Economists who have pushed for more federal aid for people and businesses said this week that Mr. Biden’s advisers understood that the focus needed to be on vaccine deployment in order to get the virus under control.
“What the economy needs is a successful rollout of the vaccines, and reduction in the risks of social and economic activity,” said Aaron Sojourner, a labor economist at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management who served in the White House Council of Economic Advisers under the Obama and Trump administrations. “That will go a long way toward promoting recovery. It won’t go all the way, but it will go a long way.”
Mr. Biden, who has promised to get “100 million Covid vaccine shots into the arms of the American people” by his 100th day in office, said last week that he intended to release nearly all available coronavirus vaccine vials once he takes office, rather than holding some back as the Trump administration had been doing.
The $20 billion “national vaccine program” he announced on Thursday envisions community vaccination centers around the country. In recent speeches, he has said he would like to see mass vaccination sites in high school gymnasiums, sports stadiums and the like, perhaps staffed by the National Guard or employees of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Mr. Biden also called for a “public health jobs program” that would address his goals of bolstering the economy and the Covid-19 response while also rebuilding the nation’s fragile public health infrastructure. The proposal would fund 100,000 public health workers to engage in vaccine outreach and contact tracing.
At the same time, Mr. Biden is keen on addressing the racial disparities in health that have been so painfully exposed by the coronavirus pandemic, which has disproportionately claimed the lives of people of color. He pledged to increase funding for community health centers, and also intends to fund efforts to mitigate the pandemic in prisons and jails, where African-Americans and Latinos are overrepresented.
He also proposed a wide range of efforts to help those who have suffered the most in the economic pullback that has accompanied the resurgence of hospitalizations and deaths from the virus. His plan would provide emergency paid leave to 106 million Americans, regardless of the size of their employer, a proposal that many congressional Republicans worked to pare back in a stimulus bill passed last spring. And it would extend tax credits to many families to offset up to $8,000 in annual child care costs.