Written by Breanna Edwards
Edited by Annika Lilja
Last year, the government passed the American Rescue Plan, a bill that promised, among other things, to stimulate the economy and cut child poverty in half. Months later, this seems to have fallen largely out of the public eye, and America doesn’t seem to be the economic promised land we were sold. What happened to President Biden’s plan, what has it accomplished so far, and is it on track to meet its ambitious goals?
When the COVID pandemic hit in March of 2020, businesses and schools were shut down, sending the US into an economic crisis with grim predictions of a slow and painful recovery. When President Biden was elected at the end of 2020, he proposed an ambitious plan which encompassed many different things, including generous stimuluses, emergency rental assistance, and increased access to the COVID vaccine. After a tense few months in Congress, the plan was passed, much to the celebration of activists and individuals.
One of the focuses of the American Rescue Plan was job creation. President Biden promised at the beginning of 2021 that, “If we pass our American Rescue Plan, the economy would create 7.5 million jobs just in this year alone.” According to the US Department of the Treasury, 3 million jobs have been created. PolitiFact reports a number closer to 4.5 million. MSNBC estimates 6.5 million. These statistics may be conflicting due to differences in measurement. Some may attribute only new jobs, while others include jobs that were restored due to a tapering pandemic. Despite the vastly different numbers, it seems that one thing can be agreed: While President Biden has done an impressive job (in fact, according to Politifacts, he has created more jobs than any POTUS government in history), he has fallen short of his own optimistic projections.
Vaccines and Health
The American Rescue Plan allocated 7.5 billion dollars for vaccine distribution. President Biden’s goal was to have 70% of American adults partly vaccinated by July 4th, 2021. We reached this milestone a few months after the set goal (Lovelace, Rattner), and as of early January 2022, 75% of adults have been at least partly vaccinated, according to Our World in Data.
Child Tax Credit
Possibly the biggest selling point of The American Rescue Plan was its promise to cut child poverty in half. The government planned to do this through the Child Tax Credit, a plan which started in July and ended in December, and which gave most families monthly stimuluses: $300 for children under 6 and $250 for children 6-18. Qualifying parents who filled out a survey said that they spent most of this money on food, then on regular expenses such as rent. Many also reported spending the funds on their children’s education. So, has this plan worked? According to an article from the education news site Chalk Beater, “Before, about 30% of low-income parents said their household sometimes or often didn’t have enough food to eat. After July, that proportion sharply dropped to 21%... One study estimated that the tax credit reduced the poverty rate among children from about 16% to 12%.” It seems that this program cut childhood poverty significantly, although it fell 4% short of projections and goals. Congress failed to extend the Child Tax Credit into 2022, so it remains to be seen if this progress will be lost, or if it was the boost that low-income families needed to get back on their feet.
The American Rescue Plan introduced several measures to help small businesses cope with the fickle pandemic economy. Among the most impressive was the Employee Retention Tax. In the words of the US Department of the Treasury, “The Employee Retention Tax Credit provides up to $28,000 per employee for 2021 to help small businesses that faced declining revenue or shutdowns retain their staff, preventing damaging turnover.” There were several different categories of grants, and the Department of Treasury states that 90% of these funds went to small businesses. Although it is difficult to measure the impact, it seems that most small businesses are making a steady recovery from the pandemic, with Yelp reporting in October that about 85% of small businesses were open again after shutdowns (USA Today). Is this attributable to The American Rescue Plan? It’s hard to say, but safe to infer that the extra support certainly didn’t hurt.
The overarching goal was to boost the American economy and restore it to pre-pandemic highs. According to a CNN Business projection, “The economy in the United States is operating at 85% of where it was in early March (2020).” Overall, most sectors seem to be recovering steadily, however, it is impossible to know when (or if) we will reach 100% operation. You can track its progress here.
The theme for the American Rescue Plan’s progress in 2021 seems to be “impressive, but inadequate.” President Biden managed to lower childhood poverty, create and restore more jobs than any past American presidential government, boost the economy, and vaccinate the majority of the adult nation. Despite this, his progress fell short of his own goals and projections. It is important to keep in mind, however, that it’s not the end of the line. Hopefully the continuing programs and the benefits provided by those that have ended will carry into 2022 and the future of America, allowing us to create a more equal and opportune nation for all.
“American Rescue Plan Funding Breakdown.” National Association of Counties. 12 Apr. 2021. https://www.naco.org/resources/featured/american-rescue-plan-act-funding-breakdown.
“American Rescue Plan, Treasury’s Progress and Impact After Six Months.” U.S. Department of the Treasury. Sep. 2021. https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/136/American-Rescue-Plan-Six-Month-Report.pdf.
Barnum, Matt. “Parents are spending new child benefit on food, education. But will Congress keep it?” Chalkbeat. 15 Nov. 2021. https://www.chalkbeat.org/2021/11/15/22783579/child-tax-credit-schools-biden-reconciliation-plan-education-poverty-families-research.
Benen, Steve. “U.S. job growth in Biden’s first year tops 6.4 million.” MSNBC. 7 Jan. 2022. https://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/u-s-jobs-growth-biden-s-first-year-tops-6-n1287161.
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Hannah Ritchie, Edouard Mathieu, Lucas Rodés-Guirao, Cameron Appel, Charlie Giattino, Esteban Ortiz-Ospina, Joe Hasell, Bobbie Macdonald, Diana Beltekian and Max Roser (2020) - "Coronavirus Pandemic (COVID-19)". Published online at OurWorldInData.org. Retrieved from: 'https://ourworldindata.org/coronavirus' [Online Resource]
Lovelace, Berkeley Jr., Rattner, Nate. “U.S. reaches 70% Covid vaccine milestone for adults about a month behind Biden’s goal.” CNBC. 2 Aug. 2021. https://www.cnbc.com/2021/08/02/covid-vaccine-us-reaches-bidens-70percent-goal-for-adults-a-month-behind.html.
Shulte, Laura. “Biden has overseen a large increase in jobs, but he’s not really the one creating them.” PolitiFacts. 21 Sep. 2021. https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2021/sep/21/gwen-moore/biden-has-overseen-large-increase-jobs-hes-not-rea/.
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