WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Former top U.S. economic adviser Gene Sperling will oversee the Biden administration’s implementation of the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus plan, the White House said on Monday as President Joe Biden readies to promote the recovery effort.
Sperling, who advised Biden’s presidential campaign and served under former Democratic Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, will work with officials across the administration, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters at a briefing.
Biden announced the move at a White House event, calling Sperling a “gifted manager” who would ensure that the massive rescue plan was implemented fastidiously.
“He’s ready to get to work. In fact, he’s already hit the ground running,” Biden said. “Together, we’re going to make sure the benefits of the American rescue plan go out quickly and directly to the American people, where they belong.”
Psaki said Sperling would work closely with White House policy councils and key leaders at federal agencies “so we can get funds out the door quickly, maximize its impact, accelerate the work that the administration is doing to crush COVID and rescue our economy,”
Biden signed the hugely popular relief program into law last week to aid the recovery of the U.S. economy after the COVID-19 pandemic triggered its biggest contraction since World War Two.
The president and other top U.S. officials will travel around the country starting this week to laud and explain the legislation.
The bill provides $400 billion for direct payments of $1,400 to most Americans, aid of $350 billion to state and local governments, an expansion of the child tax credit and more funds to distribute vaccines.
Sperling, who served as an economic adviser for Biden’s presidential campaign, is the only person to have headed the White House National Economic Council under two presidents.
From 2009 to 2011, he served as a counsel to then-Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, as the Obama administration responded to the 2008-2009 global financial crisis.
In his book “Economic Dignity” published last year, Sperling called for a new approach that emphasizes the nature and quality of work and gives people a renewed sense of meaning and security, instead of focusing solely on metrics such as GDP.
“He’s respected all across the spectrum,” said Kevin Gallagher, who heads the Boston University Global Development Policy Center. “Not everyone might agree with him on certain parts of the spectrum, but no one can challenge that Gene Sperling knows what he’s talking about, and has a great level of capability.”
Biden, who played a similar role while serving as vice president under Obama, has vowed “extreme vigilance” to avoid the types of fraud seen with COVID-19 relief funds during the Trump administration.
Psaki told reporters that Sperling, who was currently based in California, would work remotely for some time until he could receive a COVID-19 vaccine and travel safely to Washington.
(Reporting by Steve Holland and Andrea Shalal, Writing by Andrea Shalal and Susan Heavey; Editing by Andrea Ricci)