Only two days in, President Joe Biden is making sweeping changes in an attempt to undo four years of damage from the Trump administration. After exacting a slew of executive orders since he took office on Wednesday — including protections for the LGBTQ+ community, relief for student loan borrowers, and more — Biden is expected to sign two more today that aim to specifically help the working class.
One of the orders will expand food assistance and deliver stimulus checks to Americans in the lowest income brackets. The other will raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 for the federal workforce, a fight that organizers have been pushing for tirelessly for years. With the new executive orders, Biden is also directing the Department of Labor to establish that unemployed people can refuse to take jobs they worry will jeopardize their health and still qualify for unemployment benefits, which has previously not been the case.
The latest executive orders will also boost food aid to people in low-income communities, as well as prioritize getting the approved $1,400 stimulus checks to people who don't usually file taxes and aren't easily reached by the government. As one of the executive orders demands, the Department of Agriculture will consider increasing Pandemic-EBT benefits by 15%, giving any family with three children more than $100 in additional support every two months.
Additionally, the government will begin to provide funds to replace the lack of free or reduced-price meals that families in low-income communities have lost because of school closures. The order will direct the department to potentially allow states to increase food stamp benefits for approximately 12 million people who did not receive emergency benefits earlier in the pandemic. The agency will also revisit the plan to redetermine how much is provided in food stamp benefits to more accurately reflect how much it currently costs to afford a basic healthy diet in America.
Millions of people in America have continued to suffer during the coronavirus pandemic — financially, physically, and emotionally. In addition, the economy lost jobs in December for the first time since April 2020, making these changes imminent to tackling both COVID-19 and restructuring a suffering working class that is still recovering from Trump's presidency.
"The American people can't afford to wait. And so many are hanging by a thread. They need help, and we are committed to doing everything we can to provide that help as quickly as possible,” said Brian Deese, the National Economic Council director, on a press call Friday. He noted that at least 30 million people in America are currently experiencing some level of food insecurity, and worse. “More than 10 million Americans are out of work, 14 million Americans are behind on their rent and nearly 30 million adults and as many as 12 million children are experiencing food insecurity."
While the executive orders are being signed fairly early on in Biden's term, the effects won't take place immediately. For example, the minimum wage increase won't happen just yet. Instead, Biden has planned to direct the federal government "to start the work that would allow him to issue" an order "within the first 100 days" so that federal contractors will also work up to issuing $15 per hour, as per a White House press briefing.
Advocates and organizers have continued to demand that more comprehensive relief be provided after more than ten months of the pandemic with little to no government aid. And one thing is clear, already: Biden is trying to make good on his campaign promises to overturn many of President Donald Trump’s discriminatory policies.