House Democrats on Wednesday were setting the stage for a floor vote on Friday, as their Senate counterparts waited for a key ruling that would determine whether a $15 minimum wage could be included in the stimulus package.
In a press call, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Democrats aimed to “pass a final bill and send it to the president by the 12th of March.”
That deadline would be two days before enhanced unemployment insurance programs start ending for many jobless Americans, including a $300 weekly federal supplement. Democrats have continued trying to gather support for the plan.
“Right now, it’s more important than ever that we do everything that we can to crush the virus, rebuilding our economy for working people and families that need the support to get back on their feet,” Rep. Pete Aguilar told reporters.
Republicans are strongly opposed to the Democratic plan, arguing it contains a litany of progressive priorities.
“They’re gonna try to muscle it through on a totally partisan basis,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday. “It also includes a number of things that have absolutely nothing to do with COVID.”
The floor vote would send the legislation to the Senate, which is expected to take it up next week. The House bill includes $1,400 stimulus checks, $400 federal unemployment benefits, and aid to state and local governments.
It also includes a gradual increase of the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour – a measure that has been a lightning rod of criticism among Republicans and several Democrats.
Democrats are employing a tactic known as reconciliation to shield the package from a filibuster. It only needs a simple majority of 51 votes to get through the Senate, instead of the usual 60.
But reconciliation has strict budgetary rules, including a set of requirements that every element has a substantial impact on federal spending, the debt, and revenue over 10 years. The Senate parliamentarian governing the process will decide whether the minimum wage boost complies with those guidelines.
Democrats and Republicans made their cases to the parliamentarian early on Tuesday morning. A ruling on the wage bump could come later on Wednesday or early Thursday.
Still, some Democrats like Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia are opposed, complicating the bill’s path to final approval. He has said he would push for an increase to $11 an hour instead. A ruling that the wage increase complies with the rules of reconciliation may set off another furious round of negotiations on a middle ground.
“I’m an optimist,” Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois told reporters. “I think even though several Democrats have some concerns that we can still find a basis for agreement.”
The Biden administration has pressed for a $15 minimum wage in the package. But White House officials have said that Senate Democrats will be in charge of striking a possible deal on a smaller wage increase.
“The compromise will be between members of the Senate who may have disagreement on where the minimum wage should sit or what the process should be,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Wednesday.
Democrats on Wednesday also struggled to confirm Neera Tanden, Biden’s pick to head the Office of Management and Budget. Two committee votes on her nomination were cancelled earlier in the day, sowing further doubt about whether she can get enough votes in the Senate to be confirmed.
Senate Democrats want to enact a new $1.9 trillion rescue package within weeks, but one major hurdle stands between them and the bill’s final passage: whether it will include a $15 minimum wage increase.
Once the House approves the legislation and sends it to the Senate, the wage provision is likely to spark some clashes among Democratic senators. The minimum-wage increase in the Biden rescue plan would be phased in over five years and eliminate tipped wages.
Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have both said they oppose the measure. The resistance of these two lawmakers imperils the measure even if it clears all the hurdles required of a reconciliation package (the strict budgetary procedure that Democrats are employing to bypass Republicans). A looming ruling from the Senate parliamentarian will likely pose obstacles.
“There might be a few other Democrats with pretty significant concerns about the minimum wage increase,” Jim Manley, a former senior Democratic aide, said in an interview. “No matter how the parliamentarian rules, I’m not sure the votes are there in the Senate to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour.”
The Senate parliamentarian serves as a neutral arbiter of reconciliation, a process that will allow Democrats to approve a bill with a simple majority of 51 votes in the upper chamber instead of the usual 60. Reconciliation requires every provision of a bill to be related to the federal budget, or else the parliamentarian can toss it out.
