WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — President Joe Biden said on Monday that Americans will have received 100 million shots to vaccinate them against the deadly coronavirus in the next 10 days.
“Shots in arms and money in pockets, that’s important,” Biden said at a White House event. “The American Rescue Plan is already doing what it was designed to do: make a difference in people’s everyday lives.”
Biden along with Vice President Kamala Harris and their spouses are opening an ambitious, cross-country tour this week to highlight the benefits of his $1.9 trillion package to combat the coronavirus and boost the economy.
The “Help is Here” tour kicked off Monday with Biden’s remarks from the White House. He plans to visit a small business in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday. He and Harris are slated to appear together in Atlanta on Friday.
Harris is heading to a COVID-19 vaccination site and a culinary academy in Las Vegas, and first lady Jill Biden touring a New Jersey elementary school.
Harris will also meet with small business owners in Denver on Tuesday. Wednesday sees Jill Biden in Concord, New Hampshire, and Harris’ husband, Doug Emhoff, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The stops at vaccination sites, businesses, schools and more are meant to educate the public about different aspects of the giant American Rescue Plan and how it will help people get to the other side of the pandemic.
One of the plan’s key features is direct payments of $1,400 for a single taxpayer, or $2,800 for a married couple filing their taxes jointly, plus $1,400 per dependent — for a total of $5,600 for a married couple with two children. The payments phase out for those with higher incomes.
The first batch of $1,400 stimulus payments was processed Friday, with additional large batches of payments to be sent via direct deposits or through the mail as checks or debit cards in coming weeks, Treasury and Internal Revenue Service officials said.
An extension of federal unemployment benefits will continue through Sept. 6 at $300 a week. There’s $350 billion for state, local and tribal governments, $130 billion for K-12 schools and about $50 billion to expand COVID-19 testing, among other measures.
Restaurants and bars that were forced to close or limit service will take advantage of a new multibillion-dollar grant program, and the plan also has tens of billions of dollars to help people who have fallen behind on their rent and mortgage payments.
The bill cleared Congress without any backing from Republicans. Republicans argued the bill was too expensive, did not target enough percentage of overall aid to fighting the pandemic and that unspent money remained from prior rounds of aid.
“The Senate has never spent $2 trillion in a more haphazard way,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. He said Democrats’ “top priority wasn’t pandemic relief. It was their Washington wish list.”
Republicans said the package solely reflected Democratic goals by setting aside money for family planning programs and federal workers who take leave to cope with COVID-19 and failing to require that shuttered schools accepting aid reopen their doors.
“If you’re a member of the swamp, you do pretty well under this bill. But for the American people, it means serious problems immediately on the horizon,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., referring to the added federal borrowing the measure will force.
Biden has said President Barack Obama’s administration, in which Biden was vice president, failed to adequately educate the public about the benefits of its economic recovery plan. He said he wants to do a better sales job this time around on the details of his first big legislative victory.
In 2009, Obama spent little time promoting a more than $800 billion stimulus program he and fellow Democrats pushed through Congress to rescue the U.S. economy after he inherited a deep recession from Republican predecessor George W. Bush.
The measure included stimulus checks, tax cuts and other support for businesses, workers and the unemployed, even as some economists said it did not go far enough.
But Republicans, who almost unanimously opposed the measure, captured the House of Representatives in 2010, narrowed Democrats’ lead in the Senate and proceeded to block most Obama policies.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki, a veteran of the Obama administration, told reporters on Wednesday: “We didn’t do enough to explain to the American people what the benefits were” in 2009.
The “Help is Here” tour is taking Harris on her first domestic trip as vice president. She’ll be accompanied by her husband, the nation’s first “second gentleman,” who plans to break off for separate events in Las Vegas on Monday and New Mexico on Wednesday.
Since taking office, Harris has presided over swearing-in ceremonies for members of Biden’s Cabinet. She has stood with the president at his speeches, delivered remarks of her own, spoken by telephone with assorted world leaders and made appearances in the Washington area, including at funeral services for Washington power broker Vernon Jordan.
Harris also cast three tie-breaking votes in the 50-50 Senate in her role as president of the Senate.
Jill Biden will be joined by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on a tour Monday of Samuel Smith Elementary School in Burlington, where she is expected to talk about how the plan will help families and communities, and highlight steps the school took to reopen.
The first lady has kept a schedule focused on education, military families and cancer research since stepping into her new role. Earlier this month, she and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona visited Connecticut and Pennsylvania public schools that reopened during the pandemic.
Emhoff, an entertainment lawyer, also has made a few appearances in the Washington area in between his stint teaching at Georgetown Law. He plans to visit a food relief organization Monday in Las Vegas and participate in a listening session with the organization’s partners.
In addition to the president, vice president and their spouses, Cabinet secretaries will also be out on the tour. Hundreds of mayors and governors, including Republicans, are being lined up to give interviews to discuss what the plan means for their communities.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg was set Monday to tour a UPS distribution center in Landover, Maryland, that also delivers vaccines in the Washington area.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.