President Joe Biden issues executive orders to help families in need and to raise wages for workers.
After a briefing by his economic team, Biden spoke of the difficulties compounded by the Coronavirus pandemic.
We cannot, will not let people go hungry. We cannot let people be evicted because of nothing they did themselves.
I cannot watch people lose their jobs and we have to act. We have to act now. It’s not just to meet them moral obligation to treat our fellow Americans with the dignity respect they deserve.
“We have the tools to help people,” Biden said. “So let’s use the tools. All of them. Now.”
Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were told that another 900,000 workers filed for unemployment benefits this week. The US unemployment rate has more than doubled in the past year, from 3.2% in February 2020 to 6.7% in December.
The US death toll reached 414,004 on Friday, with 3,888 fatalities in 24 hours. Confirmed cases are 24,818,779, a rise of 189,104.
“A Critical Lifeline”
Addressing a “growing hunger crisis” affecting 29 million adults and up to 12 million children, Biden’s orders will increase the amount of money that struggling families receive for food, and provide for additional
meal money for students in needs whose schools have been closed.
The President directed the Treasury to deliver stimulus checks to at least 8 million Americans who are eligible but have not yet received benefits.
A second executive order prepares for a $15 hourly minimum wage for the Federal Government’s employees and contract workers.
On Wednesday, hours after his inauguration, Biden issued orders extending federal moratoriums on some foreclosures and evictions through the end of March, and pausing student loan payments through the end of September.
Last week, the President proposed a $1.9 trillion “American Rescue Plan” to deal with the pandemic and its economic consequences. But that package is likely to face resistance from Republicans in Congress.
Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida converted the proposals into “a radical leftist agenda in a divided country will not help unify our country”.
Biden addressed legislators, “This is an economic imperative, a growing economic consensus that we must act decisively and boldly to grow the economy for all Americans, not just for tomorrow, but in the future.”
Brian Deese, the director of the National Economic Council, added, “These actions are not a substitute for comprehensive legislative relief, but they will provide a critical lifeline to millions of families. The American people are hurting, and they can’t afford to wait.”
He said Biden’s order, covering about 12 million families, would increase weekly benefits by 15 to 20% for a family of four.
Congress approved enhanced support in a $2.2 trillion Coronavirus package last March, but the Trump administration refused to expand payments for households receiving the maximum benefit under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Lauren Bauer of the Brookings Institution summarized, “This is a repudiation of the prior administration’s slowing down of SNAP benefits to needy families….I’m hopeful these actions will make an impact on child food insecurity.”