WASHIGNTON — President Joe Biden on Thursday signed the latest coronavirus relief bill into law, approving a $1.9 trillion plan that includes a third round of stimulus checks for most Americans and expanded unemployment benefits.
Biden signed the legislation, dubbed the American Rescue Plan, during Thursday afternoon in the Oval Office. It amounts to one of the largest economic rescue plans in U.S. history.
“In the weeks that this bill has been discussed and debated it’s clear that an overwhelming percentage of the American people -- Democrats, Independents, our Republican friends -- have made it clear… they strongly support the American Rescue Plan,” Biden said. “Yesterday, with final passage of the plan in the House of Representatives, their voices were heard.”
The president added that the “historic legislation is about rebuilding the backbone of this country and giving people in this nation -- working people, middle-class folks, the people who built the country -- a fighting chance.”
“That’s what the essence of it is,” he said.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said after the signing that the IRS and the Treasury Department are working to get stimulus funds to the American people “as fast as possible.”
“People can expect to start seeing direct deposits hit their bank accounts as early as this weekend,” she said.
Earlier Thursday, Psaki said Biden decided to sign the bill one day earlier than expected because “Congress enrolled the bill more quickly than we anticipated.”
A signing event will also be held Friday at the White House.
The House of Representatives passed the American Rescue Plan on Wednesday in a near party-line vote of 220-211. Rep. Jared Golden, D-Maine, was the only Democrat to vote against the bill. No Republican in Congress cast a vote in favor of the bill.
The legislation authorizes a third round of stimulus checks for Americans making as much as $80,000 a year and couples making as much as $150,000. It also provides emergency unemployment payments of $300 until early September.
Additionally, the bill allocates money to fund COVID-19 vaccines and vaccination distribution, to reopen schools and to prop up state and local governments and airlines. Those in need will get help with health insurance premiums, farmers of color will get help with outstanding USDA farm loans and federal workers will get extra paid leave if their child is enrolled in a school that isn’t back to full-time, in-person instruction.
A dominant feature of the 628-page bill is initiatives making it one of the biggest federal efforts in years to assist lower- and middle-income families. Included are expanded tax credits over the next year for children, child care and family leave, plus spending for renters, feeding programs and people’s utility bills.
The legislation would reduce the number of people living in poverty this year by around one-third, from 44 million down to 28 million, the liberal-leaning Urban Institute estimated Wednesday. The poverty rate for children would be reduced by over half, said the institute, which examined the impact of the measure’s stimulus checks, jobless benefits, food stamps and tax credits for children.
The bill is one of the most expansive stimulus packages in American history with almost 70% of tax breaks in 2021 going to households earning $91,000 or less, according to the independent Tax Policy Center.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that of the $1.9 trillion bill, $1.1 trillion will be spent his year, with $459 billion coming in 2022.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Cox Media Group