The first executive order will attempt to maximize the federal government’s existing resources to support families, with an emphasis on providing food assistance to low-income families.
Biden will ask the Department of Agriculture to increase current pandemic-related electronic benefit transfers (EBTs) by 15% and streamline the process through which Americans claim benefits. Additionally, Biden will ask the USDA to increase its Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) allotments for low-income families.
The first order clarifies that Americans have the right to retain their food assistance benefits if they refuse a job opportunity that carries a risk to their health. It contains additional assistance measures aimed at military veterans and calls for the establishment of an interagency structure to coordinate benefit programs for Americans in need.
The second executive order will seek to provide improved protections and benefits for federal workers during the pandemic.
Biden will direct his administration to begin work on his pledge to deliver a $15 minimum wage and emergency paid leave to federal workers within his first 100 days in office. The work will include a review of which agencies currently pay less than $15 per hour and make recommendations about how best to implement the wage hike.
The order will strengthen collective bargaining power for federal workers, among other initiatives meant to ensure they receive proper benefits, the new administration claimed.
Biden officials said the orders are meant to serve as placeholders until Congress passes another coronavirus stimulus package.
“These actions are not a substitute for comprehensive legislative relief of the form that is in the American rescue plan, but they will provide a critical lifeline to millions of American families,” National Economic Council Director Brian Deese said during a news briefing. “And that’s why the President is going to act quickly on these steps.”
Earlier this month, Biden outlined a $1.9 trillion relief package for consideration in Congress, where the Democrats hold effective majorities in both chambers. The package includes $1,400 direct payments to Americans, enhanced unemployment benefits and federal aid to state and local governments, among other measures.
Republicans leaders have pushed for “targeted” relief focused on providing aid to small businesses and shielding workplaces from liability during the pandemic. Meanwhile, progressive Democrats have argued Biden’s proposal doesn’t go far enough to address the country’s economic needs and should include $2,000 payments.
The executive orders were the latest in a sweeping slate of actions Biden has taken since entering the Oval Office on Wednesday. The president signed 17 orders on his first day in office and another 10 on Thursday that focused on the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic.