By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
If all goes according to the federal government’s plan – and for now it looks like it is – Americans can expect to receive another COVID-19 stimulus check.
The $1.9 trillion COVID relief package was signed into law by President Joe Biden on Thursday, March 11. The bill was passed by the House of Representatives on Wednesday, March 10, following the approval by the Senate on Saturday, March 6.
“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,” Biden said before signing the bill. “That’s what the essence of it is.”
The relief package includes a $1,400-per-person stimulus check, a $300 federal boost to weekly jobless benefits, an expansion of the child tax credit, $350 billion in state and local aid and more according to CNN.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki explained in a tweet that Congress enrolled the bill more quickly than anticipated. This influenced the president’s decision to sign the bill on Thursday, although the official signing event will take place on Friday.
After it was passed by the House of Representatives, Biden made some remarks regarding the significance of the package and what it means for the American people.
“This bill represents a historic, historic victory for the American people. I look forward to signing it later this week,” he said in a video by CNN. “Everything in the American Rescue Plan addresses a real need – including investments to fund our entire vaccination effort. More vaccines, more vaccinators and more vaccination sites.”
He said that the relief package would fund additional testing measures that allow individuals to test at home, it will provide schools with the resources they need to safely reopen and more. Biden will be addressing the nation on prime time on Friday night; he plans to talk about the next phase in his COVID-19 response.
“There is light at the end of this tunnel after dark year,” Biden said. “But we cannot let our guard down.”
Mayor Tom Barrett and Congresswoman Gwen Moore addressed the COVID-19 relief package during a press conference outside City Hall on Wednesday, March 10.
“It was very difficult putting the American Rescue Plan Act together,” Moore said. “But thanks to the brilliance and the diligence of our 12 committees…We believe this package is not a stimulus package, this is a rescue package.”
Moore is on the Ways and Means Committee, which was responsible for a majority of the package. This package addresses human need, she said. Think about the people who haven’t paid rent, the stimulus check is desperately needed to close that gap to prevent homelessness, she said. Or the people who receive unemployment benefits, she continued.
The package contains money to get kids back in schools, she said. People talked about getting kids back in school, but money wasn’t being allocated for social distancing procedures, but this package does, Moore explained. The package likewise has money allocated for small business owners.
Moore then passed the mic to Barret.
“I’ve been involved in public life for over 30 years, and this is the most significant piece of legislation that I have seen pass Congress in the last generation,” Barrett said. “This certainly is a rescue package, and I think that has to be emphasized.”
Barrett recalled last year, when the City of Milwaukee was preparing for the pandemic.
“I don’t think either one of us or anybody dreamed at that point that we would be standing here a year later, still trying to navigate these incredibly turbulent waters, but here we are,” Barrett said.
The impact of this pandemic has not been level, he said. Some people have done better economically, but others have been severely impacted in a negative way, Barrett said.
People have lost their jobs or their homes, their lives have been disrupted. The federal government is recognizing these negative impacts and the uneven distribution of benefits in the nation, Barrett said.
The pandemic has disproportionately impacted people of color. Barrett noted that when the coronavirus pandemic first came to Milwaukee, it hit Black neighborhoods the hardest.
“This has not been an equal opportunity pandemic,” Barrett said. “It has hit people who have historically been victims of structural racism, substandard health care, of substandard housing of substandard opportunities, economic opportunities, more than it has hit the upper class and the middle class.”
The Biden Administration recognizes that, he said.
According to the Journal Sentinel, Wisconsin is expected to receive $5.5 billion in federal aid, with Milwaukee set to receive $406 million.
Barrett said part of the funding will go toward housing issues including evictions and substandard housing. The money may also go toward infrastructure issues such as lead pipes or creating employment opportunities.