WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden signed a pair of executive orders Friday aimed at offering a quick dose of relief to an economy still being hammered by the coronavirus. Both measures were largely stopgaps as Congress considers a $1.9 trillion stimulus plan from Biden. The orders aim to increase food aid, make it easier to claim government benefits, protect unemployed workers and point federal workers and contractors toward a $15 minimum wage.
A look at the orders:
NUTRITION AND GOVERNMENT AID
This order aims to increase by 15% the amount of money going to the families of children who are missing meals because of school closures from the pandemic. For children who can no longer eat in schools, they receive payments to cover food costs at home equal to $5.70 per child per school day. The order asks the Agriculture Department to consider issuing new guidance that would more accurately reflect the cost of the missing meals and make it easier to claim benefits.
Similarly, the Agriculture Department is asked to consider new guidance that would make all the lowest-income households eligible for emergency benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The Agricultural Department is also asked to update its formula for how much money a person needs to maintain a healthy diet.
The order also requests that the Treasury Department establish tools to make it easier for people to claim direct payments from past COVID-19 aid packages that could also be applied to any future stimulus packages. The administration is creating a network of benefit delivery teams to ensure people can get their aid and any other support more quickly.
The order also asks the Labor Department to clarify that workers can refuse jobs that could jeopardize their health during the pandemic and still maintain unemployment benefits.
This order includes an effort to promote a $15 minimum wage for federal workers and to preserve civil service protections against political interference.
The order revokes a trio of executive orders signed by President Donald Trump that limited the bargaining rights of unionized government workers. Trump’s orders made the employee discipline process stricter, restricted union representatives’ access to office space and cut the time for collective bargaining. Biden’s order also eliminates “Schedule F,” a Trump action that stripped some federal policymaking jobs of their civil service protections such that agency heads could fire and replace people in those positions.
The order directs agencies to identify which federal workers earn less than $15 per hour and craft policies to promote that wage level as a baseline. Biden also started the work to issue an executive order that requires federal contractors to pay a $15 minimum wage and provides emergency paid leave to workers.