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. Vice President Kamala Harris joined Biden as he signed the American Rescue Plan in the Oval Office at about 2 p.m. EST.
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.
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.
PolitiFact has published an article highlighting some key points - and misconceptions - about the bill, including:
Some Republicans criticized the bill for spending relatively little on issues tied to the health aspects of the coronavirus. "There’s about 9% … actually going to COVID, meaning 91% of it is not even COVID-related," said Rep. Ted Budd, R-N.C. PolitiFact rated that Half True. Broadly, the bill offers about $160 billion for vaccines, vaccine distribution and public health measures to coral the virus.
Republicans go further to say the bill is loaded with congressional pork and spending wholly unrelated to the pandemic. The measure does include a number of items, such as $270 million, split between the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts, $200 million to the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and $50 million to address environmental issues in minority and low-income neighborhoods. There’s also $50 million for family planning, some of which could go toward Planned Parenthood.