President Joe Biden Signs the American Rescue Plan Act on March 11, 2021

President Joe Biden signs the American Rescue Plan on March 11, 2021, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C. -Tribune News Service

The third COVID-19 relief package, the American Rescue Plan Act, survived Congress and became law on March 10, which marks the first legislative victory for President Joe Biden. Not one Republican in either the House of Representatives or the Senate voted for the legislation.

The new $1.9 trillion stimulus package will increase payments to families while financing the reopening of schools as the return to normalcy grows nearer by the day.

Biden has directed states to have vaccines available to every American by the beginning of May, which the White House says will help the U.S. return to normal by July 4. To have a majority of American adults vaccinated by May, the administration is planning to reach more isolated areas and set up additional sites for receiving the vaccine, such as pharmaceutical stores.

Through the new stimulus package, payments of $1,400 will be paid to individuals with incomes of $75,000 or less a year and couples whose earnings are $150,000 or less. Also included in the new round of stimulus checks are adult dependents such as college students and elderly relatives who weren’t included in the previous packages.

Since December, Americans will have received $2,000 in stimulus checks, with the other $600 coming from the second package. However, this might not be the last of direct payments to Americans, as those on Capitol Hill think many are still struggling and need additional support. Some Americans have already received their checks, and those who haven’t can expect to see theirs in the coming weeks.

Funding to help reopen American schools has been earmarked, making this the first stimulus package to offer funding for this purpose. The White House says $130 billion has been set aside for schools to help move learning back into the classroom. Funding will go to help schools pay for supplies they need such as smaller classroom sizes to obey CDC guidelines to give children the return to normalcy feeling.

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This should be a sign of optimism because it shows the government feels more comfortable with getting students back into classrooms as vaccinations continue to be rolled out. If they’re successful with getting back to in-person learning, it’ll serve as a sign that larger gatherings are on the horizon.

With a hopeful return to in-person class instruction, schools across the country are facing several problems. Many schools that have hundreds of students will face issues getting everyone in socially-distant classrooms, reminding younger students to keep their distance and keep masks on as well as on buses to and from the school.

Biden has directed states to have vaccines available to every American by the beginning of May, which the White House says will put the country on track to a normal Independence Day celebration. To have a majority of American adults vaccinated by May, the administration is planning to reach more isolated areas and set up additional sites for receiving the vaccine such as pharmaceutical stores.

States such as Texas and Pennsylvania have begun reducing restrictions on businesses and restaurants as COVID-19 cases fall and vaccination rollout continues. Meanwhile, in Europe, countries are reporting and suspending the AstraZeneca vaccine as some patients have experienced blood clots. The most used vaccines in the United States are Pfizer, Moderna, BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson.

While much of the U.S. is on a path to ending this remarkable timeframe, Americans should be cautious about jumping the gun too early and triggering a rise in cases, even as more vaccines are distributed. With the current situation right now, if one step forward is taken too early, it could send us two steps backward.

Andrew Withers is a junior finance major. Contact Andrew at witheran@dukes.jmu.edu.