President Joe Biden has addressed food and income insecurity as Americans continue to suffer during the pandemic.
In just a few short days in office, President Joe Biden signed a wave of executive orders that help American workers and their families in a number of ways.
Immediately after his inauguration on Jan. 20, Biden worked on adopting other legislation that will help workers during the pandemic as well.
1. He extended a freeze on repayments of student loans.
On Jan. 20, Biden signed an executive order instructing the Department of Education to extend a freeze on federal student loan payments for at least another eight months.
The CARES Act, the $2 trillion stimulus bill passed by Congress in March 2020, froze repayments for a period of six months for tens of millions of borrowers; Biden's order will extend the freeze until at least October 2021.
2. He expanded SNAP food benefits.
On Jan. 22, Biden signed an executive order directing the Department of Agriculture to expand Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, known as food stamps, by 15%. It also calls upon the agency to reevaluate the "out of date" thrifty meal plan used to calculate a family's benefits.
3. He expanded free school meals benefits.
The Jan. 22 executive order also expands the Pandemic-EBT program, under which voucher are issued to buy groceries for students who are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals when in-person schooling is in session.
Census data show 30 million U.S. households struggled with food insecurity in December 2020.
4. He expanded protections for vulnerable workers.
Biden signed another executive order on Jan. 22 by which, according to the White House, "the President is asking the Department of Labor to consider clarifying that workers have a federally guaranteed right to refuse employment that will jeopardize their health and if they do so, they will still qualify for unemployment insurance."
Any worker who refuses to put their health at risk in a job will no longer be deemed to be "voluntarily quitting," as they currently are in some states, and will remain eligible for unemployment assistance as well as health insurance.
5. He instructed OSHA to issue worker health and safety guidelines for COVID-19.
In an executive order he signed on Jan. 21, Biden instructed the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to compile new guidelines on pandemic workplace safety, and to issue emergency guidelines on such measures as face masks if it deems them necessary.
6. He instructed the Treasury Department to make sure everyone who qualifies for a stimulus check gets one.
Biden signed an executive order on Jan. 22 directing the Treasury Department to reexamine how it distributes stimulus checks and to make sure earlier checks are sent to the 8 million Americans who were eligible for them but did not receive them.
While those who file federal income taxes receive automatic payments, many low-income people who do not file tax returns did not realize they needed to use an online tool to apply to receive a check.
7. The IRS will simplify the process for applying for stimulus payments.
Following Biden's order, the Internal Revenue Service issued a statement saying it would simplify the process of applying for stimulus checks for those who do not file tax returns and for non-English speakers and those who lack internet access.
The agency will also reach out to those whose stimulus checks or electronic debit cards remained unused to see if they need them reissued.
8. He's paving the way to raise the minimum wage for federal employees and contractors.
On Friday, Biden signed an executive order that, according to the White House, "directs the Office of Personnel Management to develop recommendations to pay more federal employees at least $15 per hour." It requires agencies to come up with a practicable plan for bringing their employees and contractors up to that pay rate and to identify workers still making less.
9. He rescinded Trump executive orders that made it easier to fire federal employees.
Biden also rescinded three executive orders issued by Trump in 2018 that made it easier to fire federal employees by eliminating collective bargaining rights, expediting disciplinary and termination processes, and limiting opportunities to appeal firing decisions. They also undercut the ability of unions to intervene on employees' behalf.
10. He ordered the Department of Veteran Affairs to pause the collection of debts from veterans.
Biden instructed the Department of Veteran Affairs to extend a halt to the collection of debts from veterans that was enacted in 2020 but had not been extended and expired at the end of the year.
11. He plans to expand the child tax credit.
Democratic lawmakers under Biden are working on legislation to expand the credits those with dependent children are allowed to claim on their tax returns and create monthly payments ranging from $250 to $300 per child to American families under a specific income level during the pandemic.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.