WASHINGTON Still feeling some of the effects of a slower-than-normal holiday period, retailers got another boost Wednesday as Pres. George W. Bush signed into law a $168 billion economic stimulus bill.
“I know a lot of Americans are concerned about our economic future,” Bush said at a White House bill-signing ceremony. “Congress passed a really good piece of legislation.”
The measure, crafted largely by treasury secretary Henry Paulson and leaders of the House of Representatives, includes approximately $117 billion in rebate checks, tax breaks for businesses and measures aimed at easing the current mortgage market issues, according to published reports.
The president also voiced his appreciation for the members of both houses for their restraint regarding the temptation to add extra measures to the bill. “Members resisted the temptation to load up this bill with unrelated programs or unnecessary spending, and I appreciate that,” Bush said.
Last week, the National Retail Federation applauded Congress when the Senate approved their version of the House bill—with a few changes, including the addition of rebates for more than 20 million senior citizens and disabled veterans. “Expanding the rebate checks to include retirees and disabled veterans is a win-win strategy,” NRF senior vice president for government relations Steve Pfister said. “Retirees and veterans not only deserve a check, but are also among those most likely to spend the rebates so that this money gets put to work in the economy right away.”
Under the plan, individuals will receive $300 to $600, while couples will get $1,200. The full rebate, however, is limited to individuals earning $75,000 or less and families making up to $150,000. The rebates are expected to begin showing up in consumers’ mailboxes in May.
An unexpected boost in retail sales last month pushed stocks higher Wednesday and fueled hopes that the economy may avoid a recession, Dow Jones reported. The stimulus is expected to give a big push to consumption, greatly benefitting the retail sector. “Timeliness is essential, and we agree with economists who say the fastest way for stimulus to enter the economy is through the consumer,” Pfister said.