President Biden said Monday that his administration was on pace to achieve two key goals by March 25: the distribution of 100 million shots of Covid-19 vaccines since his inauguration and 100 million stimulus payments under his economic relief bill.
“Shots in arms and money in pockets. That’s important,” Mr. Biden said in a brief address from the White House.
He also introduced Gene Sperling, a longtime Democratic policy aide, as his pick to oversee implementation of the $1.9 trillion economic relief package that he signed into law late last week.
“The American Rescue Plan is already doing what it was designed to do,” he said. “Make a difference in people’s everyday lives.”
The United States has administered 92.6 million vaccine doses since Jan. 20, when Mr. Biden took office, according to data released on Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At the current pace of vaccinations, the country will pass 100 million doses under Mr. Biden before the end of the week.
Answering a question from a reporter after the speech, Mr. Biden brushed aside calls for his administration to enlist former President Donald J. Trump’s help in appealing to Republicans who have resisted getting vaccinated.
“I discussed it with my team,” Mr. Biden said, “And they say the thing that has more impact than anything Trump would say to the MAGA folks is what the local doctor, what the local preachers, the local people in the community would say. So I urge, I urge all local docs, and ministers, and priests, to talk about why — why it’s important to get that vaccine.”
Mr. Biden’s remarks came as his team launched a week of sales pitches for the relief bill. The president and several members of his administration will travel the country to promote a plan that contains direct $1,400-per-person payments to low- and middle-income Americans, new monthly checks for parents and additional relief for the unemployed, among other particulars.
Mr. Biden will visit Delaware County, Pa., on Tuesday and will appear with Vice President Kamala Harris on Friday in Atlanta, which helped deliver Democrats the Senate majority that made the rescue law possible.
A group of other administration officials, including the first lady, Jill Biden, and Ms. Harris’s husband, Doug Emhoff, will make their own trips. Ms. Harris and her husband landed in Las Vegas for an event on Monday afternoon, while Dr. Biden finished an event in New Jersey.
The stimulus payments would be $1,400 for most recipients. Those who are eligible would also receive an identical payment for each of their children. To qualify for the full $1,400, a single person would need an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or below. For heads of household, adjusted gross income would need to be $112,500 or below, and for married couples filing jointly that number would need to be $150,000 or below. To be eligible for a payment, a person must have a Social Security number. Read more.
Buying insurance through the government program known as COBRA would temporarily become a lot cheaper. COBRA, for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, generally lets someone who loses a job buy coverage via the former employer. But it’s expensive: Under normal circumstances, a person may have to pay at least 102 percent of the cost of the premium. Under the relief bill, the government would pay the entire COBRA premium from April 1 through Sept. 30. A person who qualified for new, employer-based health insurance someplace else before Sept. 30 would lose eligibility for the no-cost coverage. And someone who left a job voluntarily would not be eligible, either. Read more
This credit, which helps working families offset the cost of care for children under 13 and other dependents, would be significantly expanded for a single year. More people would be eligible, and many recipients would get a bigger break. The bill would also make the credit fully refundable, which means you could collect the money as a refund even if your tax bill was zero. “That will be helpful to people at the lower end” of the income scale, said Mark Luscombe, principal federal tax analyst at Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting. Read more.
There would be a big one for people who already have debt. You wouldn’t have to pay income taxes on forgiven debt if you qualify for loan forgiveness or cancellation — for example, if you’ve been in an income-driven repayment plan for the requisite number of years, if your school defrauded you or if Congress or the president wipes away $10,000 of debt for large numbers of people. This would be the case for debt forgiven between Jan. 1, 2021, and the end of 2025. Read more.
The bill would provide billions of dollars in rental and utility assistance to people who are struggling and in danger of being evicted from their homes. About $27 billion would go toward emergency rental assistance. The vast majority of it would replenish the so-called Coronavirus Relief Fund, created by the CARES Act and distributed through state, local and tribal governments, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. That’s on top of the $25 billion in assistance provided by the relief package passed in December. To receive financial assistance — which could be used for rent, utilities and other housing expenses — households would have to meet several conditions. Household income could not exceed 80 percent of the area median income, at least one household member must be at risk of homelessness or housing instability, and individuals would have to qualify for unemployment benefits or have experienced financial hardship (directly or indirectly) because of the pandemic. Assistance could be provided for up to 18 months, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Lower-income families that have been unemployed for three months or more would be given priority for assistance. Read more.
The road show is an effort to avoid the messaging mistakes of President Barack Obama’s administration, which Democrats now believe failed to continue vocally building support for his $780 billion stimulus act after it passed in 2009. The challenge will be to highlight less obvious provisions, including the largest federal infusion of aid to the poor in generations, a substantial expansion of the child tax credit and increased subsidies for health insurance.
Mr. Biden vowed on Monday to bring “fastidious oversight” to the spending in the relief bill, in order to ensure it is distributed quickly and equitably. He praised Mr. Sperling, a former National Economic Council director under Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, and said Mr. Sperling would be “a source of constant communication, a source of guidance and support, and above all, a source of accountability for all of us to get the job done.”
“We have to prove to the American people that their government can deliver for them, and that they can do it without waste or fraud,” Mr. Biden said.