If the minimum wage doesn’t survive this process, that could complicate Democrats’ swift timeline for approval, targeted for mid-March. But even if it does survive, in an evenly divided chamber where Vice President Kamala Harris can break ties, every Democrat must support the final package.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, chair of the Senate Budget Committee with jurisdiction over reconciliation, told reporters on Tuesday a ruling may come in the next day or two. Progressives like Sanders are championing the measure as a boon to low-paid workers.
$11 an hour versus $15 an hour
The federal minimum wage hasn’t been raised from $7.25 since 2009, and labor advocates say a bill should lift wages for essential workers and others putting themselves at risk in the pandemic.
“To say that we can support jobless workers, teachers, caregivers, and medical professionals without supporting workers earning $7.25 an hour isn’t just bad policy, it’s inhumane,” Elizabeth Pancotti, policy director of Employ America, said on Twitter. “Economic relief must include raising the minimum wage.”
But Republicans argue that raising wages during a pandemic would cause employers to shed jobs. Some Democrats share those concerns as well.
“I think small business has got to be kept in mind, and I think there are a number of different variations that are being proposed that help insulate the impact in terms of small business,” Sen. John Hickenlooper of Colorado told the Wall Street Journal.
A report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office indicated the $15 minimum wage plan would cause 1.4 million job losses, but lift 900,000 people out of poverty.
There is some GOP support to raise wages. On Tuesday, Sens. Mitt Romney and Tom Cotton introduced legislation to raise the minimum wage to $10 over four years once the pandemic is over. They would also tie it to mandatory use of the E-Verify program so employers can keep tabs on the immigration status of their workers.
“If we don’t have the $15 proposal as part of reconciliation, we’ll need to sit down and work on a bipartisan proposal,” Romney told reporters on Tuesday. “And we’re open to considering other people’s points of view.”
But many Democrats are eager to press ahead on their own without Republican votes. Sanders recently expressed confidence that the pay bump would clear the stringent reconciliation process and garner enough Democratic votes for passage.
“I think we’re going to pass it as it is,” he told reporters on Monday. “The Democrats are going to support the president of the United States and the overwhelming majority of the American people want to pass this Covid emergency bill.”
But that’s not holding back some Democrats from pitching ideas about a lower wage increase in the final legislation. Manchin told reporters on Monday evening he would try to offer an amendment to the legislation.
“I would amend it to $11,” he said. “We can do $11 in two years and be in a better position than they’re going to be with $15 in five years.”
The $15 minimum wage enjoys strong public support. Over 60% of respondents in a new Insider poll published Tuesday would definitely or probably support a $15 minimum wage.
Democrats aim to pass President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion economic rescue plan in only a matter of weeks.
The House Budget Committee kicked off a markup session on Monday afternoon which is set to last at least five hours, according to Rep. John Yarmuth (Ky.), chair of the Budget Committee. The panel is expected to approve the legislation and send it to a floor vote.
Here’s the Democratic calendar for coronavirus relief, based on statements from Democratic officials:
February 25-27: The House is expected to vote on passage of the government rescue plan.
March 2-5: The Senate takes up the legislation, and possibly amends it before a vote.
March 8-12: The House votes on the rescue package again if the Senate makes legislative changes.
Democrats have a narrow margin of error. They are pledging to enact the package before March 14, the date that enhanced unemployment benefits for millions of Americans starts ending.
Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia, vice chair of the Joint Economic Committee, told Insider that Democrats will “do our damnedest to meet it.”
The House proposal would also provide $1,400 stimulus checks and $400 federal unemployment benefits through August It also includes funding for vaccine distribution and virus testing, aid for state and local governments, and a $15 minimum wage increase.
Still, some key hurdles remain in the Senate. Democrats are using a process called reconciliation that allows them to pass a budgetary bill with only 51 votes instead of 60.
The Senate parliamentarian governing the procedure may rule the wage increase is unrelated to the federal budget and strike down the provision, setting back the timeline. On the other hand, the wage increase’s sponsor, Budget Committee Chairman Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), obtained a letter from the Congressional Budget Office saying it would have a sizable impact on the budget.
