White House warns of "even more serious" economic hole without "decisive action"
The U.S. will have to dig itself out of a much deeper economic hole if more economic relief doesn't happen and soon, warned National Economic Council Director Brian Deese on Friday. Outlining new executive actions by President Joe Biden, Deese said more relief is needed from Congress.
"We're at a precarious moment for the virus and the economy. Without decisive action, we risk falling into a very serious economic hole, even more serious than the crisis we find ourselves in," Deese said.
Deese added the president's actions are "not a substitute for comprehensive legislative relief," but will extend a "critical" lifeline to families.
Mr. Biden is signing two executive actions on Friday that consider increasing benefits that replace school meals for low-income children, request the Department of Labor to allow workers who turn down a job because they consider it unsafe to still qualify for unemployment, and push federal contractors to pay workers at least $15 an hour. Mr. Biden is also pushing for Congress to pass a $1.9 trillion stimulus package that includes funds to combat the spread of COVID-19 and funds allocated to support vaccine distribution.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the White House is keen on a big package, which is certain to meet opposition from Republicans on the Hill. It's meant to "address the core issues of the crisis," Psaki said, adding, "right now, we are having a discussion about the big package."
A bipartisan group of senators are scheduled to have a call with Deese on Sunday. Deese didn't directly answer whether Mr. Biden would be on the call, but said he would be and other senior members of the Biden administration would also be expected to engage with congressional members.
Several Republican senators in the bipartisan group have conveyed concerns about injecting another stimulus after Congress paired a $900 billion COVID-19 relief package with an $1.4 trillion government spending bill last December.
"It's hard for me to see when we just passed $900 billion worth of assistance, why we would have a package that big," Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine told reporters on Thursday. "Now, maybe a couple of months from now, the needs will be evident, and we will need to do something significant. But I'm not seeing it right now. But again, I'm happy to listen."
Republican Senator Todd Young of Indiana said on Friday that he likes the money allocated for manufacturing and distributing the COVID-19 vaccines, but disapproved of the economic provisions in the proposal. "Much of the rest, the economic provisions, I find untargeted and distended," Young added.
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