Biden kicks off stimulus tour with promises of Covid-19 vaccine shots and cash payments

US President Joe Biden speaks to reporters at the White House on March 15, 2021.
US President Joe Biden speaks to reporters at the White House on March 15, 2021.PHOTO: NYTIMES

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - With a promise of "shots in arms and money in pockets," President Joe Biden on Monday (March 15) kicked off a week of promotion and travel to herald and explain the US$1.9 trillion (S$2.56 trillion) pandemic relief Bill he signed into law last week to help the country move past the Covid-19 pandemic.

Biden and a slate of advocates including Vice-President Kamala Harris and first lady Jill Biden are being deployed to various states and to television this week as part of what the White House is calling the "Help Is Here Tour" to tout measures that include a US$1,400 check for most US households.

"Help is here, and hope is here, in real and tangible ways," Biden said in remarks from the White House.

Biden said his administration would reach two important goals over the next 10 days: 100 million shots in people's arms and 100 million checks in people's pockets or bank accounts.

"Shots in arms and money in pockets. That's important. The American Rescue Plan is already doing what it was designed to do: make a difference in people's everyday lives. And we're just getting started," Biden added.

The legislation was Biden's first legislative priority upon taking office in January. His fellow Democrats used narrow majorities in the House of Representatives and Senate to pass a large measure of what Biden originally proposed without Republican support.

Democrats regard the Bill as good policy and good politics.

Opinion polls show majorities supporting efforts to shore up the coronavirus vaccination campaign, prepare schools to reopen and ease poverty after a year-long pandemic that has killed more than 535,000 Americans and put millions of people out of work.

Republicans, who broadly supported coronavirus relief early in the crisis when Republican Donald Trump was president, have called the latest measure an overpriced collection of pet projects unrelated to the pandemic.

The White House has said it does not believe former President Barack Obama's administration, in which Biden served as vice-president, did enough to promote its more than US$800 billion 2009 economic rescue programme. Democrats went on to lose control of the House to Republicans the next year.

Taking their case directly to the people, Harris travelled to Las Vegas on Monday, while Biden goes to Delaware County, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday and Atlanta on Friday. He will also do an interview on Wednesday on ABC's Good Morning America programme.

Biden defeated Trump in the election battleground states of Nevada, Pennsylvania and Georgia in the 2020 presidential election.

Each state will also feature a competitive US Senate race in 2022. Losing just one seat in that chamber could all but doom Biden's legislative agenda, handing Senate control to Republicans for the rest of the president's four-year term.

At least two outside political spending groups that backed Biden's presidential bid, Priorities USA and Unite the Country, said they would put millions of dollars into advertisements supporting the stimulus measure.

Priorities USA said its ads would partly be targeted at voters who flipped from supporting Trump in 2016 to Biden in 2020, in "2022 battleground states" including Georgia, Nevada and Pennsylvania.