In recent weeks, Biden has downplayed the odds it would survive the process, though he still supports the measure.
Republicans are uniformly opposed to the Biden plan. They argue it is too costly and that a previous round of aid enacted in December still hasn’t been fully tapped.
Democrats are on course to approve $1.9 trillion in emergency pandemic spending within the next month. It would be yet another large infusion of federal aid only months after Congress passed a $900 billion aid package in December.
But Democrats show few signs of hitting the brakes anytime soon on federal spending. Instead, President Joe Biden is indicating he may press his foot on the gas and shrug off the growing federal debt.
“In order to grow the economy a year or two, three, and four down the line, we can’t spend too much,” Biden said on Tuesday during a CNN town hall. “Now is the time we should be spending. Now is the time to go big.”
It’s a remarkable split for Democrats a decade after the Great Recession. Confronted with the worst economic downturn in generations, President Barack Obama enacted an $800 billion stimulus package in February 2009. Many economists and Democrats now say it was inadequate to address the fallout of the financial crisis.
Previous efforts in Congress on infrastructure legislation collapsed during President Donald Trump’s term. Now, Democrats are in the early stages of a sprawling effort that could encompass jobs, climate change, and energy. They appear emboldened by the Federal Reserve promising to keep borrowing costs low for the near future. Fed Chair Jerome Powell also recently called for a “society-wide commitment” to recover lost jobs.
Rep. Don Beyer (D-Md.), vice chair of the Joint Economic Committee, told Insider that House Democratic leaders discussed a follow-up package this week with at least $2 trillion in further spending.
“I think the number one priority for the White House and Congress will be to build the climate initiatives we’ve so much wanted into an infrastructure bill,” Beyer said in an interview. “The second big thing would be accessible, affordable broadband in rural America and lower-income, urban America.”
The mass blackouts in Texas caused by an Arctic winter storm may add momentum to Democrats urging a major plan to revamp the nation’s infrastructure. Some senior Democrats are starting to press for wide-ranging legislation that comes with tax increases on the wealthy and large businesses.
“The catastrophe in Texas has underscored the urgent need to address the climate crisis and rebuild our infrastructure,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), chair of the Senate Finance Committee, said in a statement to Insider. “In the recovery package, my priorities will be making these critical investments by ensuring the wealthy and mega-corporations pay their fair share.”
Wyden added he would introduce proposals next month to remake the energy tax code and boost clean-energy manufacturing. He also said it was an “an opportunity to undo years of neglect” of roads, highways, and bridges by putting people to work repairing them.
“The past week has hopefully reminded all of my Republican colleagues that there’s no escaping the effects of climate change and broken infrastructure,” Wyden said.
“Historic investments in infrastructure”
The follow-up economic proposal after the Democratic rescue package will differ in two significant ways. The first is instead of delivering immediate relief to families and struggling businesses, the plan will be directed at sparking long-term economic growth.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Wednesday that Biden’s plan “will make historic investments in infrastructure – in the auto industry, in transit, in the power sector – creating millions of good union jobs, and in the process, also addressing the climate crisis head-on.”
The second is Democrats are expected to try and finance permanent parts of the initiative through new taxes instead of deficit spending to offset its addition to the national debt. Last year, Congress and President Trump approved $4 trillion in relief spending to put the economy on life-support and stem the rate of coronavirus infections.
Beyer, a member of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, said he believed many Democratic members of the panel “would really prefer there be a pay-for.” The committee held a hearing early last year on funding infrastructure and one possible method under discussion at the time was raising the gas tax, a step not taken since 1993.
Biden administration officials say they are still hammering out the plan’s details. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a CNBC interview on Thursday that tax hikes on wealthy Americans and corporations would form part of the bill, though they would be gradually implemented.
It’s unclear how much of a package would be covered with new sources of revenue, though up to half is a possibility. During his presidential run, Biden signaled he was open to a 0.1% financial transactions tax on the selling and trading of stocks and bonds. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates such a tax could raise $777 billion in revenue over ten years.
