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Biden signs $1.9 trillion stimulus into law; some could see stimulus payments this weekend

President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan into law on March 11. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Tom Brenner/The Washington Post)

President Biden signed a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package into law on Thursday, setting in motion a vast effort on the part of his administration to implement one of the largest stimulus measures in U.S. history, and some stimulus payments could be delivered this weekend.

“This historic legislation is about rebuilding the backbone of this country,” the president said during the bill signing.

The first round of stimulus payments of up to $1,400 could go out this weekend to Americans whose direct deposit bank account information is already on hand at the IRS, said White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Thursday.

Congress adopts $1.9 trillion stimulus, securing first major win for Biden

The bill, known as the American Rescue Package, authorizes a third round of one-time stimulus payments up to $1,400 for most Americans; extends additional unemployment support to millions still out of work; and makes major changes to the tax code to benefit families with children. It also sets aside new federal money to help schools reopen, aid cities and states facing budget shortfalls, and assist in the distribution of coronavirus vaccine doses.

Democrats have pledged to promote the bill heavily in the coming months, touting it as one of the most significant anti-poverty proposals that Congress has adopted in a generation. Biden, meanwhile, is expected to embark on a cross-country tour to sell the rescue plan to voters, including a trip to Pennsylvania scheduled for Tuesday. Vice President Harris and her husband are set to deliver the same message out west, although details of the trip are not yet clear.

On March 11, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the first wave of stimulus payments will be sent as soon as this weekend. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Tom Brenner/The Washington Post)

For now, Biden’s signature on the law puts the U.S. government on track to start delivering some of the total $1.9 trillion in new coronavirus support, including stimulus checks. Administration officials have said a large number of Americans could receive their checks before the end of the month since the IRS, which is tasked with implementing the program, has delivered such aid in the past.

Other elements of the sweeping law may prove much tougher to implement, as the U.S. government must grapple with complex new mandates to deliver it in a tight time frame. That includes some of the changes to unemployment benefits and the new payments to be provided to Americans who have children, meaning it could be weeks or months before some families start to see the full scope of support authorized under the law. The White House said this week it would task an official to oversee stimulus spending across government.

With congressional approval imminent, Biden prepares to send checks, but big stimulus challenges loom

Its passage offered an early economic jolt: Two airline giants, United Airlines and American Airlines, said this week they would cancel tens of thousands of layoffs as a result of aid they are set to receive under the stimulus law. The Metropolitan Transit Authority of New York, which oversees the city’s buses and trains, said the money would help stave off layoffs and other service cuts in the face of a rapidly dwindling budget situation.

Biden had initially intended to sign the bill on Friday, but White House aides said they received a copy of the legislation from Congress earlier than anticipated, allowing the president to put his signature on the proposal hours before he is set to deliver his first-ever prime time television address.

Eli Rosenberg and Jeff Stein contributed to this story.