Biden, Harris and others begin promoting COVID-19 relief plan's benefits during 'Help is Here' tour
WASHINGTON - President Joe Biden, 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 plan to defeat the coronavirus and boost the economy.
The roadshow — dubbed the "Help is Here" tour by the White House — kicked off with remarks from President Joe Biden on the White House's effort to highlight the benefits of his huge COVID relief plan. He declared that "hope is here in real and tangible ways" as his administration began fanning out across the country to promote the new spending.
Biden said that within the next 10 days, his administration will clear two important benchmarks: distributing 100 million stimulus payments and administering 100 million vaccine doses since he took office.
The president is scheduled to visit a small business in Delaware County, Pennsylvania on Tuesday. He and Harris are slated to appear together in Atlanta on Friday.
Also on Monday, Harris was heading to a COVID-19 vaccination site and a culinary academy in Las Vegas and first lady Jill Biden toured a New Jersey elementary school.
Harris will 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 coronavirus pandemic.
President Joe Biden speaks during an event on the American Rescue Plan as Vice President Kamala Harris listens in the Rose Garden of the White House on March 12, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
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.
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.
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.
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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, despite polling that found broad public support for the plan. Republicans argued the bill was too expensive. Democrats provided the votes and Biden signed it into law last week.
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 robust 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.
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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.
Associated Press writer Hope Yen contributed to this report.