“We can’t have a repeat of their COVID bill”
Democrats are grappling with difficult math over the next two years. They control the evenly-divided Senate because Vice President Kamala Harris casts the tie-breaking vote.
Should they use reconciliation to bypass Republicans, Democrats cannot afford any defections – a steep climb given wide differences in views on how aggressively the federal government should move to tackle the climate crisis, create shovel-ready jobs, and levy taxes.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va) last month said he supported up to $4 trillion in infrastructure spending. A conservative Democrat, Manchin’s support will likely prove critical to the success of Democratic legislation.
There are Republicans who support upgrading American infrastructure, making a path to a bipartisan deal possible. But drawing 10 Senate Republican votes could lead to difficult trade-offs some Democrats view as unacceptable.
Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), part of a Republican working group that pitched a $618 billion stimulus plan to Biden last month, said any infrastructure measure must be restrained in size and scope.
“We can’t have a repeat of their COVID bill,” Cassidy said in a statement to Insider. “To be successful, any action on infrastructure must be targeted spending and focused on real needs like expanding access to broadband in rural areas and fixing our crumbling bridges.”
Other Republicans said they were reluctant to support a infrastructure plan carrying a major price tag.
“The main thing is that I want to be careful,” Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma told Capitol Hill reporters after a White House meeting with Biden on the issue earlier this month. “When you’re working on infrastructure, that’s high dollars.”
The hesitation from Republicans clashes with Democrats eager to embark on robust federal spending – and wield the full power of their control of Congress and the White House.
“We’re only going to get a limited amount of bites at the reconciliation apple,” Beyer told Insider. “Now that we have Chuck Schumer running the Senate, Joe Biden as president, and a 2022 election that will be very contested, we better use our legislative power while we have it.”
President Joe Biden effectively rejected on Tuesday evening a Democratic plan put forward by Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Chuck Schumer to wipe out up to $50,000 in student loan debt per borrower. Instead, he said he backed a measure to provide up to $10,000 in forgiveness.
“I will not make that happen,” he said of the $50,000 relief measure. Instead, he told a CNN town hall audience he believed loan forgiveness “depends on whether or not you go to a private university or a public university.”
Biden said he was reluctant to forgive debt for people who attended elite institutions, listing Harvard University, Yale University, and the University of Pennsylvania as examples. He also said each of his three children graduated with a six-figure debt load and paid it off over time.
“I don’t think anybody should have to pay for that, but I do think you should be able to work it off,” he said. “I understand the impact of the debt, and it can be debilitated.”
Instead, the president touted a proposal to provide free community college to families earning less than $125,000 each year. “Everyone should be able to go to community college for free,” he said. “That costs $9 billion, and we should pay for it.”
He later said: “I’m prepared to write off $10,000 in debt, but not 50. I don’t think I have the authority to do it by the sign of a pen.”
The $10,000 loan forgiveness measure does not form part of Biden’s $1.9 trillion rescue package, which is now making its way through Congress. Biden has ordered the Education Department to pause all federal student loan payments through Sept. 30 and waive interest.
Many Democrats are urging Biden to take aggressive action to cut student debt. Schumer and Warren introduced their plan earlier this month, arguing it’s a critical step to rein in inequality and strengthen the economy.
“There is very little that the president could do with a flick of a pen that would boost our economy more than canceling $50,000 in student debt,” Schumer told reporters. “This is one of those things the president can do on his own.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a news conference on Feb. 4 that the Biden administration would favor legislation from Congress to provide loan forgiveness instead of taking executive action.
President Joe Biden gave one of the strongest indications yet on Friday that he is prepared to pass his $1.9 trillion emergency spending package with only Democratic votes.
While delivering remarks at the White House, Biden said he wanted to “act fast” and emphasized his large plan was designed to address the immense challenges facing the nation.
