Biden signs historic stimulus bill on anniversary of pandemic declaration

Washington DC - President Joe Biden signed the $1.9-trillion American Rescue Plan on Thursday, a day earlier than planned.

President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan into law as Vice President Kamala Harris looked on.
President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan into law as Vice President Kamala Harris looked on.  © IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

Biden said he hoped the plan would "rebuild the backbone of the country" and give people a fighting chance, in a video posted on Twitter by the White House.

Getting the measure through Congress was a major victory for the new president. Aside from freeing up funding to support a pandemic-stricken economy, it also includes a sweeping expansion of the country's social safety net.

Biden had originally been expected to ink the legislation on Friday, but Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters he was able to move up the signing because Congress went through the bureaucratic enrollment process of the bill "more quickly than we anticipated," US media reported.

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Later, in his first prime-time address as president, Biden called the plan "an historic piece of legislation, that delivers immediate relief to millions of people."

In the 20-minute speech, which commemorated one year since the pandemic began shutting down much of the nation's public life, Biden addressed the losses endured by Americans during the pandemic, but also painted a more optimistic picture for the future.

"When I came into office ... I said I intended to get 100 million shots in people's arms in my first 100 days in office," Biden said. "We are actually on track to reach this goal ... in my 60th day in office. No other country in the world has done this."

Vaccines to be made available for all adults by May

People waiting to be vaccinated at a federally supported vaccination site at Miami Dade College in Florida.
People waiting to be vaccinated at a federally supported vaccination site at Miami Dade College in Florida.  © IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

The president said that he instructed state and local authorities to make all American adults eligible to receive the vaccine by May 1. He reiterated the US should have enough doses "for all adults in America by the end of May, that's months ahead of schedule."

Biden also expressed hope that families would be able to celebrate Independence Day on July 4 in small groups.

"If we do our part, if we do this together, by July 4 there is a good chance that you, your family and friends will be able to get together in your backyard... and celebrate Independence Day," the president said.

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"That would make this Independence Day something truly special, where we not only mark our independence as a nation, but we begin to mark our independence from this virus."

Biden, who has been in office nearly two months, made it his top priority to accelerate the federal response to the nation's coronavirus crisis, which has killed almost 530,000 people in the US. In the speech he pointed out that the toll is higher than that of the two world wars, the Vietnam War and the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks combined.

The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic exactly one year ago.

The US reported its first case in January 2020 in Washington state, but New York quickly became the epicenter of the nation's outbreak. On March 20 the state ordered all non-essential businesses closed.

After a nationwide surge in cases during the winter, infections have been slowly declining in recent weeks with the rolling seven-day average of new cases now hovering around 60,000.

But thousands still die every week and there are worries a fresh wave could yet be ahead due to new, more transmissible variants in circulation.

The vaccination drive has been swiftly ramping up. As of Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said about 62.5 million people had received at least one dose of the three Covid-19 vaccines in use in the US, a nation of nearly 330 million.

The CDC reports that 32.9 million people have been fully vaccinated, either with Johnson & Johnson's one-dose vaccine or the two-dose regimens from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

Cover photo: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

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