President Biden on Thursday signed his $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus bill ahead of his 8 p.m. “prime-time address” about the pandemic.
Biden took no questions from reporters in the Oval Office while inking his first major legislative achievement as president.
“This historic legislation is about rebuilding the backbone of this country and giving the people of this nation — working people and middle class folks who have built the country — a fighting chance. That’s what the essence of it is,” Biden said.
“I’m going to have a lot more to say about that tonight in the next couple of days and be able to take your questions. But in the meantime, I’m going to sign this bill and make the presentation tonight.”
Although the American Rescue Plan Act passed with only Democratic support in Congress, Biden argued it still can be considered bipartisan due to what he claimed was support among some Republican voters.
“It’s clear that an overwhelming percentage of the American people — Democrats, independents, our Republican friends — have made it clear, the people out there have made it clear, they strongly support the American Rescue Plan,” Biden said.
President Biden signs the American Rescue Plan in the Oval Office on March 11.Tom Brenner/REUTERS
The bill-signing originally was booked for Friday due to the clerical work involved before such large pieces of legislation are sent to the president.
The bill gives $1,400 stimulus checks to Americans who earn less than $75,000 per year and extends a $300 weekly unemployment supplement through Sept. 6.
The package received final approval in the House of Representatives on Wednesday. It received no Republican votes in either the House or Senate.
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris arrive in the Oval Office on March 11, 2021.Andrew Harnik/AP
Republicans slammed the package as largely unnecessary as the COVID-19 pandemic fades with increased vaccination.
But Democrats presented the package as a necessary measure to prevent economic stagnation and rammed it through Congress under special budget reconciliation rules that allow a bare majority in the Senate rather than the typical 60 votes for bills.
The package contains $350 billion in state and local aid and $75 billion for COVID-19 vaccination, testing and other pandemic medical supplies.
Joe Biden, with Kamala Harris, prepares to sign the American Rescue Plan on March 11, 2021 in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC.Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
It offers more than $120 billion for K-12 schools, but the Congressional Budget Office estimates that more than 90 percent won’t be spent in 2021 because funds approved for schools last year haven’t been spent.
The bill grants $1,400 stimulus checks to adults who earn up to $75,000 per year, with smaller amounts for earners under $80,000. An extra $1,400 check is awarded for each dependent child, but in a change from past stimulus checks, the income limits apply to checks for kids too.
Parents also gain a new annual tax credit of $3,000-$3,600 per child in the bill, up from $2,000 per child currently.
The bill establishes 15 weeks of paid leave for federal workers, including US Postal Service employees, for COVID-19 related reasons, including care of kids who don’t have school or daycare.
It creates a new $25 billion grant program specifically for bars and restaurants that will compensate for lost revenue, and allows for government reimbursement of health insurance premiums for people who remain on employer policies after losing their jobs.