Hours after signing a $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill into law, President Biden addressed the nation Thursday evening, speaking of the “hope and light of better days ahead” and setting Independence Day as a target date for a return to pre-pandemic normalcy.
Roughly 12 months after the coronavirus pandemic disrupted American life and has now claimed more than 527,000 lives in the U.S.—topping the combined tolls of both World Wars, the Vietnam War and the Sept. 11 attacks—consumers nationwide could begin receiving the latest round of stimulus checks as early as this weekend, the White House said, while Biden announced that all adults in the U.S. will be eligible for vaccinations starting May 1.
“If we all do this, if we do our part, and we do this together, by July 4, there’s a good chance you, your families and friends will be able to get together in your backyard or in your neighborhood and have a cookout at a barbecue and celebrate [Independence Day],” Biden said, adding that the holiday could mark “our independence from this virus.”
“To get there,” he continued, “we can’t let our guard down.”
Though the U.S. is inching toward re-opening and some infection and hospitalization trends offer reasons for optimism, health experts remain concerned about fast-spreading, highly transmissible Covid-19 variants that could become the dominant strains nationwide this month. If the data takes a turn for the negative, “we may have to reinstate restrictions to get back on track,” Biden said.
Touting the vaccine development achievement as a “true miracle of science” and “one of the most extraordinary achievements any country has ever accomplished,” Biden said that “America is coming back.”
And retailers are hoping he’s right.
National Retail Federation president and CEO Matthew Shay welcomed the relief bill, outlining how the “retail industry has been front and center throughout this crisis and remains engaged by providing vaccines to employees and consumers in communities they serve across the country.”
The retail trade group, he added in a statement issued Saturday after the Senate passed the bill, continues to “encourage targeted and temporary fiscal support for those families, small businesses and job creators hardest hit by the pandemic.”
Meanwhile, American Apparel & Footwear Association president and CEO Steve Lamar said fashion has been reeling from the “double-jab” of not just the coronavirus crisis but also the “increasingly burdensome tariffs” levied against common consumer goods like clothing and shoes.
“At the same time,” he said Thursday after Biden signed the bill, “this industry has been on the front lines of repurposing supply chains to quickly fill our country’s critical need for personal protective equipment, adjusting operations in line with health guidance and creating safe spaces for Americans to shop for essential apparel and footwear needs across many seasons of this pandemic.”
He welcomed the aid package and temporary extension of tariff exclusions for PPE imports as “enormously beneficial steps for American businesses, American workers, American families, and the American economy, in getting to the other side of this pandemic.”
And U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said signing the relief bill into law sends a clear message to Americans that “help is here.”
“This historic piece of legislation will get direct relief to Americans, help businesses that are struggling to keep their doors open, create and support millions of jobs, reopen schools safely, support families with a child tax credit, and most importantly, continue an aggressive national vaccination program,” she said.
More than $3 billion has been allocated to the Commerce Department to provide economic relief to communities and businesses “that have struggled, and help get Americans and businesses back to work,” she added.