Janet Yellen Says U.S. Must “Act Big” On COVID-19 Relief Package

Janet Yellen, U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee to run the Treasury Department, will say before a Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday that the government must "act big" with its next COVID-19 relief package.

Biden, who will be sworn in as president on Wednesday, outlined a $1.9-trillion stimulus package proposal last week, saying bold investment was needed to keep the economy afloat and accelerate the distribution of vaccines to bring the coronavirus under control.

"Neither the president-elect, nor I, propose this relief package without an appreciation for the country’s debt burden. But right now, with interest rates at historic lows, the smartest thing we can do is act big," Yellen, a former Federal Reserve chair, said in a prepared opening statement for her hearing before the committee.

An advanced copy of Yellen’s remarks was sent to media outlets.

"I believe the benefits will far outweigh the costs, especially if we care about helping people who have been struggling for a very long time," she said in the statement.

In her prepared testimony, Yellen also states that the U.S. economy must be rebuilt "so that it creates more prosperity for more people and ensures that American workers can compete in an increasingly competitive global economy."

Yellen will replace Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin if confirmed by the Senate. Mnuchin will step down on Wednesday when Biden officially becomes the U.S. president.

Biden’s proposed aid package includes $415 billion to bolster the U.S. response to COVID-19 and the rollout of vaccines, some $1 trillion in direct relief to households, and roughly $440 billion for small businesses and communities particularly hard hit by the pandemic.

Many Americans would receive stimulus payments of $1,400, which would be on top of the $600 checks approved in a pandemic relief bill passed by Congress in December. Supplemental unemployment insurance would also increase to $400 a week from the current $300 a week, and it would be extended to September.