President Joe Biden’s top messengers, including his vice president and wife, led a cross-country campaign Monday to demonstrate the benefits of his massive COVID relief initiative, from a vaccination site in the desert West to a grade school on the Eastern seaboard.
This week, Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and their spouses began an extensive tour to support the $1.9 trillion initiative as a way to combat the pandemic while also boosting the economy.
The White House called the trip the “Help is Here” tour after Harris visited a COVID-19 vaccine site and a culinary academy in Las Vegas, while first lady Jill Biden toured a New Jersey elementary school. Biden is scheduled to leave on Tuesday.
At the culinary academy, Harris said, “We want to prevent a situation where people are unsure of what they’re entitled to.” “It’s not about selling it; it’s about educating people about their rights. Consider it something of a public awareness campaign.”
The White House is wasting no time in pushing the relief package, which Biden signed into law last week, in the hopes of gaining traction for the rest of his agenda and avoiding the mistakes made in 2009 when it came to improving the recovery effort. And veterans of President Barack Obama’s administration concede that they did not do enough to support his massive economic stimulus program at the time.
For a day, Biden remained in Washington, announcing that “hope is here in true and tangible ways.” He claims that the increased government spending would fund attempts to help the country recover from the pandemic’s twin crises of health and economics.
At the White House, Biden said, “Shots in guns and money in pockets.” “That is critical. The American Rescue Plan is already accomplishing its goal of making a difference in people’s lives. “We’ve only just begun.”
Biden stated that his administration would achieve two significant milestones in the next ten days: the distribution of 100 million stimulus payments and the administration of 100 million vaccine doses since taking office. To mark the anniversaries, Biden and his top advisers are embarking on the most ambitious travel schedule of his young presidency, visiting a number of possible election battleground states this week.
Republicans were turned off by the sales pitch.
Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, dismissed Biden’s dose target as “not some audacious aim,” but rather the speed he inherited. He also called Biden’s remarks about Americans working toward the ability to meet in small groups by July 4th “bizarre.”
Despite polls showing widespread public support, the Biden proposal failed to gain Republican support in Congress. Republicans argued that the bill was too costly, particularly considering how far vaccines have advanced against the virus, and that it included too many provisions that were not specifically relevant to the pandemic.
Biden will fly to Pennsylvania on Tuesday and then join Harris in Georgia on Friday, after kicking off the sales campaign with high-profile speeches. Others on his team are in Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, and New Hampshire, all of which are vital electoral states. Harris’ first official trip in office took place on Monday, which included an unscheduled stop at a vegan taco stand and a coffee stand at the Culinary Academy Las Vegas.
“We want to take some time to communicate directly with the American people to make sure they understand the advantages of the package and how it can help them get through this tough period,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.
Each day’s theme has been laid out by the White House, with an emphasis on small businesses, colleges, home evictions, and direct checks to the majority of Americans. Jill Biden was accompanied by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy on a tour of Samuel Smith Elementary School in Burlington on Monday, where she highlighted the school’s reopening efforts.
Her tour, however, showed the difficulties ahead: in one classroom she visited, only two students were present for in-person instruction, while the other 17 were virtual. The first lady sat down at a desk to greet the distant students.
“I really love being back in a school: Educators, parents, and students, the whole school has rallied to get kids back in the classroom,” she said. “However, despite the best intentions, students are unable to participate, and they are unable to attend every day, which means that their parents are either forced to take time off work or find childcare options. And without support, this school, like schools around the country, would not be able to completely reopen.”
On Monday, the president also revealed that Gene Sperling, a former Democratic economic policy specialist, would be in charge of overseeing the massive stimulus program, a position that Biden had played in the 2009 economic rescue package. Biden claimed that the goal is to “keep on top of every dollar invested.”
“I learned how crucial it is to have someone who can handle all the moving parts with performance, speed, honesty, and transparency from my experience enforcing the Recovery Act,” the president said.
Direct payments of $1,400 for most single taxpayers, or $2,800 for married couples filing jointly, plus $1,400 per dependent — a total of $5,600 for a married couple with two children — are among the plan’s highlights. People with higher salaries have their subsidies phased out.
Federal unemployment insurance will be extended until Sept. 6 at a weekly rate of $300. Among other provisions, there is $350 billion for federal, local, and tribal governments, $130 billion for K-12 colleges, and about $50 billion to improve COVID-19 testing.
Restaurants and bars who have been forced to close or curtail service will apply for a multibillion-dollar grant, and the package also includes tens of billions of dollars to assist individuals who have fallen behind on rent or mortgage payments.
Doug Emhoff, Harris’ husband, accompanied his wife on the Western journey, stopping by a food relief agency in Las Vegas on Monday and engaging in a listening session with the organization’s partners. Cabinet secretaries will also be on the trip, in addition to the president, vice president, and their spouses. Hundreds of mayors and governors, including Republicans, have agreed to offer interviews to discuss the plan’s implications for their respective communities.
On Monday, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg visited a UPS distribution center in Landover, Maryland, which also delivers vaccines to the Washington region.