Joe Biden told Americans "help is on the way" as he called for Congress to come up with a "robust" financial relief package for those hit hardest by the pandemic.
The president-elect vowed to revive the ailing US economy as he presented his economic team on Tuesday, a diverse group led by Janet Yellen, Mr Biden's nominee to be the Treasury Secretary. If confirmed, she would be the first woman in the role.
"I know times are tough, but I want you to know that help is on the way," Mr Biden said as he introduced Ms Yellen and the rest of his "tested and experienced" team.
Ms Yellen, the former chair of the Federal Reserve who was praised for her stewardship during the aftermath of the global financial crisis, warned the US faced another "historic" crisis which was disproportionately affecting the poor.
"So many people are struggling to put food on the table and pay bills and rent. It's an American tragedy," she said.
More than 20 million Americans were estimated to have lost their jobs in the early weeks of the pandemic, and roughly half of those remain without work.
Mr Biden urged the US Congress to swiftly pass a new coronavirus aid package. So far Republicans and Democrats have been unable to agree on a total amount for a relief bill.
Mr Biden said that his economic team was also working on a new plan that can be launched "on day one" to revive the economy and create more than 18 million jobs through investments in infrastructure, clean energy and manufacturing.
"We need to act now and we need to work together," he said, promising to "build a new American economy that works for all Americans."
Also in Mr Biden's economic team is Nigerian-born Wally Adeyemo, the first African American in the role of deputy Treasury secretary.
Neera Tanden, president of liberal think tank Centre for American Progress, was picked to head the Office of Management and Budget. If confirmed, she would be its first leader of South Asian origin, but she is a controversial choice, with conservatives warning her previous comments about Republicans could mean her nomination fails to pass.
Cecilia Rouse, the dean of the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, was tapped to chair Mr Biden's Council of Economic Advisors and would be the first African American in that post.
Meanwhile a bipartisan group of senators unveiled a $908 billion proposal on Tuesday, which has been seen as a compromise that could address some of the most urgent demands, such as extending unemployment benefits and providing more grants to struggling businesses.
Jerome Powell, the Federal Reserve Chair, added his voice to those calling for more aid to support the economy.
Mr Powell directed his comments towards Republicans who have aired concerns about the cost to the public purse, saying the risk of not doing enough to help the economy far outweighed the "risk of overdoing it".