Biden rolls out massive Covid-19 stimulus package

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Melissa Mahtani, Mike Hayes and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 3:15 p.m. ET, March 15, 2021
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2:38 p.m. ET, March 15, 2021

Biden looks to the community to address vaccine hesitancy among "MAGA folks"

From CNN's Betsy Klein

 Drew Angerer/Getty Images
 Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Biden returned to the podium after completing remarks on implementation of his rescue plan to take a question on whether his predecessor, former President Trump, should be doing more to promote the Covid-19 vaccine. Biden suggested that it is more important for local community leaders to promote the vaccine to “MAGA folks” than Trump himself.

“I’m hearing a lot of reports from serious reporters like you, saying that,” Biden said in response to a question on whether Trump could help promote the vaccine among skeptics.

Biden continued, “I discussed it with my team, 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, what the local people in the community say. So I urge — I urge all local docs and ministers and priests to talk about why, why it's important to get in to get that vaccine, and even after that, until everyone is in fact vaccinated, to wear this mask.”

The question comes amid polling that shows vaccine hesitancy is higher among Republicans.

While 92% of Democrats say they have gotten a dose of the vaccine or plan to get one, that falls to 50% among Republicans, per CNN’s latest polling.

2:36 p.m. ET, March 15, 2021

Biden on oversight of Covid-19 relief plan: "We're going to have to stay on top of every dollar spent"

Eric Baradat/AFP/Getty Images
Eric Baradat/AFP/Getty Images

President Biden formally announced that Gene Sperling, a former top economic official in the last two Democratic presidential administrations, will be coordinating the implementation of his $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief law. 

The President laid out in White House remarks today the role Sperling would play throughout the process, including working alongside both Republican and Democratic leaders:

"Gene will be on the phone with mayors, governors, red states, blue states, 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," Biden said.

The President said Sperling "has hit the ground running," and will help the administration make sure the benefits of the relief plan will "go out quickly and directly to the American people where they belong."

Biden stressed the importance of oversight and transparency throughout the implementation of the package.

"We have to prove to the American people that their government can deliver for them and do it without waste or fraud," Biden said.

"We're going to have to stay on top of every dollar spent through the American Rescue Plan. And that's what we're going to do. We can do this. We will do this," the President said in closing. 

2:34 p.m. ET, March 15, 2021

Biden: "Shots in arms and money in pockets" are coming soon

President Biden is speaking about his newly passed stimulus plan. He said that in the coming days, his administration is prioritizing the continued vaccine rollout as well as making stimulus payments.

"Over the next 10 days we will reach two goals, two giant goals. The first is 100 million shots in people's arms will have been completed within the next 10 days. And 100 million checks in people's pockets in the next 10 days," Biden said.

"Shots in arms and money in pockets. That's important," he added.

Biden: This plan is doing what it was designed to do

2:08 p.m. ET, March 15, 2021

NOW: Biden speaks on Covid-19 relief delivery 

From CNN's Kate Sullivan and Betsy Klein

Pool
Pool

President Biden is delivering remarks from the White House on how he plans to implement his newly signed $1.9 trillion Covid relief law.

"When I signed the American Rescue Plan last week, I said help is on the way. This week I can report it isn't just on the way. It's here. Sooner than many thought possible," Biden said.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed during today's press briefing that Gene Sperling, a former top economic official in the last two Democratic presidential administrations, will serve as the point person in overseeing the implementation of the law. 

Congress passed the relief package last week, and Biden signed it into law on Thursday. The bill has been Biden's biggest legislative priority since taking office in January.

In a speech Friday celebrating the passage of the bill, Biden acknowledged the real work was only just beginning. The President said the rollout would require "fastidious oversight," and he added that "the devil is in the details of implementing this legislation."

Key features of the plan include:

  • Up to $1,400-per-person stimulus payments that will send money to about 90% of households
  • A $300 federal boost to weekly jobless benefits
  • An expansion of the child tax credit of up to $3,600 per child
  • $350 billion in state and local aid, as well as billions of dollars for K-12 schools to help students return to the classroom, to assist small businesses hard-hit by the pandemic and for vaccine research, development and distribution.

Here's a guide of what is in the relief plan.

