WASHINGTON (AP) — Let the sales push begin.
President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and their spouses have begun an ambitious, cross-country tour this week to highlight the benefits of his $1.9 trillion plan to defeat the coronavirus and boost the economy.
The road show — dubbed the “Help is Here” tour by the White House — began Monday with Harris heading to a COVID-19 vaccination site and a culinary academy in Las Vegas and first lady Jill Biden touring a New Jersey elementary school.
The president will have more to say about the plan Monday at the White House, and he is scheduled to visit a small business in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday. He and Harris are slated to appear together in Atlanta on Friday.
Air Force Two lifted off from Joint Base Andrews on Monday morning and headed west to Nevada, and Harris will also make a stop the following day in Denver to meet with small-business owners. Wednesday sees Jill Biden in Concord, New Hampshire, and Harris’ husband, Doug Emhoff, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The stops at vaccination sites, businesses, schools and more are meant to educate the public about different aspects of the giant American Rescue Plan and how it will help people get to the other side of the coronavirus pandemic.
Biden has said President Barack Obama’s administration, in which Biden was vice president, failed to adequately educate the public about the benefits of its economic recovery plan. The president has said he wants to do a better sales job this time around on the details of his first big legislative victory and he began last week with a pair of high-profile speeches, one in prime time, the other from the Rose Garden.
One of the plan’s key features is direct payments of $1,400 for a single taxpayer, or $2,800 for a married couple filing their taxes jointly, plus $1,400 per dependent — for a total of $5,600 for a married couple with two children. The payments phase out for those with higher incomes.
Biden is also expected to tap Gene Sperling, a longtime Democratic economic policy expert, to oversee the implementation of the massive stimulus package, according to officials not authorized to speak publicly about personnel matters. Sperling’s position could be announced as soon as Monday.
An extension of federal unemployment benefits will continue through Sept. 6 at $300 a week. There’s $350 billion for state, local and tribal governments, $130 billion for K-12 schools and about $50 billion to expand COVID-19 testing, among other measures.
Restaurants and bars that were forced to close or limit service will take advantage of a new multibillion-dollar grant program, and the plan also has tens of billions of dollars to help people who have fallen behind on their rent and mortgage payments.
The bill cleared Congress without any backing from Republicans, despite polling that found broad public support for the plan. Republicans argued the bill was too expensive. Democrats provided the votes and Biden signed it into law last week.
The “Help is Here” tour is taking Harris on her first domestic trip as vice president. She’ll be accompanied by her husband, the nation’s first “second gentleman,” who plans to break off for separate events in Las Vegas on Monday and New Mexico on Wednesday.
Since taking office, Harris has presided over swearing-in ceremonies for members of Biden’s Cabinet. She has stood with the president at his speeches, delivered remarks of her own, spoken by telephone with assorted world leaders and made appearances in the Washington area, including at funeral services for Washington power broker Vernon Jordan.
Harris also cast three tie-breaking votes in the 50-50 Senate in her role as president of the Senate.
The White House has detailed a theme for each day, scheduling a focus on small businesses, schools, warding off evictions, and direct checks. Jill Biden will be joined by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on a tour Monday of Samuel Smith Elementary School in Burlington, where she is expected to talk about how the plan will help families and communities, and highlight steps the school took to reopen.
The first lady has kept a robust schedule focused on education, military families and cancer research since stepping into her new role. Earlier this month, she and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona visited Connecticut and Pennsylvania public schools that reopened during the pandemic.
Emhoff, an entertainment lawyer, also has made a few appearances in the Washington area in between his stint teaching at Georgetown Law. He plans to visit a food relief organization Monday in Las Vegas and participate in a listening session with the organization’s partners.
In addition to the president, vice president and their spouses, Cabinet secretaries will also be out on the tour. Hundreds of mayors and governors, including Republicans, are being lined up to give interviews to discuss what the plan means for their communities.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg went first, touring a UPS distribution center in Landover, Maryland, on Monday that also delivers vaccines in the Washington area.
Associated Press writer Hope Yen contributed to this report.