Biden Signs Pair of Executive Orders Aimed at Economic Relief

Date: 2021-01-22 21:55:04

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On Friday, President Joe Biden signed a pair of executive orders that were meant to offer a quick dose of economic relief to an economy still being hammered by the coronavirus.

Both measures were largely stopgaps as Congress considers a $1.9 trillion stimulus plan from Biden.

“The bottom line is this: we’re in a national emergency, we have to act like we’re in a national emergency,” Biden said before signing the executive orders.

The orders aim to increase food aid, make it easier to claim government benefits, protect unemployed workers and point federal workers and contractors toward a $15 minimum wage.

Most economists believe the United States can rebound with strength once people are vaccinated from the coronavirus, but the situation is still dire as the disease has closed businesses and schools. Nearly 10 million jobs have been lost since last February, and nearly 30 million households lack secure access to food.

One of Biden’s orders asks the Agriculture Department to consider adjusting the rules for food assistance, so that the government could be obligated to provide more money to the hungry.

Children who are unable to get school meals because of remote learning could receive a 15% increase in food aid, according to a fact sheet provided by the White House. The lowest-income households could qualify for the emergency benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. And the formula for calculating meal costs could become more generous.

The order also tries to make it easier for people to claim direct payments from prior aid packages and other benefits. In addition, it would create a guarantee that workers could still collect unemployment benefits if they refuse to take a job that could jeopardize their health.

Biden’s second executive order would restore union bargaining rights revoked by the Trump administration, protect the civil service system and promote a $15 hourly minimum wage for all federal workers. The Democratic president also plans to start a 100-day process for the federal government to require its contractors to pay at least $15 an hour and provide emergency paid leave to workers, which could put pressure on other private employers to boost their wages and benefits.

These orders arrive as the Biden White House has declined to provide a timeline for getting its proposed relief package through, saying that officials are beginning to schedule meetings with lawmakers to discuss the proposal.

As he left the White House State Dining Room Biden was asked what he thought of an impeachment trial for Donald Trump starting next week. “I haven’t heard the detail of it yet, but I do think that having some time to get our administration up and running,” he said.

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