US President Joe Biden signed a $1.9tn stimulus package into law on Thursday afternoon, enacting his top legislative goal for his first months in office to deliver a fiscal jolt to the American economy.
Biden signed the legislation at just after 2pm on Thursday in the Oval Office, a day earlier than previously announced.
Biden’s signature, just a day after the House of Representatives voted to pass the final version of the legislation in Congress, allows the US administration to rapidly implement the bill over the coming weeks.
It also sets the stage for an effort by the president to tout the benefits of the plan across the country, with Biden already scheduling a visit to Atlanta, Georgia, next week to discuss its impact.
The legislation includes $1,400 direct payments to Americans earning $75,000 per year or less, which will have to be quickly disbursed by the US Treasury department. The cheques could result in a big increase in consumer spending from as early as April.
Biden’s signature also gives a green light to states to begin processing the extension of federal emergency unemployment benefits, worth $300 per week, until early September. Without the stimulus package, the aid was due to expire on March 14.
As he signed the stimulus bill, Biden cited polls showing strong support for the legislation among the US public.
“Their voices were heard. I believe this historic legislation is about rebuilding the backbone of this country and giving people in this nation — working people, middle class folks, people who built the country — a fighting chance. That’s what the essence of it is,” he said.
At a virtual event with business owners after the bill signing, Kamala Harris, vice-president, said that “the vast majority of Americans — regardless of who they voted for in the last election — support the American Rescue Plan”.
She added: “It will lift half of American children living in poverty, out of poverty.”
White House officials and Democratic lawmakers have touted the stimulus bill as a chance to reboot the US economic recovery and shield vulnerable households from the worst effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
The plan did not receive any Republican support, however, as conservative lawmakers attacked it as a vehicle for excessive and unnecessary spending.
Biden will hold a ceremony with members of Congress on Friday to mark the passage of the plan.
The signing of the stimulus plan served as a prelude to Biden’s first primetime television address to Americans on Thursday evening, marking the anniversary of the initial coronavirus lockdowns in 2020.
According to a White House official, Biden was expected to speak for about 20 minutes about the “sacrifices made by the American people” due to the pandemic and the “greatest operational challenge the country has ever faced” in rolling out vaccinations.
“The president will lay out the next steps he will take to get the pandemic under control, level with the American people about what is still required to defeat the virus and provide a hopeful vision of what is possible if we all come together,” the White House official said.