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“Help is Here” — President Biden Signs the American Rescue Plan

“This legislation represents the boldest action taken on behalf of the American people since the Great Depression.”

“This is seismic legislation.”

This how House Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman Pete Aguilar and House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal characterized the “American Rescue Plan,” the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief and economic stimulus package, that passed the House of Representatives Wednesday 220–211 President Joe Biden signed Thursday.

The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center reported the rescue package is projected to increase the poorest 20% of Americans’ incomes 20%.

Currently unemployed Americans facing an expiration of unemployment benefits within a week can expect a $300 extension to weekly jobless benefits.

Married couples making less than $160,000, heads of households earning less than $120,000 a year, individuals earning less than $80,000 a year — 85% of the country — will receive $1,400 per person, including dependents.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is getting a boost as well by expanding subsidies for purchasing health insurance plans.

Those currently paying 10% of their income toward coverage will now pay 8.5%.

185 multiemployer union pension plans are getting bailed out with $86 billion.

Small businesses and companies performing vaccine research, development, and distribution are getting $350 billion in state and local aid.

Schools will get $130 billion to reduce class sizes, improve ventilation, and facilitate social distancing.

Possibly the most significant aspect of the legislation affects its impact on poverty, which is expected to decline by a third.

Child poverty specifically is expected to be slashed in half.

The child tax credit temporarily increases to $3,000 per child under age 17 and $3,600 per child under age six.

But instead of waiting for next year’s tax filing season to gain the credit, parents can opt for an advance on half their 2021 credit in the form of monthly $250 or $300 per-child payments.

That will begin in July and continue through the end of the year.

Parents presently unemployed can benefit from this as well, whereas previously they had to earn $2,500.

The current child care tax credit of 20 to 35 percent of eligible expenses with a $2,100 cap for two or more qualifying individuals increases to $4,000 for one qualifying individual, or $8,000 for two or more.

The rescue package increases food assistance programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, aka food stamps) 15% through September.

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) will also see a jump.

Families whose children’s schools are closed may be eligible for Pandemic-EBT benefits through summer if their states choose to continue providing them.

Hunger Free America CEO Joel Berg lauded:

“This bill will slash U.S. hunger and make a truly historic investment in cutting domestic child poverty in half. For anyone who still claims, ‘both sides are the same’ or ‘nothing ever changes,’ this ground-breaking package again proves that’s just not true. This life-saving package, which is the most serious attempt to reduce U.S. hunger and poverty in at least 50 years, proves that who is in charge of our government matters–-big time! President Biden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are delivering on their promises to provide meaningful relief for the tens of millions of households that are struggling and to take important steps toward reducing economic inequality in the long-term.”

One year ago we were told there was nothing to worry about, and the virus would “just disappear.”

We were told to “pack churches” on Easter.

We were told injecting disinfectants could treat COVID-19.

Donald Trump told us he was taking hydroxychloroquine, then contracted COVID himself.

Yet he told veteran Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward he knew the virus was “deadly stuff” but wanted to “play it down” because he didn’t want to “create a panic.”

It matters who sits in the White House.

It matters whether or not we have a government that actually believes in providing for the people’s general welfare instead of pandering to its wealthy donors.

While no government nor president is perfect, it matters with whom we entrust our safety, education, health, and economy.

“Help is here.”

Ted Millar is a teacher, poet, and political writer for PoliticusUSA, Liberal Nation Rising, Liberal America, and the Left Place blog.