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Biden visits Pennsylvania to tout $1.9 trillion Covid relief package

President joined the swing-state tour with Vice President Kamala Harris and their spouses, who are crisscrossing the country this week to promote the plan.
Image: President Joe Biden during a \"Help is Here Tour\" event at Smith Flooring in Chester, Pa.
President Joe Biden during a "Help is Here Tour" event at Smith Flooring in Chester, Pa., on March 16, 2021.Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden joined his administration’s tour of swing states Tuesday to promote the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package, using a stop in the Philadelphia suburbs to highlight the fresh round of aid for small businesses.

In a visit to Smith Flooring, Inc. in Chester, Pennsylvania, a Black-owned union shop that supplies and installs flooring, Biden promised that with the passage of the American Rescue Plan, "more help is on the way."

Biden's visit Tuesday is part of the administration’s nationwide effort to sell his relief bill, with the president, Vice President Kamala Harris and their spouses, traveling to critical battleground states this week to highlight key components of the package.

The White House is calling the visits the "Help is Here" tour and has said that the purpose is to educate Americans about what benefits the package provides and how they can access the relief.

White House officials have said they want to show Americans how the bill directly helps them, in hopes to avoid the mistakes of 2009 when Democrats failed to showcase the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and paid a political price.

So far, most of the Biden administration's visits have been targeted at states that will be critical to determining control of the Senate in the 2022 midterm elections.

First lady Jill Biden visited New Jersey on Monday and is expected to visit New Hampshire on Wednesday. Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff made stops in Nevada on Monday and Colorado on Tuesday. Biden and Harris will end their week in Georgia, their first joint trip since taking office.

Colorado, Georgia, New Hampshire, Nevada and Pennsylvania all have Senate races in 2022.

Psaki told reporters traveling Tuesday on Air Force One not to read too much into the political calculations.

"We'll be certainly going to some redder states, states he didn’t win, or very blue states, and states he didn't campaign in," she said.

The "Help is Here" stops have been centered on different themes, with Biden's focus Tuesday on what the American Rescue Plan does for small businesses.

The Biden administration estimates that 400,000 small business have permanently closed because of the pandemic's economic impact, and millions more have lost significant amounts of revenue. The administration said roughly one in five small business owners, including 21 percent of business owners in Pennsylvania, report they will need financial assistance in the next six months.

The White House said that despite losing around 20 percent of their revenue in 2020, Smith Flooring, Inc., was able to survive due in part to PPP loans.

James and Kristen Smith, the owners of Smith Flooring, Inc., thanked Biden for visiting Tuesday.

"Thank you for helping small minority business. It means a lot that you're here," said Kristen Smith.

Biden's Covid-19 package expanded the popular Paycheck Protection Program and included funding to help restaurants, underserved and minority-owned businesses as well as businesses that have had to remain closed during the pandemic, such as indoor concert venues.

The relief package did not extend the deadline to apply for PPP loans, which is currently expected to stop taking applications on March 31. The program is already juggling a backlog of applications, and some lawmakers have pushed to extend the deadline by two months.

Psaki said Tuesday that she was aware that there was an interest in extending the program but that she did not have "anything to preview" on the issue.

Biden is expected to spend the night at his Delaware home before returning to Washington.