“I’d like to be doing it with the support of Republicans. I’ve met with Republicans, there’s some really fine people want to get something done,” he said. “But they’re just not willing to go as far as I think we have to go.”
Biden continued: “I’ve told both Republicans and Democrats, that’s my preference to work together. But if I had to choose between getting help right now to Americans who are hurting so badly and getting bogged down in a lengthy negotiation, or compromising on a bill that’s up to the crisis it’s an easy choice.”
The remarks appeared to reflect a new willingness from the president to embark on a partisan path to get his rescue package approved faster. Democrats kicked off efforts this week to pass the plan through budget reconciliation. It’s a legislative maneuver allowing bills to be enacted through a simple majority of 51 votes instead of the 60 generally required in the Senate.
The plan includes $1,400 stimulus checks, $400 federal unemployment benefits through September, and assistance to state and local governments among other provisions. It has generated strong opposition from Republicans who argue it is a colossal level of untargeted spending on progressive priorities.
Up until now, the White House has courted a group of 10 Republican senators to draw their votes and add a layer of bipartisanship to the relief effort. The group led by Sen. Susan Collins of Maine put forward a $618 billion measure on Monday, but Democrats rejected it as too meager.
They said in a letter to the White House on Thursday that “we remain committed to working in a bipartisan fashion and hope that you will take into account our views as the legislative process moves forward.”
Senior administration officials have all but dismissed their plan at this stage.
“We’re not going to sit here and wait for an ongoing negotiation,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a Friday news briefing. “Frankly we haven’t received an offer in return, a response offer to what the president has proposed.”
It remains unclear whether the GOP senators will attempt to continue negotiations with the White House.
The Senate unanimously passed a Republican amendment on Thursday that seeks to prevent Democrats from doing something they never wanted to do: double the minimum wage to $15 an hour during the pandemic.
In effect, Democrats, as well as Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, joined with Republicans to drive the fact home.
The amendment from Sen. Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican, appeared to be an effort to miscast Democrats’ position – to enact a $15 minimum wage “during a global pandemic” – and put centrist Democrats on the spot to highlight divides within the party on the wage hike plan.
Specifically, the amendment would grant the chair of the Senate Budget Committee the right to nix a wage increase as part of the reconciliation process – a parliamentary maneuver that allows the Democratic-controlled Senate to pass legislation in the upper chamber with a simple majority instead of the 60 votes usually required.
Sanders, an independent from Vermont and chair of the Senate Budget Committee, said during the floor debate that he would do “everything I can to make sure that a $15 minimum wage is included in this reconciliation bill.” He rejected Republican framing that Democrats are seeking to double the wage before the pandemic is over.
“It was never my intent to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour immediately during the pandemic,” Sanders said. “My legislation gradually increases the minimum wage to $15 an hour over a 5 year period, and that is what I believe we ought to do.”
Sanders put the amendment on a non-recorded voice vote in a move that likely deflected criticism of his drive to increase the minimum wage.
“We need to end the crisis of starvation wages in Iowa and across the United States,” he added.
A senior Democratic aide, granted anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, argued that Republicans had bungled the effort to force moderate Democrats to take a politically difficult vote.
“This isn’t Bernie’s first rodeo,” the aide said. “No one has to take a tough vote on a messaging amendment and we can still try to pass minimum wage through the reconciliation bill.”
It remains unclear whether Democrats will be successful in approving the minimum wage increase through the strict budgetary rules governing the reconciliation process.
The federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour was last raised in 2009.
Earlier this month, Ernst spoke out against including a wage increase as part of any stimulus package, saying such “liberal priorities” would hurt small businesses.
Ben Zipperer, an economist at the liberal Economic Policy Institute, told Insider such an impact would be minimal, at worst, and arguably beneficial to businesses as well as workers, with higher wages reducing costly employee turnover.
Despite Republican opposition, however, raising the minimum wage is popular among voters. According to a recent poll from Quinnipiac University, 61% of Americans support Democrats’ effort to hike it to $15 an hour.
