President Joe Biden launched his next big campaign Tuesday — to sell voters on the benefits of his sweeping economic relief plan, saying at a Black-owned flooring company just outside Philadelphia that “more help is on the way.”
Biden visited Smith Flooring in Chester Township, where he appeared with the company’s owners and Democratic elected officials from the region. He touted the $1.9 trillion legislation enacted last week as a way forward for a country reeling from a year of health and economic suffering.
“People hardest hit are in minority communities,” Biden said. “The rate at which they get COVID is higher, death rate is higher.” He said his administration is working to get coronavirus vaccines distributed through a range of locations, including pharmacies, community centers, and schools, to better reach Black and brown communities.
He told Smith Flooring owners Kristin and James Smith that small businesses would see more relief than was available through the first relief package last spring.
During brief remarks, Biden reiterated his pledge to get 100 million stimulus checks to Americans and hit 100 million vaccine shots administered during his presidency in the next 10 days. He did not explicitly address widespread frustration among suburban leaders over the region’s sluggish vaccine rollout.
Biden spoke surrounded by flooring samples, boxes, and equipment as reporters watched. Outside, residents gathered at intersections and on porches to see his motorcade go by. One girl held a sign that said, “Don’t Give Up.”
“This is a great outfit. This is a union shop,” Biden said inside Smith Flooring, which twice received Paycheck Protection Program loans to stay afloat. “These are people who work like the devil, and they can make a living wage, a decent wage. But 300,000 Pennsylvanians lost jobs — 300,000.”
The Smiths, who grew the company from their basement to a warehouse that employs about a dozen people, thanked Biden for coming to an area rarely visited by presidents.
“Thank you for helping small business and small minority businesses,” Kristin Smith said. ”Not many people come out and stop here in Chester and so we’re just grateful. We’re grateful for the things that you’re doing.”
Biden’s road show aims to lay out how the expansive package will help families, schools, health departments, and local businesses, and to highlight the achievements of the president’s first 50 days.
Tuesday was Biden’s first time hitting the road since signing the legislation, kicking off what’s expected to be a blitz of travel. First lady Jill Biden was in Burlington County, in South Jersey, on Monday, while Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff were in Nevada. President Biden and Harris will travel to Georgia later this week.
The visits have so far mostly focused on states with competitive Senate races in the 2022 midterm elections, which will help decide which party controls the upper chamber for the rest of Biden’s term — and the fate of his ongoing legislative ambitions.
The measure includes $1,400 stimulus checks for most Americans and their children; a massive expansion of tax credits for parents and low-income workers without children; an extension of $300-per-week federal unemployment aid through September; $130 billion for schools; $350 billion for state and local governments; $25 billion for restaurants; money to help more people buy health insurance and food and pay rent; and an array of liberal priorities such as expanding internet access in urban and rural areas, rescuing pension plans, and paying debts of minority farmers.
Republicans have attacked the plan, which passed with zero GOP votes, as a liberal giveaway that spends far more than is needed and enacts long-held Democratic ambitions under the guise of pandemic aid.
The White House said earlier Tuesday ahead of Biden’s appearance that the legislation would provide $7.4 billion for Pennsylvania state government, $4.9 billion for local governments in the state, and more than $5.1 billion for K-12 schools.
Biden’s first trip back to Pennsylvania as president brought him to Delaware County, one of Philadelphia’s four populous and increasingly Democratic collar counties. In Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties, Biden grew his total margin of victory by nearly 105,000 votes compared with Hillary Clinton’s in 2016.
Chester Township, where Smith Flooring is located, borders Chester city, the largest city in Delaware County, where the average annual family income is about $30,00 and about 32% of people were living below the poverty line in 2019, according to Census data.
“Chester has had its struggles and it’s nice to see people getting recognized for having a great business right here in Chester and to see the [American] Rescue Plan and the CARES Act really providing the support so people can stay in business,” said U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, a Democrat who represents the area.
She called the latest relief package a reversal “of what we’ve seen for the last 50 years,” referring to trickle-down economics and rising inequality. “This invests money in the American people,” Scanlon said.
U.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, who represents the neighboring Chester County district, said she’s hearing “hope” from constituents, some of whom have already received the direct payments under the law.
“Of course we have a long way to go, but ... people are feeling hopeful,” she said. “They know someone who’s gotten a vaccine. They know someone who’s gotten a stimulus check. They know somebody who is still employed and has a PPP loan‚ so it’s good.”
As Biden’s motorcade rode off, Elijah Foster stood on his porch and caught a glimpse of the president. Foster, who owns a fishing apparel business, has lived in Chester for 46 years. He voted for Biden but said it’s too early to pass judgment on how he’s doing.
“I give everyone a chance to get some stuff done,” he said. The relief bill could make a difference here, Foster said.
“I’m sure it would help a lot of people in the community,” he said. “Everybody needs a little bit of help, especially right now.”