Busy Biden administration promises policies on COVID-19, race and climate
By Erin Albright, Staff Writer
President Joe Biden has spent his first week in office working to change Trump-era policies on racial inequity, COVID-19, immigration and climate change.
Biden prioritized racial equity from the beginning of his campaign. Striving for racial equity would “lift all boats,” Biden said, referencing former President John F. Kennedy’s famous statement, “Rising tides lift all boats.”
This week, the President has acted on his campaign statements by ending Justice Department contracts with private prisons and combatting housing discrimination, as well as selecting a historically diverse cabinet.
Biden signed a memorandum on Tuesday condemning xenophobia and racism against Asian Americans. During the Trump administration, the ethnic group was frequently and falsely blamed for causing what the Trump administration called the “Chinese Virus.” In a series of executive orders related to COVID-19, Biden banned the use of the phrase “Chinese Virus” in any government policy.
Biden signed contracts to end private prisons in an effort to reduce incarceration levels. Some believe that the elimination of profit-based incentives will help alleviate 16% of federal prisoners currently in private prisons.
The Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule was reintroduced, an Obama-era revision to the 1968 Fair Housing Act, which had been rolled back by Trump. This provision acts as a safeguard against discriminatory housing practices by requiring jurisdictions that receive federal funding to look for and analyze patterns of housing discrimination, then present a plan to address the practices if they exist.
After criticism of the inoculation process under the Trump administration, President Biden has set a plan to have 100 million doses administered in the first 100 days of his presidency. As Biden’s “full-scale wartime effort” to tackle the pandemic is put into place, the administration set new mask requirements on interstate transportation and federal property.
Two factors that have greatly constrained the inoculation effort so far have been vaccine supply and an inability by state and municipal governments to administer vaccines quickly.
Biden plans to purchase 200 million more doses to be authorized for emergency use, increasing the total vaccine supply from 400 million to 600 million. This would allow enough vaccine supply to inoculate the American adult population by the end of the summer.
Congress is currently facing pressure from the President to pass his $1.9 trillion rescue package, which he says is designed to help families and the U.S. economy recover. The package would give $1400 stimulus checks to each household, a $400 boost weekly through September to those facing unemployment and the minimum wage would be raised to $15 per hour nationwide.
Biden announced he would be sending the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 to Congress, the start of reformation to the country’s immigration system. The act would give an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship.
Any immigrants who were in the U.S. before Jan. 1, 2021 would be allowed to apply for temporary legal status after passing background checks and paying taxes.
Biden claims the move would also act as an economic stimulus, should all 11 million individuals be granted citizenship and enter the workforce.
The Department of Homeland Security has announced it would pause all deportations for 100 days. The Justice Department has ended Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy for immigrants, ending the legal separation of children from their parents during the citizenship process.
The U.S. has rejoined the Paris Agreement, a major element of his campaign and one of the first actions Biden took as president.
Biden plans on signing a wave of federal orders that will move to elevate climate change efforts on every governmental level. Federal agencies will soon be ordered to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies. A 60-day ban has been placed on new federal leases and permits for oil drilling, with a fracking ban thought by some to be on the horizon.
Jennifer M. Granholm, former governor of Michigan, is soon to face a confirmation hearing as Biden’s nominee to head the Department of Energy. Granholm said that she will confront climate change for the administration, hoping to shift the nation to a green energy economy.
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