WHITE HOUSE – U.S. President Joe Biden traveled Tuesday to a suburb of Philadelphia to promote a $1.9 trillion coronavirus aid package, which was his first major legislative victory.
“We’re in a position where it’s going to bring immediate relief,” the president told the minority owners of a flooring company in Chester, Pennsylvania. “You should be aware more help is on the way, for real.”
During the pandemic, according to officials, Smith Flooring received Paycheck Protection Program loans and it also qualifies for additional programs under the American Rescue Plan, which the president signed into law last week.
National polls have shown that the relief package has wide support, even among Republicans, but Biden’s travels this week, part of what’s being called the “Help is Here” tour, demonstrate he is not taking its popularity for granted.
Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, are taking part in the effort as well. They met with small-business owners at an empanada shop in Denver, Colorado, on Tuesday.
Lalitha Chittoor, an owner of a micro business involved in wholesale trading of sustainable products from India, told Harris that while the paycheck protection loans did not help her, the American Rescue Plan will aid her company.
The spending package will give owners like Chittoor “the support you need to retain your workers,” Harris said.
Both Biden and Harris are to make appearances in Atlanta, Georgia, on Friday.
“In the coming weeks, President Biden will lay out his economic recovery plan to invest in America, create millions of additional good-paying jobs, and build back better than before,” the White House said in a statement issued Tuesday.
Biden on Tuesday reiterated that within the next week or so his administration would send 100 million checks that are part of the rescue plan and reach the goal of administering 100 million coronavirus vaccine shots since he took office.
On Monday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the president should not take too much credit for what the lawmaker called “the optimistic springtime that lies before us.”
“The groundwork we laid last year is proving an historic success,” McConnell said. ”Where the Biden administration is continuing to help streamline distribution, they should, of course, get some credit. But their effort to sprint to the front of this yearlong campaign should not fool anybody.”
The appearances of Biden, Harris and other top administration officials are intended to highlight to voters how the aid, approved by both chambers of Congress despite uniform Republican opposition, could help them. Republican lawmakers objected to the size of the deal and said that some of the funding is not tied directly to trying to end the pandemic in the United States.
“Biden has not been crass the way that [former President Donald] Trump was and signed his name to all of these checks,” Norman Ornstein, emeritus scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, told VOA. “But being able to take credit for it without making it look like you’re just on an ego trip, which is I believe the way they’re handling it, is good policy and good politics at the same time.”
First lady Jill Biden went to the state of New Jersey on Monday, where she joined Governor Phil Murphy at a school in Burlington, near Philadelphia. On Wednesday, she is to make a visit to a school in the state of New Hampshire.
The American Rescue Plan is one of the largest economic assistance packages in U.S. history but not a single Republican, in either the House or the Senate, voted in favor of it. Many lawmakers in the opposition party complained that much of it had little to do directly with the suffering caused by COVID-19.
Millions of adult Americans, all but those in upper-income tax brackets, are receiving $1,400 stimulus checks, with tax credits for children. Billions of dollars are being sent to state and local governments and businesses that have been hit hard by the yearlong pandemic.
Additional aid is being spent to boost vaccinations of millions of people of the United States, where about 537,000 have died so far, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
VOA’s Steve Redisch contributed to this report.