President Joe Biden signs the American Rescue Plan, a coronavirus relief package, in the Oval Office of the White House, Thursday, March 11, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
By: Kyle Hicks
WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Joe Biden signed the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill into law Thursday, a day before he was originally set to.
Before he signed the American Rescue Plan in the Oval Office, Biden touted the legislation’s bipartisan support in the country and said his administration would be traveling to different parts of the nation to explain how the bill will help Americans.
“In the weeks that this bill has been discussed and debated, it’s clear that an overwhelming percentage of the American people – Democrats, independents, our Republican friends – have made it clear, the people out there, made it clear they strongly support the American Rescue Plan,” said Biden.
He said the “historic legislation” is about “rebuilding the backbone of this country” and giving the people who made the nation what it is a “fighting chance.”
The House passed the massive legislation Wednesday after it was approved by the Senate over the weekend.
The bill is designed to address many issues caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and pave the way for the nation to recover.
Along with billions in dollars in funding for several areas, like the vaccination effort, the bill includes another round of stimulus checks. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday that some people can expect to start seeing direct deposits hit their bank accounts as early as this weekend.
“This is of course just the first wave, but some people in the country will start seeing those direct deposits in their bank accounts this weekend. And payments to eligible Americans will continue over the course of the next several weeks,” said Psaki.
This time, the Biden administration says about 85% of American households will receive direct payments. Individuals earning less than $75,000 a year and couples earning less than $150,000 will be sent $1,400 checks from the U.S.
The bill will also provide an additional $300 weekly benefits to those on unemployment, expand child tax credits and provide state and local governments with much-needed federal dollars.
The bill also expands health insurance coverage and will lower health care premiums, as well as provide food and nutrition assistance.
According to an analysis by Columbia University’s Center on Poverty and Social Policy, the bill could reduce poverty by a third, lifting 13 million Americans out of it. And researchers predict child poverty could be reduced by more than half.
The legislation will also provide funds for mass vaccination sites across the country and re-supply federal stockpiles of both personal protective equipment and materials needed for COVID-19 tests.
The American Rescue Plan is considered Biden’s first legislative win of his presidency, though it doesn’t include all of the items he put forth. Originally, he hoped to hike the minimum wage up to $15 through the bill, but that effort didn’t make it through the Senate. Democrats also slightly scaled back unemployment assistance to ensure passage.
Later on Thursday, the president plans to deliver his first prime-time address to the American public to mark the one-year anniversary of the pandemic.