U.S. President Joe Biden signed his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package into law Thursday, opening the door for the release of federal aid for financially ailing American households and businesses.
Biden, a Democrat, signed the package one day after the House of Representatives approved the bill 220-211 without Republican support and one day earlier than the White House initially had planned.
“This historic legislation is about building a backbone in this country and giving people in this country, working people, middle-class folks, people who built the country, a fighting chance,” Biden said as he prepared to sign the bill.
Republican lawmakers objected to the package, saying it was too large and did not sufficiently target those who were most in need of economic assistance. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday called the bill “costly, corrupt and liberal.”
No federal minimum wage hike
The measure narrowly passed in the Senate on Saturday after the chamber altered some aspects of a bill approved earlier by the House. Among the changes was the removal of an increase in the federal minimum wage.
The new law provides $1,400 checks for all but the highest-earning adults in the country, and expanded tax credits for lower-income families of $3,000 per child ages 6 to 17 and $3,600 for children under 6 for the tax year 2021. Unemployed workers will continue to get $300-a-week national government payments into early September on top of state assistance. State and city governments will get $350 billion to help them recover from the pandemic.
Unlike a round of direct payments that went out last year in a coronavirus relief package, this time the checks will not have the signature of the president.
The package also includes tens of billions of dollars to fund coronavirus testing and contact tracing, as well as vaccine distribution, along with new aid for businesses that have been hard hit by directives that curtailed their operations over the last year.
Biden on Tuesday visited a hardware store in Washington that has benefited from a pandemic-related paycheck protection loan program.
Compared with coronavirus relief approved last year, Biden said the newest package targets loans more narrowly to small businesses. He said a lot of “mom-and-pop businesses got muscled out of the way by bigger companies that jumped in front of the line” a year ago.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki praised the legislation at a news conference Monday, saying that while there were some changes on the margins as the Senate acted, it represented the “core” of what Biden proposed.
On Tuesday, she said Biden and other senior administration officials planned to continue to tout the benefits of the relief plan after it passed.
“We certainly recognize that we can’t just sign a bill,” Psaki told reporters. “We will need to do some work and use our best voices, including the president, the vice president and others, to communicate to the American people the benefits of this package.
“So, I think you can certainly expect the president to be doing some travel, and we’ll have more details on that in the coming days,” she said.