Twenty states have already raised their own minimum wage since 2021 started.
A group of 10 Senate Republicans announced on Sunday they will soon unveil a $600 billion stimulus package in an effort to strike a compromise with the Biden administration.
The Senate Republicans, led by Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, also requested a meeting with President Joe Biden to discuss their proposal. The plan’s size is less than a third of the $1.9 trillion plan envisioned by Biden and most Democratic leaders in Congress.
“We recognize your calls for unity and want to work in good faith with your Administration to meet the health, economic, and societal challenges of the COVID crisis,” the letter said.
In addition to Collins, it was signed by Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio, Mitt Romney of Utah, Todd Young of Indiana, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Mike Rounds of South Dakota, and Jerry Moran of Kansas.
Details about the forthcoming Republican plan trickled out on Sunday. Portman said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” it would aim the new round of direct payments to Americans who earn less than $50,000 a year and married couples making below $100,000.
According to Cassidy in a separate Fox News appearance, the direct payment amount would be cut from the current $1,400 Democratic proposal to $1,000. The Biden proposal has a provision for a fresh wave of $1,400 stimulus checks for Americans.
The Republican letter also sketched out more about the plan’s provisions. It would extend the $300 federal unemployment benefit; provide $160 billion in funds for virus testing and vaccine distribution; and provide extra money for the Paycheck Protection Program as well as schools.
Portman, who just last week announced that he would retire in 2022 after two terms, implored Democrats not to push a large relief bill through Congress using the reconciliation process, which only requires a simple majority.
Portman and the other nine GOP senators are calling on Biden to act on his call for “unity” and confer with the GOP group in crafting a smaller compromise package.
“My hope is the president will meet with us,” Portman said.
Since being sworn in, Biden has emphasized he is open to seeking a bipartisan deal with Republicans on an economic relief package. Brian Deese, a top White House economic advisor, said that was still the case.
Biden “is open to ideas wherever they may come,” Deese told NBC News on Sunday. “What he’s uncompromising about is the need to move with speed on a comprehensive plan.”
Democrats, though, are preparing to circumvent Republicans using reconciliation. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said that Democrats would vote on a budget resolution this week, the first step in the process.
It appears unlikely the Biden administration will sign onto or adopt many elements of a GOP plan which curtails some of their top relief priorities like strengthened unemployment insurance.
“We have learned from past crises that the risk is not doing too much,” Biden said at the White House on Friday. “The risk is not doing enough.”
In December 2020, Congress passed a $900 billion bipartisan coronavirus relief package, which included $600 direct payments to individual Americans and $300 federal unemployment benefits until March 14.
Democratic leaders have set mid-March as a deadline for legislative action because millions of Americans stand to lose their jobless aid after that date.
At the time, Biden made it clear that the December package was only “a down payment” on a more comprehensive bill that he would seek to pass once he was in office.
The Senate voted on Monday evening to confirm Janet Yellen as the nation’s first woman to serve as treasury secretary.
She racked up significant bipartisan support in a 84-15 vote, and her confirmation process was a relatively smooth one because of her extensive economic credentials. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell voted to confirm her, and she drew unanimous support from a Senate panel on Friday.
Yellen, 74, is the first woman to head the Treasury Department. She is also the first person to have held three of the most important economic positions in American government: Treasury chief, head of the White House Council of Economic Advisors, as well as chair as the Federal Reserve.
“She’s been confirmed four times already in the Senate,” Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, incoming chair of the Senate Finance Committee, told Insider in a recent Capitol Hill interview. “She is really in the Senate confirmation hall of fame because she gets these huge majorities when people vote on her.”
During her confirmation hearing with the Senate Finance Committee last week, Yellen urged Congress to “act big” on another federal rescue package, warning of a worse downturn in the economy without one.
She also said lawmakers should set aside concerns about the rising budget deficit because the cost of borrowing is low, a view shared by many experts.
