President Biden signed the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, the American Rescue Plan, on Thursday, which will provide $1400 direct payments to most Americans, an extension of the $300 per week unemployment benefit, and allocate “nearly $20 billion into Covid-19 vaccinations, $25 billion into rental and utility assistance, and $350 billion into state, local, and tribal relief.” Also last week, President Biden announced that the United States will purchase another 100 million COVID-19 vaccine doses from Johnson & Johnson, and directed all states to make all Americans over 18 eligible to receive the vaccine by May 1, targeting a July 4 timeline of when the country can get “closer to normal.”
In honor of International Women’s Day on March 8th, President Biden issued an executive order to establish “a Gender Policy Council in the White House that will seek to advance gender equality and equity in both domestic and foreign policy across government.” The council will be led by two co-chairs, Jennifer Klein and Julissa Reynoso who will work to ensure that policies traditionally viewed as “women’s issues” will not be addressed separately from the Administration’s broader priorities.
In Massachusetts last week, the Baker Administration unveiled a new pre-registration system for eligible residents to sign up for COVID-19 vaccinations at the state’s mass vaccination sites. Through this new website, eligible residents answer a series of questions to sort eligibility for the vaccine and then receive a confirmation via text, email, or phone call, as well as weekly updates on their status. As of Monday, more than 400,000 residents had pre-registered. Additionally, the Massachusetts House of Representatives voted 155-0 to pass House Bill 89 on Thursday, which creates a tax credit for low-income households, authorizes emergency COVID-19 paid sick leave, exempts Paycheck Protection Program loans received in 2020 from taxes, and implements Governor Baker’s preferred rate schedule for increased business payments into the unemployment insurance trust fund, imposing smaller increases in unemployment taxes businesses pay in 2021 and 2022.
On Tuesday in Massachusetts, the Joint Committee on Ways and Means will hold its third public hearing on Governor Baker’s fiscal year 2022 budget recommendations. Education and local aid will be the primary focuses of this hearing. Then on Thursday, the Hynes Convention Center will open as a state mass vaccination site. The vaccination site at Fenway Park will operate and take appointments through March 27 as the Hynes site works to ramp up to 1,500 shots per day.