WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden signed the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package into law Thursday, his first legislative achievement since taking office less than two months ago, a measure to infuse billions into the U.S. economy and bolster funding for vaccines, testing and school reopenings.
The package, which was unanimously opposed by Republicans in Congress, will also provide millions of Americans with $1,400 stimulus checks that are set to go out by the end of the month. The White House is planning a victory lap to mark the achievement with the president, First Lady Jill Biden, and Vice President Kamala Harris hitting the road next week.
The signing from the Oval Office comes just hours before Biden is set to mark one year of coronavirus pandemic shutdowns with his first prime-time address since taking office. The remarks are expected to both look back at the scale of loss over that time and peer ahead at a post-pandemic future.
Previewing his remarks, Biden said Wednesday that he would “talk about what we went through as a nation this past year.”
“But more importantly,” Biden said, “I’m going to talk about what comes next. I’m going to launch the next phase of the Covid response and explain what we will do as a government and what we will ask of the American people.”
But his speech also comes at a time of hope: the U.S. is administering nearly two million shots a day, with enough vaccine supply on the way for every adult in the country to get vaccinated by the end of May.
Biden’s speech will aim to balance these twin realities, according to a senior administration official. His tone will in part be “somber” as he reflects on the lives lost while also showing that “there is light,” the official said.
Biden personally worked on his speech overnight along with Chief of Staff Ron Klain, senior adviser Mike Donilon, director of speechwriting Vinay Reddy, as well as members of the White House coronavirus response team.
While the speech follows a big Biden Capitol Hill win, the passage of the Covid-19 relief bill, he is not expected to dedicate much of his remarks to a celebration of that legislative victory. The White House plans to hold a more formal event marking bill signing from the White House on Friday. Biden moved up the timeline for signing the bill from Friday to Thursday after Congress enrolled the bill more quickly than we anticipated, said White House press secretary Jen Psaki.
The president will instead center his focus Thursday night on the sacrifices Americans have made and the path forward, leaving his promotion of the relief package for next week when he and Vice President Kamala Harris travel to swing states to tout the bill.
Biden’s speech comes almost exactly one year after then President Donald Trump sat at the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office and addressed the nation in a prime-time address, warning of the threat of the virus but also promising that the crisis was “just a temporary moment of time that we will overcome as a nation and as a world.”
Biden said Wednesday that there is “light at the end of this dark tunnel of the past year, but we cannot let our guard down now or assume that victory is inevitable.”
The administration official said the president will use his speech to communicate with the American people about what is still required to defeat the virus.
The speech is expected to begin at 8 p.m. ET, and to last roughly 20 minutes.
The newly signed law will direct $1,400 direct payments to individuals making under $75,000 and $2,800 to married couples who make less than $150,000. Individuals making up to $80,000 and joint filers up to $160,000 will get some money, but not the full amount. The direct cash includes up to $1,400 per dependent, including adult dependents.
In addition to direct payments and child tax credits, the bill will provide $14 billion to distribute vaccines and $49 billion for Covid-19 testing, contact tracing and personal protective equipment. It also includes $125 billion for K-12 schools and nearly $40 billion for higher education. It will provide $39 billion in child care grants, $25 billion in rental assistance and $30 billion for public transit, as well.