Biden Signs $1.9 Trillion Relief Bill into Law
WASHINGTON – President Biden on Thursday signed his $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue package into law, marking a significant legislative accomplishment for the new president as he looks to shepherd the country through the pandemic.
Biden, who signed the bill alongside Vice President Harris in the Oval Office, characterized the measure as historic legislation and said that ultimately, it is about “rebuilding the backbone of this country.”
“In the weeks that this bill has been discussed and debated, it is clear that an overwhelming percentage of the American people … have made it clear they strongly support the American Rescue Plan,” Biden said in brief remarks in the Oval Office. “Their voices were heard.”
The president will deliver a primetime address to the nation Thursday night about the administration’s pandemic response.
Previewing his remarks on Wednesday, Biden said he would “talk about what we’ve been through as a nation this past year, but more importantly, I’m going to talk about what comes next.”
Biden’s challenge Thursday night will be to honor the sacrifices made by Americans over the last year while encouraging them to remain vigilant despite “virus fatigue” and growing impatience to resume normal activities given the tantalizing promise of vaccines.
Speaking on the one-year anniversary of the World Health Organization’s declaration of a pandemic, he’ll mourn the dead, but also project optimism about the future.
“This is a chance for him to really beam into everybody’s living rooms and to be both the mourner in chief and to explain how he’s leading the country out of this,” presidential historian and Rice University Professor Douglas Brinkley told the Associated Press.
“This is a big moment,” Brinkley added. “He’s got to win over hearts and minds for people to stay masked and get vaccinated, but also recognize that after the last year, the federal government hasn’t forgotten you.”
The final relief package signed into law Thursday will provide $350 billion for state, local and tribal governments and $10 billion for critical state infrastructure projects; $14 billion for the distribution of a vaccine, and $130 billion to primary and secondary schools.
It also includes $30 billion for transit agencies, $45 billion in rental, utility and mortgage assistance, and billions more for small businesses and live performance venues.
In addition, it will provide another round of direct payments to American taxpayers, sending checks of up to $1,400 to individuals making $80,000 or less, single parents earning $120,000 or less and couples with household income of no more than $160,000.
Federal unemployment payments of $300 per week will be extended through Sept. 6, and up to $10,200 of unemployment benefits from last year will be tax-free for households with incomes below $150,000.
It also includes a provision stating the government will fully cover Cobra health care costs for six months for people who have lost a job or had their hours cut and who buy coverage from their former employer.
The package provides a benefit of $300 per child for those age 5 and younger, and $250 per child ages 6 to 17, increasing the value of the so-called child tax credit.
Finally, the relief bill includes a significant expansion of health care subsidies that will dramatically reduce monthly insurance payments for those purchasing coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
The bill signing was originally planned for Friday afternoon, but was moved up a day after the bill arrived at the White House following the House vote on Wednesday.
White House chief of staff Ron Klain tweeted that the administration would still hold a celebration of the bill’s passage with congressional leaders on Friday.
Left unsaid is who will be in attendance. No Republicans supported the bill in the House or Senate, and only one Democrat voted against it in the House.
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