President-elect Joe Biden says COVID bill is ‘first step’

WILMINGTON, Del. — President-elect Joe Biden says the coronavirus relief package passed by Congress is “just the first step” and a “down payment” in addressing multiple crises facing America.

Watch the replay of President-elect Joe Biden’s news conference:

Biden said Tuesday that he will put forward a plan in early 2021 that will ask Congress to send more help to firefighters, police, frontline health workers and millions of working families.

He noted that the latest relief package extends unemployment benefits for 10 weeks but said “it’s going to take a lot longer than that.”

Biden said he’ll also seek more resources to distribute COVID-19 vaccines and boost testing, which will be needed to reopen schools.

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And, as he did prior to Thanksgiving, Biden expressed sympathy for the struggles American families are facing as they head into Christmas dealing with the emotional and economic impacts of the pandemic. But he encouraged the nation to continue to take precautions to try to stem the spread of the virus, which has now killed more than 320,000 in the United States.

Earlier this month, Biden said Americans “cannot be traveling during these holidays” and acknowledged that “Christmas is going to be a lot harder.”

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The remarks come the day after Biden got vaccinated on live television as part of an effort to reassure people that the COVID-19 vaccine is safe. After a quick prick in the arm, Biden urged Americans to continue wearing masks and socially distance if possible during the holidays.

“If you don’t have to travel, don’t travel,” he said. “It’s really important.”

On Tuesday, Biden’s team also announced a new round of White House staff appointments, led by longtime aide Bruce Reed as deputy chief of staff. Reed served as Biden’s chief of staff during his first term as vice president, as has long been a close member of Biden’s inner circle of advisers.

But throughout the weeks of speculation over Biden’s Cabinet selections, progressives have expressed concerns about what they see as Reed’s moderate political views and fiscal conservatism.

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Progressives notched a win in the latest round of staff announcements, however, with the appointment of Gautam Raghavan as deputy director of the office of Presidential Personnel. Raghavan served as chief of staff to Rep. Pramila Jayapal, who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and in his new role he’ll help evaluate applicants for thousands of federal jobs and appointments throughout the administration.

Biden has also appointed Anne Filipic as director of management & administration, Ryan Montoya as director of scheduling & advance, Vinay Reddy as director of speechwriting and Elizabeth Wilkins as a senior adviser to the chief of staff. All are alumni of the Obama-Biden administration, and Montoya and Reddy worked on Biden’s campaign as well.