By Rodney Drinnen
SPOKANE, WASHINGTON (Worthy News) -- United States President-elect Barack Obama was scheduled to meet with congressional leaders from both political parties Monday, January 5, to discuss a stimulus package aimed at ending America's worst economic crisis in decades.
The nation’s economy seems to be a top priority facing Obama when he takes office on January 20. The Federal Reserve says money lenders will initiate 2.25 million foreclosures this year. About one in 10 of homeowners in the US are being delinquent on mortgage payments or in foreclosure already, according to official estimates.
Ahead of Monday's talks, Obama said action would be taken quickly to approve the economic package that he and members of Congress are working on, including major expansions of government assisted health care and unemployment compensation changes.
The package, known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan, is designed to create three million jobs over the next two years, Obama said in his weekly radio address. He said the plan would put "people back to work today" and "reduce our dependence on foreign oil tomorrow."
About 140 to 200 billion dollars would go toward infrastructure projects, blending road and bridge repairs and water projects with research and development on energy efficiency, along with rebuilding the information technology system for health care.
Some policy changes would subsidize employers’ expenses for temporarily continuing health insurance coverage to laid-off as well as retired workers, and their dependents while allowing workers with no insurance benefits to be eligible for United States health program Medicaid.
Money will also go to education for students with disabilities and special needs, while officials are also exploring potential increases for 'Head Start' childhood education programs and 'Pell Grant' scholarships for college students.
It is likely that a 'Making Work Pay' tax credit of $500 for eligible individuals and $1,000 for couples will be given rather than a one-time tax rebate. Those who don’t earn enough to pay federal income taxes would receive the credit in the form of a check, intended to offset their payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare.
The package of about $775 billion dollars is being subjected to strong scrutiny by Congress. Officials caution that jump starting the economy will create debts that must be paid. "Every dollar will have to be justified as to whether it is targeted to our economy," Speaker Nancy Pelosi said last week. “This is not a bill that will be an excuse to put things in that otherwise might not be justified.”
Obama has already said, however, that real cost-cutting could only come after the economy is back on track. The stimulus package was to be ready as early as this week, but Congress was not expected to vote on it, until next week.