US President Joe Biden, signed a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill at the White House on Thursday, marking one year of the coronavirus pandemic in the country.
“This historic legislation is about rebuilding the backbone of this country,” Biden said in the Oval Office before signing the bill.
The new law provides for distribution of $1,400 in direct payments to 160 million US citizens, among other provisions, to help defray costs during the pandemic and stimulate the economy.
The US Treasury Department will begin sending out those cheques as soon as the weekend, a White House spokesman said.
AL JAZEERA reports that the Democratic president plans to deliver a prime-time speech on Thursday night commemorating losses from COVID-19 while expressing hope for the future as vaccinations increase.
Biden will announce that he is directing states to make all US adults eligible for a coronavirus vaccine no later than May 1, according to administration officials who briefed reporters at the White House.
The president will say that there is a good chance Americans will be able to safely gather in small groups by July 4, the US’s Independence Day holiday.
Biden is also expected to stress that the “fight is far from over”. But he’ll say the nation will be in a “far better place” by July 4 if Americans wear masks, follow public health guidelines and get vaccinated when it is their turn.
Biden is expected to announce deployment of an additional 4,000 active-duty troops to help with vaccinations and the launch of a web site that will allow Americans to find out where they can get vaccinated, the senior officials said
In the past year, 530,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the US, one-fifth of all deaths worldwide from the virus. Now, with one out of 10 Americans fully vaccinated, infections and hospitalisations have been declining.
Biden said on Wednesday he would use his 8pm EST (01:00 GMT) address to discuss “what we’ve been through as a nation this past year”.
“But more importantly, I’m going to talk about what comes next. I’m going to launch the next phase of the COVID response and explain what we will do as a government and what we will ask of the American people,” Biden said.
Biden secured an early legislative victory this week as the Democratic-led Congress passed his $1.9 trillion pandemic-related stimulus bill, which his administration plans to highlight in coming weeks before pushing more of his campaign-trail “Build Back Better” plan.