U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (C) speaks during the news conference right after the House passed the 789-billion-dollar stimulus package on the Capitol Hill in Washington on Feb, 13, 2009. (Xinhua/Zhang Yan)
U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday signed a 787-billion-dollar economic stimulus bill into law in Denver, Colorado, calling it the first step to pave the way to long-term growth.
The sweeping economic rescue package, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, is designed to jolt the ailing U.S. economy by providing government spending and tax cuts for both individuals and businesses.
"I don't want to pretend that today marks the end of our economic problems nor does it constitute all of what we have to do to turn the economy around," Obama said before signing the bill.
"But today does mark the beginning of the end -- the beginning of what we need to do to create jobs for Americans scrambling in the wake of layoffs.
"The beginning of what we need to do to provide relief for families worried they won't be able to pay next month's bills.
"The beginning of the first steps to set our economy on a firmer foundation, paving the way to long-term growth and prosperity," the president said.
Obama signed the bill at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. He will then take a tour of the museum's installation of solar panels, according to a White House press release.
The president is underscoring investments the spending plan will make in the "green" energy-related jobs by signing the bill in Colorado, a state its governor Bill Ritter described on Tuesday as "the home of new energy economy," news reports say.
At the same time, the White House is launching a website at www.recovery.gov, which is supposed to help people find out how federal dollars are being spent, the pace of scheduled construction projects and whether any federal dollars are being wasted.
Since early last week, Obama has turned to appearances throughout the country to sell his economic plans, hoping to sustain support and foster hope among Americans who are giving him high marks in opinion polls.
The public backing for the president's economic plan is in contrast to the partisan atmosphere in Congress, where the stimulus bill was passed last week on votes split mostly along party lines.
Republicans were nearly unanimous in opposing the stimulus bill, arguing that the bill is too wasteful.
Aimed at saving or creating 3.5 million jobs over the next two years and ending the worst U.S. economic crisis since the 1930s, the bill will pump money into highway, bridge and other infrastructure projects, health care, renewable energy development and conservation.
It also includes a 400-dollar tax break for most individual workers and 800 dollars for couples, including those who do not earn enough to pay income taxes.
Meanwhile, it will provide aid to states so they can head off deep cuts and layoffs and will provide financial incentives for people to start buying again.
In addition, it will increase unemployment benefits and food stamps, and subsidies for health insurance to help poor people and laid-off workers.
Despite the massive spending plans, economists are warning that it takes time for the economy to recover. Obama also emphasizes that the bill will not produce a rapid return to economic health.
So, part of Obama's message as he has traveled across the country is designed to lower expectations, according to local media reports.
As another part of the government's economic recovery effort, Obama is scheduled to outline his plan to help struggling homeowners in a speech on Wednesday in Arizona, one of the states hardest hit by home foreclosures that are at the center of the nation's economic woes.
Also, the government is not ruling out a second economic stimulus plan, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Denver. But there are no plans currently in the works for one, he stressed.
(Xinhua News Agency February 17, 2009)