1:46 p.m. ET, March 15, 2021

First lady visits New Jersey elementary school to tout Covid relief bill: "Help is here"

From CNN's Betsy Klein and Kate Bennett

First lady Jill Biden traveled to New Jersey Monday to promote the $1.9 trillion Covid relief package, visiting an elementary school, where she highlighted the bill’s impact on schools.

She made multiple stops at Samuel Smith Elementary School, visiting the CARE room to learn about the school’s mitigation strategies, making remarks on the bill and greeting students.

“I’m here to tell you, with the American Rescue Plan, help is here,” she said.

Biden said in addition to the safe reopening of schools, the plan also supports three other initiatives: direct payments to families, child care assistance, and saving jobs. 

She was joined by top state officials, including Democratic Sens. Cory Booker and Bob Menendez and Gov. Phil Murphy.

Biden's stop today is part of the White House's cross-country tour to promote the relief package.

Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff are in Las Vegas, Nevada, today, and President Biden heads to Pennsylvania tomorrow.

1:31 p.m. ET, March 15, 2021

White House confirms Gene Sperling will lead Biden's relief law implementation

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez

Gene Sperling speaks during a conference in Kalgoorlie, Australia, in 2015.
Gene Sperling speaks during a conference in Kalgoorlie, Australia, in 2015. Carla Gottgens/Bloomberg/Getty Images 

White House press secretary Jen Psaki just confirmed that Gene Sperling will be running point on the implementation of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid relief law. 

“Many of you saw the news out this morning that Gene Sperling will be joining the team here to run point on the implementation of the rescue plan. I’ve known him for a long time. I’ve worked with him previously,” Psaki said during the White House press briefing.

Psaki went on to describe Sperling's background:

“Gene has spent more than a decade at the highest level of government, including as a senior Treasury official and as the only person to serve as NEC director twice. As we’ve talked about a bit in here, there are a number of economic officials who will be playing a role in implementation, so he has an especially interesting and relevant background in helping pull all those levers,” she continued. “Gene also played a key role in helping steer Detroit out of bankruptcy and on the path to renewal, and he quarterbacked support for small businesses and economic assistance for unemployed Americans.”

Psaki said Sperling will work “with the heads of White House policy councils and key leaders at federal agencies who can get funds out the door quickly, maximize its impact, accelerate the work that the administration is doing to crush Covid and rescue our economy.”

She added that Biden “thought it was important to have a point person who could, of course, pull all of these levers.”

Psaki said Sperling's title will be “White House American Rescue Plan Coordinator and Senior Adviser to the President.” 

She could not provide reporters with Sperling’s start date or where his office will be located. She added that he is currently in California and will be working remotely until he is able to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

“He’ll work out of the White House and have a team working with him,” she added.

1:04 p.m. ET, March 15, 2021

Key things to know about the latest stimulus checks and how you can track the payment's status

From CNN's Paul LeBlanc, Katie Lobosco and Veronica Stracqualursi

STRF/Star MAX/IPx/AP
STRF/Star MAX/IPx/AP

Some Americans are already seeing the latest round of stimulus payments hit their bank accounts, as the first batch of funds is rolled out.

The payments — worth up to $1,400 per person — were included in the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package just signed by President Biden. The money is expected to reach about 90% of families, according to an estimate from the Penn Wharton Budget Model.

Who is getting the payments: The full $1,400 amount goes to individuals earning less than $75,000 of adjusted gross income, heads of households (like single parents) earning less than $112,500 and married couples earning less than $150,000.

The payments gradually phase out as income goes up, and lawmakers narrowed the scope for this third round of payments so that not everyone who received a previous check will be sent one now.

It cuts off at individuals who earn at least $80,000 a year of adjusted gross income, heads of households who earn at least $120,000 and married couples who earn at least $160,000 — regardless of how many children they have.

But unlike prior rounds, families will now receive additional money for adult dependents over the age of 17. Families will receive an additional $1,400 per dependent, so a couple with two children could receive up to $5,600.

The new income thresholds are based on a taxpayer's most recent return. Use our calculator to see if you'll qualify for a stimulus check here

Starting Monday, you can check the status of your payment using the IRS Get My Payment tool online.

No action is required for most people to receive the money. Social Security recipients and those who receive Veteran Affairs benefits should also receive the money automatically even if they don't file taxes.

If you don't see the check yet, don't panic. A Treasury Department official told reporters on a Friday call that checks will continue rolling out in the "coming weeks."

