On The Money: Biden signs COVID-19 relief bill, will address nation tonight | First stimulus checks could hit bank accounts this weekend

On The Money: Biden signs COVID-19 relief bill, will address nation tonight | First stimulus checks could hit bank accounts this weekend

Happy Thursday and welcome back to On The Money, where we’ll be refreshing our bank account apps all weekend. I’m Sylvan Lane, and here’s your nightly guide to everything affecting your bills, bank account and bottom line.

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THE BIG DEAL—Biden signs $1.9 trillion relief bill into law: Have you ever written your name and made $1.9 trillion appear? That’s, more or less, how President BidenJoe BidenThe Memo: Nation rallies for Biden on his COVID-19 response Democrats debate fast-track for infrastructure package Japanese prime minister expected to be Biden’s first foreign visit at White House MORE spent his afternoon.

Biden on Thursday signed his $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue package into law, marking a significant legislative accomplishment for the new president as he looks to shepherd the country through the pandemic. Alongside Vice President Harris in the Oval Office, Biden said the measure was historic legislation aimed at “rebuilding the backbone of this country.” The Hill’s Morgan Chalfant and Brett Samuels take us to the White House.

What’s inside the bill: The sweeping bill, which Biden proposed in January before taking office, includes funding for $1,400 direct payments to most Americans, vaccine distribution efforts, school reopenings, enhanced unemployment benefits through September and state and local governments, along with an expansion of the child tax credit and an expansion of ObamaCare, among other provisions. We’ve got a more detailed rundown of the bill here, and highlighted a few sections that flew under the radar here.

Selling the relief plan: The Biden administration will begin an all-out public relations blitz in the weeks to come to tout the benefits of the bill.

  • Biden is scheduled to deliver a prime-time address later Thursday about the administration’s pandemic response, a year to the day that the COVID-19 pandemic changed the world as we knew it forever. He is expected to talk about the sacrifices made by the American public, the lives lost and his administration’s efforts to distribute coronavirus vaccines.
  • Then, the president will travel to Pennsylvania next Tuesday in what is expected to be the first of multiple trips to sell the legislation to the public and ensure it retains its popularity. 
  • Biden and Harris will also travel to Atlanta on Friday, the White House announced shortly before Biden signed the bill, branding the effort the “Help is Here” tour.

First stimulus checks could hit bank accounts this weekend: That said, nothing sells the bill like money in the bank. 

White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiJapanese prime minister expected to be Biden’s first foreign visit at White House Biden to commit to working with ‘Quad’ countries to expand vaccine access On The Money: Biden signs COVID-19 relief bill, will address nation tonight | First stimulus checks could hit bank accounts this weekend MORE said Thursday that people could start receiving $1,400 direct payments in their bank accounts as soon as this weekend. 

The Hill’s Naomi Jagoda has more here.

LEADING THE DAY

Biden announces nominees for key Treasury positions: President Biden on Thursday announced his nominees for several key Treasury Department positions, as his administration prepares to implement the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.

  • Nellie Liang, a former Federal Reserve official, is his pick to be undersecretary for domestic finance at Treasury. Former President Trump had nominated Liang to serve on the Fed’s board of governors in 2018, but Liang pulled her nomination the following year after drawing opposition from Senate Republicans who wanted to loosen rules on banks.
  • Lily Batchelder, a professor at New York University, was nominated to be assistant secretary for tax policy, a position that plays a key role in Treasury’s work on tax regulations. Batchelder previously served on the White House National Economic Council during the Obama administration, and also has worked as an aide to the Senate Finance Committee.
  • Additionally, Biden announced that he is nominating Ben Harris to be assistant secretary for economic policy  and Jonathan Davidson to be assistant secretary for legislative affairs. Both are former Biden advisors.

Naomi has more here

How the pandemic turbocharged inequality: The income gap is widening at a frantic pace one year into the pandemic, raising tough questions for policymakers as the recovery starts to take hold.

  • Even before COVID-19, the difference between the haves and have nots was striking. The bottom 50 percent of U.S. households in 2019 accounted for just 1 percent of the country’s total wealth, while the top 10 percent owned 76 percent of assets.
  • In the past 12 months, the country’s 664 billionaires saw their wealth increase 44 percent, or $1.3 trillion, according to an analysis by Americans for Tax Fairness, a left-leaning advocacy group.
  • The most recent census data found that nearly 81 million Americans say they’re having trouble paying for regular household expenses, 51 million expected a loss in income in the coming month, 22 million did not have enough food, and 11 million don’t think they’ll be able to make their next housing payment on time.

“This gulf between the top and the bottom of income and wealth has gotten wider,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. “Recessions are generally hard on the weak, the people who don’t have a cushion. But this pandemic recession is unique and very idiosyncratic,” he said. The Hill’s Niv Elis explains why here.

Read more: 

  • Combined household wealth in the U.S. hit a record $130.2 trillion in the last quarter of 2020 despite the devastating economic effects of the coronavirus, according to Federal Reserve data released Thursday.
  • Initial jobless claims for the first week of March dropped to a seasonally adjusted 712,000, just 1,000 more than the pandemic low in November.

GOOD TO KNOW

  • The IRS reported Thursday that total tax refunds are down 32 percent from the same time last year almost a month after the filing season began.
  • Stocks on Thursday closed at new highs amid expectations of a strong recovery as President Biden signed a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill into law one day earlier than scheduled.
  • Bipartisan House lawmakers announced a deal Thursday to extend the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for two months from the current March 31 deadline.

ODDS AND ENDS