bipartisan manner, come just one day after Congress passed the long awaited stimulus package to aid people and small businesses struggling in the staggering economy.
Over 18.2 million Americans have already contracted the virus, which has left more than 322,000 dead.
Reviews have been mixed after Congress passed the $900 billion relief package they have been debating for months.
Some believe the package not only doesn’t do enough to help people struggling now, but also wont last long enough, with several measures set to expire in March — including the $284 billion portion allotted for Paycheck Protection Program.
Each American who makes less than $75,000 can also expect to receive half of the original stimulus checks distributed last spring, granting $600 to adults and an additional $600 per child – though the figure goes down incrementally depending on higher income rates.
States and local governments have not been allotted any stimulus funding, despites pleas from local government officials. However, schools, childcare, transit and vaccination distribution were granted federal assistance, helping localities.
In a heated speech Tuesday night, President Trump heavily criticized the bill calling it a “disgrace,” pointing to billions of dollars’ worth of spending included in the 5,000-page package that he said is not affiliated with coronavirus relief.
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“[C]ongress found plenty of money for foreign countries, lobbyist and special interest while sending the bare minimum to the American people, who need,” Trump said from the White House. “It wasn’t their fault, it was China’s fault,” he added.
Trump honed in on the stimulus checks, asking Congress to amend the “ridiculously low” stipend set for those making $75,000 or less.
The president called on Congress to approve stimulus checks in the amount of $2,000 per person and $4,000 per couple.
The president’s demands are at odds with what congressional GOP members debated with Democrats over for months, refusing to meet the requested $1,200 stimulus stipend for those making up to $75,000.
Senators Josh Hawley, R-Mo., and Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., called on senators to agree in a bipartisan push to pass a bill that would have permitted $1,200 checks opposed to $600.
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., flatly refused, citing concerns over the deficit. Johnson was joined by five other Republican senators in voting against passing the coronavirus relief package Monday, including Senators Marsha Blackburn, Tenn., Rick Scott, Fla., Ted Cruz., Texas, Rand Paul, Ky., and Mike Lee, Utah.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer responded to the president’s remarks Tuesday night saying, “We spent months trying to secure $2,000 checks but Republicans blocked it.”
“Trump needs to sign the bill to help people and keep the government open and we’re glad to pass more aid Americans need,” he continued. “Maybe Trump can finally make himself useful and get Republicans not to block it again.”
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Trump did not threaten to veto the bill, but asked Congress to send him a “suitable bill” and remove all “unnecessary” items.
The latest stimulus package passed the House and Senate with veto-proof majorities.
People are expected to start receiving stimulus checks as soon as next week.