White House economist says $1.9 trillion package would deal “blow” to COVID

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As negotiations continue between the Biden administration and Congress on a COVID-19 relief package that could top $1.9 trillion, White House economist Jared Bernstein argues that President Biden’s American Rescue Plan “is calibrated to be of a magnitude to finally deal this COVID-19 virus the blow that hasn’t occurred yet.”

Bernstein, a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisors, said the administration hopes to see Congress pass the bill by mid-March, when enhanced unemployment benefits and other short-term relief elements from December’s COVID-relief bill will expire. 

“We have a deadline that we have to be mindful of, whether it’s unemployment insurance, mortgage forbearance, eviction forbearance,” Bernstein told CBS News chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett in this week’s episode of “The Takeout” podcast. “Those kinds of things have to be extended quickly to make sure that the American people and businesses don’t suffer one of those air pockets, another lapse in the relief.”

The White House is also focusing on economic inequalities that continue to be exacerbated by the pandemic, Bernstein said, explaining that America is experiencing a “K” shaped recovery that disproportionately affects Americans of color.

“The upper leg of the K are people who just continue to do well and prosper. And at the bottom leg of the K are people who continue to struggle with the economic impact of the pandemic,” Bernstein said. “We are an economy where the stock (market) is booming and where lines at food banks wrap around blocks for miles.” 

Bernstein who was previously chief economic adviser to Mr. Biden when he was vice president, rejected the idea of a small COVID relief package like the one proposed by Senate Republicans, reiterating the White House mantra that “the risks of doing too much are much smaller than the risk of doing too little.” 

“I don’t believe it will lead to overheating,” Bernstein said, addressing concerns of inflation if the relief package injects too much money at once into the economy. “I think that risk is far smaller than the risk of not doing enough to vanquish the virus and provide people the help they need.”

For more of Major’s conversation with Bernstein, download “The Takeout” podcast on Art19iTunesGooglePlaySpotify and Stitcher. New episodes are available every Friday morning. Also, you can watch “The Takeout” on CBSN Friday at 5pm, 9pm, and 12am ET and Saturday at 1pm, 9pm, and 12am ET. For a full archive of “The Takeout” episodes, visit www.takeoutpodcast.com. And you can listen to “The Takeout” on select CBS News Radio affiliates (check your local listings).  

Producers: Arden Farhi, Jamie Benson, Sara Cook and Eleanor WatsonCBSN Production: Eric Soussanin, Julia Boccagno and Grace SegersShow email: [email protected]Twitter: @TakeoutPodcastInstagram: @TakeoutPodcastFacebook: Facebook.com/TakeoutPodcast

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