Biden visited a small business in suburban Philadelphia on Tuesday, his initial trip outside Washington for the “Help is here” tour that got underway Monday. Harris dropped in on a COVID-19 vaccination site and a culinary academy in Las Vegas while first lady Jill Biden toured a New Jersey elementary school.
The White House is wasting no time promoting the relief plan, which Biden signed into law last week, looking to build momentum for the rest of his agenda and anxious to avoid the mistakes of 2009 in boosting that year’s recovery effort. Even veterans of Barack Obama’s administration acknowledge they did not do enough then to showcase their massive economic stimulus package.
“Hope is here in real and tangible ways,” Biden said Monday at the White House. He said the new government spending will bankroll efforts that could allow the nation to emerge from the pandemic’s twin crises, health and economic.
Biden said that within the next 10 days, his administration will clear two important benchmarks: distributing 100 million stimulus payments and administering 100 million vaccine doses since he took office. To commemorate those milestones, Biden and his top representatives are embarking on their most ambitious travel schedule of his young presidency, visiting a series of potential election battleground states this week.
Last week, Biden — who has still not held an open press conference — pledged in his first prime-time address to make all adults eligible for vaccines by May 1 and raised the possibility of beginning to “mark our independence from this virus” by the Fourth of July. Speaking in the White House East Room Thursday night, Biden honored the “collective suffering” of Americans over the past year in his 24-minute address and then offered them a vision for a return to a modicum of normalcy this summer.
The speech came just hours after Biden signed his $1.9 trillion relief package that he said will help defeat the virus, nurse the economy back to health and deliver direct aid to Americans struggling to make ends meet.
The Biden plan cleared Congress without any backing from Republicans, despite polling that found broad public support. Republicans argued the bill was too expensive, especially with vaccinations making progress against the virus, and included too many provisions not directly linked to the pandemic.
The president on Monday announced he had chosen Gene Sperling, a longtime Democratic economic policy expert, to oversee the massive stimulus package, the role Biden himself had played for the 2009 economic rescue package. The goal, Biden said, is to “stay on top of every dollar spent.”
“I learned from my experience implementing the Recovery Act just how important it is to have someone who can manage all the moving parts with efficiency, speed and integrity and accountability,” said the president.
The plan’s key features include direct payments of $1,400 for most single taxpayers, or $2,800 for married couples filing jointly, plus $1,400 per dependent — a total of $5,600 for a married couple with two children. The payments phase out for people with higher incomes.
An extension of federal unemployment benefits will continue through Sept. 6 at $300 a week. There’s $350 billion for state, local and tribal governments, $130 billion for K-12 schools and about $50 billion to expand COVID-19 testing, among other provisions.
Restaurants and bars that were forced to close or limit service can take advantage of a new multibillion-dollar grant program, and the plan also has tens of billions of dollars to help people who have fallen behind on rent and mortgage payments.