US President Joe Biden is set to sign two executive orders on Friday to provide interim relief to struggling Americans, as Congress reflects on its proposed $ 1.9 trillion humanitarian aid package against the coronavirus.
United States President Joe Biden plans to take executive action Friday to provide interim financial aid measure to millions of Americans, as Congress begins to consider its much larger package of 1.9 trillion dollars to help those affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
The two executive orders Biden must sign would increase food aid, protect job seekers from unemployment, and pave the way for federal workers and contractors to secure a minimum hourly wage of $ 15.
“The American people cannot afford to wait,” said Brian Deese, director of the White House National Economic Council. “Many are hanging from a thread. They need help and we are committed to doing everything possible to provide that help as quickly as possible. “
Deese stressed that the orders are not substitutes for the additional stimulus that Biden says is needed beyond the $ 4 trillion in aid that has already been approved, including $ 900 billion last December. Several Republican lawmakers have expressed opposition to the provisions of Biden’s plan for direct payments to individuals, state and local government assistance, and a nationwide hourly minimum wage of $ 15.
Most economists believe the United States can bounce back with a bang once people are vaccinated against the coronavirus, but the situation is still dire as the disease has closed businesses and schools. Almost 10 million jobs have been lost since last February and nearly 30 million households do not have safe access to food.
One of Biden’s orders is asking the US Department of Agriculture to consider adjusting the rules for food aid, so the government may be forced to provide more money to the hungry.
Children who cannot get school meals due to distance learning could receive a 15% increase in food aid, according to a backgrounder provided by the White House. Lower-income households could benefit from emergency benefits from the Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program. And the formula for calculating the cost of meals could become more generous.
The ordinance also tries to make it easier for people to claim direct payments from past assistance programs and other benefits. In addition, it would create a guarantee that workers could still receive unemployment benefits if they refuse to accept a job that could endanger their health.
Biden’s second executive order would restore union bargaining rights revoked by former President Donald Trump’s administration, protect the public service system and promote a minimum hourly wage of $ 15 for all federal workers. The Democratic president also plans to launch a 100-day process for the federal government to force its contractors to pay at least $ 15 an hour and grant workers emergency paid time off, which could put pressure on other private employers to increase their wages and benefits.
The orders come as White House Biden declined to provide a timeline for pushing through his proposed back-up plan, saying officials were starting to schedule meetings with lawmakers to discuss the proposal.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told a briefing on Thursday that the proposal enjoyed support ranging from that of Democratic Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders to that of the US Chamber of Commerce.
But not all of the package’s components are popular with Republicans, which could delay the move in ways that could hurt the economy. Psaki stressed that Biden wanted any deal to be bipartisan and that the process of meeting with lawmakers to discuss the plan was just beginning.
Biden must strike a balance between the need for immediate help and the risk of protracted negotiations. Psaki said Biden would not take the options off the table, but later added, “Part of the discussion we’ll have with the members is, what do you want to cut?”
House policy chief Neil Bradley told reporters on Thursday that Congress should act quickly to approve the roughly $ 400 billion for nationwide immunization and the reopening of schools and other elements of the plan with bipartisan support, rather than delay negotiations.
“We are not going to let areas of disagreement prevent progress in areas where we can find common ground,” Bradley said. “We can’t afford six months for the vaccination process to work properly… We can’t even wait six weeks for vaccines to be distributed and schools to reopen.