Paper checks are coming too. Though not as speedy as direct deposit, paper checks and prepared debit cards will be sent out before the end of the month.

CNN's own Tami Luhby and Katie Lobosco walk through exactly how much you can expect and when you can expect it on this special CNN Political Briefing podcast.

Fact check: Who really qualifies for a stimulus check?

11:20 a.m. ET, March 15, 2021

Vice president, second gentleman and first lady depart for "Help is Here" tour

From CNN's Betsy Klein

Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff depart from Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, on March 15.
Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff depart from Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, on March 15. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Three top officials have hit the road Monday to promote the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. 

Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff departed Joint Base Andrews this morning.

Harris is set to focus on the US surpassing 100 million shots in arms and sending out 100 million checks on Monday, traveling to Las Vegas, where she will visit a Covid-19 vaccination site with Gov. Steve Sisolak, Rep. Dina Titus, and Rep. Susie Lee.

She will also visit the Culinary Academy in Las Vegas with Rep. Steven Horsford, delivering remarks at both stops, per her office. 

Emhoff will visit a food relief organization for a tour and listening session in Las Vegas. 

Harris and Emhoff will spend the night in Los Angeles.

First lady Jill Biden, meanwhile, will tour Samuel Smith Elementary School in Burlington, New Jersey, on Monday, highlighting the parts of the relief package aimed at schools.

She takes a three-stop tour of the school with Gov. Phil Murphy and will speak about how the American Rescue Plan will improve the lives of families and their communities, per her office.

11:02 a.m. ET, March 15, 2021

Here's a reminder of what is in the Covid-19 relief bill Biden signed last week

From CNN's Tami Luhby and Katie Lobosco

President Joe Biden signs the American Rescue Plan in the Oval Office of the White House on March 11, in Washington, DC.
President Joe Biden signs the American Rescue Plan in the Oval Office of the White House on March 11, in Washington, DC. Andrew Harnik/AP

The House of Representatives voted last week to approve the $1.9 trillion Covid relief plan, a top legislative priority for President Biden. The President signed the bill into law on Thursday, and focus now turns to how the massive package will be implemented.

Much of the legislation mirrors the plan laid out by Biden in January. But lawmakers did make three notable changes – narrowing eligibility for the stimulus checks, trimming the federal boost to unemployment benefits and nixing an increase in the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Here's what is in the bill:

  • Stimulus checks: The bill provides direct payments worth up to $1,400 per person. Families get an additional $1,400 per child. There are restrictions based on how much you make. You can use this stimulus calculator to find out how much money you can expect to get.
  • Unemployment assistance: The bill calls for a $300 federal boost to weekly jobless payments and extending two key pandemic unemployment benefits programs through Sept. 6.
  • State and local aid: The legislation provides $350 billion to states, local governments, territories and tribes.
  • Nutrition assistance: The package extends the 15% increase in food stamp benefits through September. It also contains $880 million for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, known as WIC. It will allow states to continue the Pandemic-EBT.
  • Housing aid: The bill sends roughly $20 billion to state and local governments to help low-income households cover back rent, rent assistance and utility bills. It authorizes about $10 billion to help struggling homeowners pay their mortgages, utilities and property taxes.
  • Tax credits: The bill expands the child tax credit to $3,600 for each child under 6 and $3,000 for each child under age 18. Currently, families can receive a credit of up to $2,000 per child under age 17.
  • Paid sick and family leave: While the bill does not make this mandatory, it will continue to provide tax credits to employers who voluntarily choose to offer the benefit through October 1.
  • Education and child care: The bill provides $125 billion to public K-12 schools to help students return to the classroom, including for things like ventilation, personal protective equipment for teachers and support staff.
  • Health insurance subsidies: The package will make federal premium subsidies for Affordable Care Act policies more generous and would eliminate the maximum income cap for two years.
  • Small businesses: The bill provides $15 billion to the Emergency Injury Disaster Loan program and another $7 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program. It also provides $25 billion for a new grant program specifically for bars and restaurants.
  • Vaccines: $14 billion will go towards researching, developing, distributing, administering and strengthening confidence in vaccines. It will also put $47.8 billion toward things like testing and contact tracing.
  • Rural hospitals: The bill allocates $8.5 billion to help struggling rural hospitals and health care providers.

Read a more detailed breakdown here.