Following the flurry of executive orders aimed at expediting COVID-19 testing and vaccinations, President Biden is slated to sign two additional executive orders to help reduce the economic burden brought on by the pandemic.
USAToday reports that Friday’s executive orders will give low-income families and individuals efficient access to food security and assistance programs, as well as initiating federal contractors to pay workers a mandatory minimum wage of $15 per hour and offer emergency paid leave benefits.
The first executive order will enlist multiple sectors of the federal government to help delegate aid, such as asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture to expand federal nutrition programs, and making it easier for families to claim the Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer program, or P-EBT, that will replace typical school meals while children are going to class remotely.
In addition to mandating a $15 minimum wage for federal contractors, Biden’s order will also restore collective bargaining among workers and request that the U.S. Department of Labor extend unemployment benefits to employees who forgo work out of health concerns due to COVID-19.
“These actions are concrete and will provide immediate support to hard-hit families,” Brian Deese, the director of the National Economic Council, stated. He noted that while the executive actions are signs of progress, more federal aid will be needed.
“The American people can’t afford to wait. So many are hanging on by a thread,” Deese told NBC.
The U.S. unemployment rate currently stands at 6.7 percent as of December 2020, which is about twice the pre-pandemic levels. Unemployment claims are also still high despite seeing a small decline, with 900,000 claims filed as of mid-January.
As Biden works to kickstart efforts to see the nation through the COVID-19 pandemic, a pillar of his plan will be the passage of his $1.9 trillion stimulus plan. The plan has been met with pessimism from Senate Republicans as lawmakers begin talks over the bill.