Biden signs $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill, clearing way for stimulus checks, vaccine aid

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President Joe Biden signed the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package Thursday afternoon as Washington moves to send fresh aid this month.

With his signature, the president checks off his first priority in the White House. He also will give a prime-time address Thursday describing how the country will proceed in fighting the virus a year after the World Health Organization declared it a pandemic.

The plan will send direct payments of up to $1,400 to most Americans. Direct deposits will start hitting Americans’ bank accounts as soon as this weekend, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday.

The bill will also extend a $300 per week unemployment insurance boost until Sept. 6 and expand the child tax credit for a year. It will also put nearly $20 billion into Covid-19 vaccinations, $25 billion into rental and utility assistance, and $350 billion into state, local and tribal relief.

“This historic legislation is about rebuilding the backbone of this country,” Biden said before signing the legislation. “And giving people in this nation, working people, middle-class folks, the people who built this country, a fighting chance.”

Democrats passed the bill in Congress without a Republican vote through the budget reconciliation process. The House approved the measure Wednesday.

Republicans called the proposal unfit for the moment as Covid-19 vaccinations pick up and more states move toward reopening their economies. The GOP criticized what it called funding not needed to fight the pandemic.

“The American people already built a parade that’s been marching toward victory,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on Thursday. “Democrats just want to sprint to the front of that parade and claim credit.”

Democrats have called the bill necessary to sustain the economic recovery mitigate the pain caused by a year of economic restrictions. More than 20 million people are still receiving some form of unemployment benefits, and millions of households are struggling to afford food and housing.

Democrats also pointed to the bill’s potential to slash child poverty.

The legislation will also increase the maximum Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefit by 15% through September and direct nearly $30 billion to restaurants. It will send more than $120 billion to K-12 schools.

The legislation will also boost provisions to make health care more affordable and expand tax credits to help businesses keep employees on the payroll.

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