”We want to avoid a situation where people are unaware of what they’re entitled to,” Vice President Kamala Harris said at the Culinary Academy of Las Vegas. “It’s not selling it; it literally is letting people know their rights. Think of it more as a public education campaign.”
Those rights include the $1,400 checks going to all but the highest earners—to “85% of American households,” Biden said—as well as a $300 a week unemployment benefits boost extended until Sept. 6, and a child tax credit expansion that will not only cut child poverty in half but help many middle-class families weather the added stresses of the pandemic.
The law’s help isn’t just going to individual households, either, and Dr. Jill Biden’s stop at a New Jersey elementary school highlighted how much work the $130 billion in school funding has to accomplish. In one classroom, the Associated Press reports, just two students were attending in person, with the other 17 students in the class remote. Too often the debate over in-person education is depicted as one in which parents are clamoring for schools to open no matter what, but in many places where schools are open, kids are still home.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg also toured a UPS distribution center being used to distribute vaccines.
As the rate of vaccinations increases, though, and shortages stop being a problem, the Biden administration is increasingly seeking to confront vaccine hesitancy. The problem is that the most hesitant group is Republicans—a group Biden and his high-profile surrogates aren’t best positioned to make personal appeals to. Polls show a significant proportion of Republicans—one in three in a recent CBS poll—saying they definitely won’t be vaccinated, a decision that has ramifications for their own health and for the United States’ prospects for reaching herd immunity.
The White House is working with groups like the National Farmers Union and NTCA — the Rural Broadband Association—to promote vaccination in rural communities. And while Donald Trump was not included in the ads featuring former presidents urging people to be vaccinated because at the time those ads were made it wasn’t known he had been vaccinated, the head of the Covid Collaborative, a bipartisan group, reached out to a former Trump aide about involving him in the effort.
Which, good luck. Because Donald Trump, help? It’s hard to imagine how anyone with any ties to Biden could offer Trump enough ego inducement for that.
Asked whether he was seeking to involve Trump, Biden suggested there were other options for reaching vaccine-hesitant Republicans, saying, “I discussed it with my team, and they say the thing that has more impact than anything Trump would say to the MAGA folks is what the local doctor, what the local preachers, what the local people in the community say.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, meanwhile, is taking every opportunity to sneer at Biden’s accomplishments. After nearly a year of failure and death courtesy of Team Trump, during which McConnell decided to personally avoid the dangers the Trump COVID-19 management strategy posed to him—ceasing visits to the White House because of his discomfort with the lax protocols there—now that there’s an administration trying to do better, McConnell has found his voice. Biden’s vaccination target was “not some audacious goal,” McConnell says. Never mind that the target is being dramatically exceeded. McConnell has also preemptively declared that the American Rescue Plan isn’t going to be responsible for any coming economic recovery, though Goldman Sachs says the opposite, and tens of thousands of airline workers have already had layoffs revoked due to the law.
McConnell’s sneering, though, is unlikely to stop Republicans from trying to claim credit for specific projects funded by the American Rescue Plan, reflecting their broader lack of message to respond to a popular bill they refused to support.
The worst thing for Republican politicians are those words from Biden: “Help is here and hope is here in real and tangible ways.” Because they are a reality for people in the U.S.