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Biden: Passing $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill 'giant step forward'

President Joe Biden, with Vice President Kamala Harris, delivers remarks on the Senate passage of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill from the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on Saturday. Photo by Shawn Thew/UPI
President Joe Biden, with Vice President Kamala Harris, delivers remarks on the Senate passage of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill from the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on Saturday. Photo by Shawn Thew/UPI | License Photo

March 6 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden described Saturday's passage of the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill as a "giant step forward."

"When we took office 45 days ago, I promised the American people help was on the way," Biden said in a livestream from the White House State Dining Room after passage of the relief bill. "Today I can say we've taken one more giant step forward in delivering on that promise -- that help is on the way."

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Biden thanked Vice President Kamala Harris and senators who worked hard "to reach a compromise," on the America Rescue Plan.

"It obviously wasn't easy. It wasn't always pretty, but it was so desperately needed," he said.

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Biden especially thanked Sen. Chuck Schumer, who he said "led," an "delivered" when the country needed him the most.

He said that the funding will help with the resources to "expand and speed up manufacturing and distribution of vaccine," with having enough vaccine for everyone by May.

"It's going to take longer to get it in their arms but that's how much vaccine we'll have," Biden added regarding the COVID-19 vaccine.

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Biden said eligible households may receive the $1,400 stimulus checks as soon as this month.

The COVID-19 relief will also help with resources for schools to reopen, and it will also help people struggling with hunger, paying rent, and getting unemployment insurance and health care, he said.

Twenty-four million U.S. adults and 11 million children suffer from food insecurity, Biden noted.

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"This plan puts us on a path to beating the virus," Biden said. "This plan gives those families who are struggling the most the help and the breathing room they need to get through this moment. This plan gives small businesses in this country a fighting chance to survive."

"And one more thing, this plan is historic," he added. "Taken altogether this plan is going to make it possible to cut child poverty in half."

Biden also criticized his predecessor Donald Trump.

"When I was elected, I said we were going to get the government out of the business of battling on Twitter and back in the business of delivering for the American people, of making a difference in their lives, giving everyone a chance, a fighting chance of showing the American people their government can work for them, and passing the American Rescue Plan will do that," Biden said.

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He also thanked the American people for their support of the plan.

The Senate package will have to be approved again by the House before getting Biden's signature.

Schumer said at a news conference "I have no doubt" Biden will sign the American Rescue Plan before the March 14 deadline.

"Nobody said passing one of the largest -- perhaps the most significant -- bill to help the poor and working people in decades was going to be easy, particularly with 50 votes. But it is done."

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi released a statement praising the American Rescue Plan as "a beacon of hope" and sign that "help is on the way."

Former President Barack Obama congratulated Biden on the Senate passage of the COVID-19 relief bill.

"This landmark legislation will help families pay rent and put food on the table, lift millions of children out of poverty, make health care more affordable, aid small businesses, fund broad-based vaccination efforts, and make it easier for states to reopen schools," Obama tweeted.

The Senate passed the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill Saturday after reaching a deal on unemployment benefits in a marathon session.

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President Joe Biden's stimulus package was approved by a 50-49 votes.

The bill includes direct payment checks worth up to $1,400 per person to families earning less than $160,000 a year and individuals earning less than $80,000 a year.

It also extends scaled-back $300-per-week unemployment insurance benefits through Sept. 6, which the Senate approved in a compromise amendment shortly after 1 a.m. with all Democrats voting in favor.

The bill includes a 15% increase in benefits for food stamp recipients through September. And it includes roughly $20 billion to state and local governments to help low-income households, some larger child tax credits, emergency loans for small businesses and expanded health coverage.

The proposal to increase the minimum wage to $15 was not included in the Senate package because the Senate parliamentarian ruled last week that it did not meet the guidelines for the reconciliation process.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., a holdout on the unemployment benefits measure, accepted the compromise amendment after an extended meeting with Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer. The deadlock came amid a so-called "vote-a-rama" on amendments to the $1.9 trillion legislation that resumed shortly before midnight Friday after a nearly 12-hour stalemate.

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The compromise extends $300 per week unemployment insurance benefits through Sept. 6, and makes the first $10,200 of benefits non-taxable for households earning less than $150,000. It also extends tax rules regarding excess business loss limitations to 2026.

Manchin previously did not accept a deal between moderates and progressives within the Democratic Party that lowered weekly benefit from $400 to $300, but accepted the compromise amendment which changed income limit for non-taxable benefits and cut some time off the September end date. He also previously appeared to support a Republican proposal that would have extended unemployment only through June.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki welcomed the agreement on unemployment.

"Most importantly, this agreement allows us to move forward on the urgently needed American Rescue Plan, with $1,400 relief checks, funding we need to finish the vaccine rollout, open our schools, help those suffering from the pandemic, and more," she said.

The House passed its own version of the legislation last week, which included Biden's called-for $400 weekly unemployment benefits as well as a minimum wage boost to $15.

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