President Joe Biden is now pushing hard for his "American Rescue Plan" — a $1.9 trillion bill that would provide a third stimulus check and a range of other essential COVID-19 pandemic relief measures. Some facets of the plan are up for negotiation and some are not, and there are a couple of different ways the bill could be passed. While most Americans are focused on the relief that will impact them most directly, it is important to understand the bill as a whole.
According to the White House website, Biden's American Rescue Plan is an "Emergency Legislative Package to Fund Vaccinations, Provide Immediate, Direct Relief to Families Bearing the Brunt of the COVID-19 Crisis, and Support Struggling Communities." The plan would act on Biden's goal of drastically increasing the rate of coronavirus vaccines in the U.S., with the intent of reopening public spaces where possible. It also has some broader programs aimed at communities, not individuals, which would boost public health and begin to heal the economy.
By now, most Americans are familiar with the stimulus check in Biden's plan — a $1,400 payment that, along with the $600 payment in January, would add up to a total of $2,000 in relief. That remains the biggest point of contention among critics, particularly Republicans. Many want to either shrink that payment, restrict eligibility for it or do away with it altogether.
Meanwhile, the bill also contains funding to set up community vaccination sites all over the country, and to scale up the national capacity for coronavirus testing, tracing and treatment. This funding would attempt to bridge gaps in the supply chain for vaccines and much-needed medical supplies and would invest in treatment.
Some of those funds would also be allocated to providing paid sick leave, which would hopefully mean that more workers would be able to call out of work if they began experiencing symptoms. Biden and other lawmakers hope that this would help slow the spread in some communities.
Biden's plan prioritizes opening schools in coordination with these vaccinations and other efforts. If all goes as planned, the White House said it would reopen "a majority of K-8 schools in the first 100 days" after the bill was passed. The bill earmarks $130 billion to outfit schools safely and get them opened up.
Biden's plan provides funding for small businesses and other community pillars as well. The bill provides grants for small businesses hit hard by the pandemic to reopen and rebuild, with $15 billion in direct funding and another $175 billion in loans available. Biden's plan has means of targeting real small businesses and avoiding loopholes in its programs, such as targeting employers with 500 employees or less.
More details on each individual program in Biden's plan are laid out on the White House website, including the contentious items like information technology protections or raising the minimum wage. The website also makes the case for each of these items, meeting its detractors head-on. Biden and the Democrats are still considering whether to seek Republican support for this bill in the United States Senate or pass it through the budget reconciliation process.