“Economists don’t always agree, but I think there is a consensus now: Without further action, we risk a longer, more painful recession now-and long-term scarring of the economy later,” she told lawmakers.
She fielded a range of policy questions on the minimum wage, direct payments, and taxes. Yellen said the Biden administration doesn’t intend to raise taxes for wealthy Americans or large businesses before the pandemic is over.
In follow-up answers to senators, Yellen also indicated she would not attempt to revive the Federal Reserve’s expired emergency lending programs. The Treasury and Fed jointly managed them last year, and the Trump administration ended them in a move that sparked fierce Democratic criticism.
President Joe Biden signed an executive action on Friday to address the financial struggles facing millions of Americans as the pandemic continues.
“We need more action and we need to move fast,” Biden said during a signing ceremony on Friday.
While Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package is centered around providing aid, executives orders will allow for immediate action without having to wait for congressional approval, Insider previously reported. The move underscores the Biden administration’s intent to move rapidly to address the economic crisis caused by the pandemic.
The Biden administration is also kickstarting relief talks with Congress this weekend, attempting to garner bipartisan support for a large rescue package that’s already running into strong Republican opposition.
Here’s a detailed breakdown of what the executive action includes and how it will provide economic relief for businesses, families, and individuals:
Address the growing hunger crisis facing children and adults in America
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, one in seven households in the country are struggling to obtain the food they need. Biden is calling on Congress to extend the 15% Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefit increase and invest $3 billion to help women, infants, and children get the food they require.
Increase access to nutritious foods for children missing meals during school closures
The Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer connects low-income families with children with the equivalent amount of money spent on school meals. Biden is asking the Dept. of Agriculture to increase the benefits by about 15% to accurately reflect the cost of missed meals during the pandemic.
Allow larger emergency SNAP allotments for lowest-income households
Congress has previously authorized emergency SNAP benefits, but those benefits have not been made available to the lowest-income households in the country. The USDA will consider extending those benefits to the households that need them the most, increasing benefit access to an additional 12 million people.
Update the true cost of a healthy diet
The USDA’s Thrifty Food Plan, which determines SNAP benefits, is not up to date with the economic realities households face when attempting to buy healthy food, so the benefits fall short of what a healthy diet truly costs. Biden will request that the USDA review the Thrifty Food Plan to better reflect the modern cost of a healthy diet.
Ensure efficient delivery of direct stimulus payments
With many Americans experiencing challenges receiving the first round of direct payments — eight million eligible households never received the checks — Biden plans to provide equitable delivery of his proposed $1,400 stimulus checks by asking the Treasury Department to improve delivery of the Economic Impact Payments. This can be done through a series of measures, including establishing online tools for claiming payments, working to make sure everyone can access the payments, and analyzing unserved households for additional outreach efforts.
Guarantee safety and economic coverage for working families
43% of American households report having at least one member of a family with a pre-existing condition, according to a Gallup poll, which makes going into work a significant health risk. As a result, Biden will ask the Dept. of Labor to clarify that workers have a federally guaranteed right to refuse employment that could jeopardize their health, and if they choose to do so, they will still qualify for unemployment insurance.
Help families, workers, and small businesses access relief quickly through coordinated benefit delivery teams
While many government programs have provided support for families struggling financially, many individuals and small businesses have encountered difficulty in navigating relief services, leaving many benefits unclaimed. As a result, Biden plans on establishing benefit delivery teams and a coordination structure across federal and state programs to provide greater ease in accessing urgent relief.
Protecting and Empowering Federal Workers and Contractors Executive Order
Biden will direct his administration on Friday to begin the work that will allow him to issue an executive order in his first 100 days to require federal contractors to pay workers a $15 minimum wage, along with providing emergency paid leave to workers.
To further protect federal employees, Biden will sign an executive order that:
Restores collective bargaining powers and worker protections
Eliminates Schedule F, which threatens critical protections of career employees and allows for civil service positions for political appointees
Promotes a $15 minimum wage for all federal workers