Biden to debate economic system with staff, small enterprise homeowners

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Biden said “help is on the way” and called on Congress to pass a “robust” COVID-19 relief package while unveiling his administration’s economic team.

USA TODAY

President-elect Joe Biden plans to meet online Wednesday with workers and small-business owners to discuss the economic crisis, as part of his preparations for taking office.

Biden highlighted the need for more federal stimulus spending Tuesday while introducing his economics team, including his choices to lead the Treasury Department and the White House Office of Management and Budget. Biden said a “robust” package is needed “now,” but that it would be “just a start.”

The prospects of Congress approving more spending before Biden takes office Jan. 20 – during the so-called “lame duck” session – are uncertain because of differences between how much Democrats and Republicans want to spend and on what.

President-elect Joe Biden speaks during an event to name his economic team at the Queen Theater on Dec. 1, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. (Photo: Alex Wong, Getty Images)

A bipartisan group of senators proposed a $900 billion package Tuesday. Provisions include funding for local governments and an extension of federal unemployment benefits that Democrats have sought, combined with extending a lending program to keep small businesses afloat that Republicans sought.

But Biden, a former vice president and senator, said whether that package is approved or not, more spending would be needed early next year. He also urged development of federal regulations to guide businesses and schools about how to reopen safely.

“It’s an American tragedy and it’s essential that we move with urgency,” Janet Yellen, Biden’s choice to become Treasury secretary, said Tuesday of the economic crisis. “Inaction will produce a self-reinforcing downturn causing yet more devastation. And we risk missing the obligation to address deeper structural problems, inequality, stagnant wages, especially for workers who lack a college education.”

The workers and small-business owners meeting with Biden on Wednesday are expected to describe how the crisis has hurt them.

The economy has recovered about 55% of the 22 million jobs lost in the spring, but 130,000 small businesses have closed for good, according to estimates by Yelp. The deficit has already tripled to a record $3.1 trillion this year.

Biden will join the virtual roundtable from Wilmington, Delaware, one of a series he is holding as he prepares to take office. He previously met with frontline medical workers about ‘skyrocketing’ cases of coronavirus, with congressional Democratic leaders about the prospects for more emergency stimulus spending and with leaders of national unions and corporations.

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