Biden to sign executive orders to boost jobs and counter hunger crisis for millions of Americans

Economic situation worst since 2008 recession says top official

Andrew Buncombe
Washington DC
Friday 22 January 2021 15:05 EST
White House press secretary addresses vaccine criticism

Joe Biden is set to sign two new executive orders designed to help the millions of American struggling from hardship and hunger as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Against the backdrop of more than 400,000 people having lost their lives to the virus and the economy facing its greatest challenge since the great recession, Mr Biden will sign two executive orders to try and help the most vulnerable.

One of the orders will expand food assistance and the delivery of stimulus cheques to the poorest Americans. A second will boost the minimum wage for federally-contracted workers to $15-an-hour. It currently stands at just $10.95 per hour.  It does not represent a blanket $15 minimum federal wage, something Mr Biden has said he supports.

“These actions are not a substitute for comprehensive legislative relief, but they will provide a critical lifeline to millions of families,” National Economic Council Director Brian Deese said at a White House press briefing on Friday.

He added: “The American people are hurting and they can't afford to wait.”

The two measures, which do not require congressional approval as they are orders from the executive branch, are intended to build on other elements of help and assistance that have already been outlined by Mr Biden.

Mr Deese said that he will be speaking with a group of senators on Sunday as the administration works with Congress to attempt to pass coronavirus relief package. Mr Biden has stressed he believes he is someone who can work with members of both parties to deliver help everyone can agree to.

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Mr Deese said Mr Biden had told the team “to make the case for the rescue plan and to engage with them, understand their concerns”.

“In terms of the in terms of the message, it's pretty clear. We're at a precarious moment for the virus and the economy,” Mr Deese said.

“Without decisive action, we risk falling into a very serious economic hole, even more serious than the crisis we find ourselves in.” 

The new administration has also unveiled plans to target the next round of small business stimulus to focus on “equitable relief”, after criticism of the way the first round of aid was distributed.

“In previous rounds of relief, too much of the support that has been dedicated to small businesses has left out the smallest businesses: Mom and Pop businesses that don't have existing connections with a financial institution,” said Mr Deese. “And in particular, Black, Latino, Asian and Native American owned businesses were shut out completely.”

While there is agreement that millions of Americans need additional help as a result of the pandemic, some key moderate Republicans have said it is too soon to move additional relief legislation following passage in December of a $900 billion stimulus package.

Right now, around 16 million are now receiving some type of unemployment benefit, and an estimated 29 million do not have enough to eat. Women, minorities and low-income service workers have been disproportionately impacted, with Black and Hispanic workers facing higher jobless rates than white workers. 

“There is a growing crisis in America of hunger,” said Mr Deese.

“Nearly 30 million Americans last week said that they didn’t have enough food.”

Additional reporting by Reuters

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