Relief checks are coming

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Ashley Shaffer and Laura L. Davis, USA TODAY
·5 min read
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Those $1,400 checks are coming (we mean it this time). President Joe Biden will make his first address to the nation as president. And it's been one chaotic year since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared.

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That's a relief

President Joe Biden signed into law a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill Thursday, hours before he planned to address the nation (more on his speech later). The measure includes direct payments of up to $1,400 for individuals, billions to help schools and colleges reopen and funding for vaccine distribution – along with many other measures aimed at helping America recover from the pandemic.

Relief checks are coming: White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the first round of $1,400 checks will hit bank accounts this weekend, and payments to eligible Americans will continue over the next several weeks. Millions of Americans reeling from the economic damage of the pandemic are to get one-time direct payments, but not everyone will get the checks.

Of note: No Republican voted for the legislation. Members of the GOP complain the bill is too expensive and packed with provisions not directly related to combating the pandemic. Democrats say it is one of the largest anti-poverty bills in a generation, aiming to deliver on Biden's promise to send aid to millions of Americans grappling with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

President Joe Biden promised a coronavirus relief package, which cleared Congress and was signed into law.
President Joe Biden promised a coronavirus relief package, which cleared Congress and was signed into law.

Judge reinstates 3rd-degree murder charge against Derek Chauvin

As jury selection continues, a judge in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin reinstated a third-degree murder charge Thursday in the death of George Floyd. Chauvin is also charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter. Prosecutors contend Floyd, 46, was killed by Chauvin's knee, compressed against Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes while he was handcuffed and pinned to the pavement in May. Legal observers say the new charge gives the jury more options as it considers Chauvin's culpability in Floyd's death.

Demonstrators march past the Hennepin County Government Center on March 7, a day before jury selection was set to begin in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is accused of killing George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Demonstrators march past the Hennepin County Government Center on March 7, a day before jury selection was set to begin in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is accused of killing George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Quiet! The president will speak now

It's Biden's big moment. The president will make his first address to the nation Thursday evening. Set those alarms: The address is scheduled to air live at 8 p.m. EST from the White House. Expect him to speak on the more than 500,000 American lives lost to COVID-19, the plan going forward on vaccination efforts and what needs to be done to get the pandemic under control. Here's how to watch the prime-time address.

What everyone’s talking about

Remember Googling 'what is a pandemic?' That was one year ago

Today marks one year since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Since then, life in the USA has drastically changed: from remote work and school schedules to new ways to attend events and church services. Some of the changes could go on long after the virus is gone. Since the first case in January 2020, the USA has suffered a devastating loss – more than 530,000 deaths, along with 29 million cases. And virus variants are creeping across the nation, a USA TODAY analysis of CDC data shows. There are signs of hope.

A resident of the Villa Sacra Famiglia nursing home in Rome kisses the hand of her grandson through a plastic screen in a "Hug Room" on March 3 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
A resident of the Villa Sacra Famiglia nursing home in Rome kisses the hand of her grandson through a plastic screen in a "Hug Room" on March 3 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Real quick

Prince William: The royals are 'very much not a racist family'

Prince William clapped back after his brother Harry and sister-in-law Meghan’s bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey this week. William wants everyone to know: “We're very much not a racist family." He said he has “not yet” spoken to Harry after Meghan said an unnamed royal family member expressed "concern" about "how dark" their son's skin would be (it allegedly was not his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, or Prince Philip). William's comments follow a formal statement released Tuesday by Buckingham Palace on behalf of the queen, saying the couple's accusations of racism and lack of support are taken "very seriously" and will be addressed by the royal family "privately."

Prince William, left, says he hasn't spoken yet with his brother Harry since an interview stirred up royal tensions.
Prince William, left, says he hasn't spoken yet with his brother Harry since an interview stirred up royal tensions.

A break from the news

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID-19 stimulus bill, Derek Chauvin murder trial, COVID-19: It's Thursday's news