Days before his inauguration, President Biden put forth a massive economic relief proposal, asking Congress to approve $1.9 trillion in funding to provide Americans with another round of stimulus checks, aid for the unemployed, support for small businesses and money to help schools reopen safely.
In March, Congress approved the package, known as the American Rescue Plan. Much of it mirrored Biden's proposal, though there were some key changes, including narrowing the scope of the $1,400 stimulus payments, trimming the federal boost to unemployment benefits and jettisoning an increase in the federal minimum wage to $15 a hour.
So far, the Biden administration has sent out more than 160 million stimulus payments worth up to $1,400 per person, released more than $80 billion in aid to state education agencies and beefed up Affordable Care Act subsidies on the federal exchange, healthcare.gov. It has also delivered $39 billion to states to help child care providers reopen or stay afloat.
States have largely implemented the $300 federal enhancement to weekly jobless benefits and the extension of two key pandemic unemployment programs through early September. Also in place is a federal income tax break on $10,200 in unemployment compensation for those earning less than $150,000.
The package provides more than $350 billion to states and local governments, territories and tribes, extends a 15% boost to food stamp benefits through September and offers billions of dollars in aid to struggling renters and homeowners. It also greatly enhances the child tax credit for one year, increasing its size, allowing more low-income parents to qualify and providing half of it as a monthly stream of income from July to the end of the year.
Separately, Biden has used his executive powers to expand food assistance, extend the federal moratorium on evictions and continue the suspension of federal student loan payments and interest charges.
Yet the rollout of relief programs hasn't gone entirely smoothly. A new grant program for struggling restaurants that was established by the bill has yet to launch. The Small Business Administration ran into trouble standing up a grant program for closed theaters and music venues that had been approved under an earlier Covid relief package passed in December. It was taken offline hours after opening and reopened only this week. But money continues to flow through two existing aid programs for small businesses, boosted by the American Rescue Plan: the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program.
Also going slowly is the Biden administration's efforts to provide funds to low-income families whose children are missing free- or reduced-price meals in school because they are learning remotely.
While Biden increased the value of the Pandemic-EBT benefits and the US Department of Agriculture has approved many more state plans for the 2020-21 school year, about a dozen states have not yet gotten the nod, leaving millions of children waiting for the aid program created last spring. Also, many parents are still waiting for the money even in states that have been approved.