President Joe Biden signed two new executive orders Friday, the latest in a series of actions intended to boost the fight against Covid-19, blunt the economic effects of the pandemic and reverse select policies of the Trump administration.
Saying the government needs to act “decisively and boldly” to address the urgent economic problems facing millions of Americans, Biden at the signing ceremony also made the case for his $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which aims to support the economy until the coronavirus crisis ends.
“We’re in a national emergency. We need to act like we’re in a national emergency. So we’ve got to move with everything we got,” Biden said. “If we act now, our economy will be stronger in both the short and long run. That’s what economists both left, right and center are telling us.”=
National Economic Council director Brian Deese emphasized the point at the White House Friday, saying that while the executive orders are no substitute for comprehensive legislative, they are part of an effort to provide a “critical lifeline to millions of families” suffering from the effects of the pandemic.
The pair of executive orders signed Friday touch on multiple issues, including:
Hunger: Saying that one in seven households in America report they do not have enough food – including as many as 12 million children – Biden is directing the Department of Agriculture to increase the value of benefits in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, more commonly referred to as food stamps, by 15% to 20% for approximately 12 million families.
Biden also ordered the department to consider raising benefits by 15% for families that receive aid in place of free or reduced-price school lunches, and to stake steps to make it easier for people to sign up for benefits.
$15 minimum wage: Biden is establishing a $15 minimum wage for federal employees and contractors, who will now be eligible for emergency paid leave as well. The pay hike is to be instituted within the next 100 days.
Stimulus checks: Biden is requesting that the Treasury Department make additional efforts to deliver stimulus checks to those who are eligible but have not yet received them, including an estimated 8 million people who have yet to receive the $1,200 checks that were issued in the spring and summer of 2020. The department may also take steps to improve the process for people to receive relief checks in the future.
Worker rights: The Department of Labor is directed to confirm the rights of workers to refuse employment if it involves unsafe conditions, including potential exposure to Covid-19, while remaining eligible to receive unemployment benefits.