President Joe Biden signed an executive order on Friday that directs government departments and agencies to provide more economic aid to Americans, including improving the distribution of stimulus checks, enhancing worker protections, and increasing food assistance, among others.
He also signed a second order addressing federal workers’ rights.
“Today, I'm signing an executive order that directs the whole government effort to help millions of Americans who are badly hurting,” Biden said at a press conference on Friday. “It requires all federal agencies to do what they can do to provide relief to families, small businesses, and communities. And in the days ahead I expect agencies to act.”
One action out of the order would help eligible Americans get their stimulus payments. The president is asking the Treasury Department to improve the delivery of stimulus checks, ensuring the 8 million people who haven’t received the first round of checks would get a payment.
Biden is calling on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Treasury Department to take several actions to improve the distribution, such as establishing online tools to claim payments and creating better outreach efforts to target those who didn’t get payments.
He is also requesting the Labor Department to clarify that workers who refuse employment due to unsafe working conditions would still be eligible for unemployment insurance. The White House statement noted that 43% of Americans lived in a household last year where at least one member has a pre-existing condition that could increase their risk of serious complications from COVID-19.
Biden is also asking the Department of Agriculture to expand access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and increase benefits by 15% for some recipients. Around 12 million of the lowest-income households who previously weren’t eligible for the extra benefits would get the increase.
The order will also direct the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to consider pausing federal collections on overpayments and debts for 2 million veterans.
The executive order comes after Biden unveiled a $1.9 trillion ‘rescue plan’ last week. The stimulus legislation includes $1,400 stimulus payments, an extension of key unemployment programs, $350 billion to state and local governments, an increase in tax credits for low- and middle-income families, and $160 billion for a national program on vaccination and testing.
A $1.9 trillion stimulus package may face hurdles in Congress, though. While Democrats now control both chambers of Congress, the party has a thin majority in the 50-50 Senate with Vice President Kamala Harris’s tie-breaking vote. The new stimulus plan also is unlikely to pass through reconciliation, meaning 60 Senate votes and bipartisan support may be needed for the plan to become law.
The nearly $2 trillion price tag is already facing opposition by Republican lawmakers citing debt concerns and the recently-passed $900 billion stimulus deal.
“President Biden wants to spend more than $350 billion to bail out wasteful liberal states for their decades of mismanagement,” Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) said from the Senate floor on Thursday. “How can we possibly justify spending more money right now?”
Biden’s second executive order on Friday laid the groundwork to enhance federal workers’ rights within his first 100 days in office. He seeks to require a $15 minimum wage for federal workers, provide emergency paid leave to their contractors, and restore “collective bargaining power and worker protections” by reversing three executive orders by former President Trump.