Weekly Policy Update: President Biden Takes Immediate Action
By: Colorado BioScience Association Date: 01/22/2021
On January 20, President Joe Biden signed a series of executive orders, just hours after taking his oath of office. In addition to reversing some of the steps taken by the Trump Administration over the past four years, Biden’s executive actions aim to address the country’s health and economic crisis and demonstrate a sense of urgency from his Administration about getting the pandemic under control.
Some of the actions President Biden took to address the pandemic on day one:
- Signed executive order appointing Jeffrey Zients as the official COVID-19 response coordinator and restored the directorate for global health security and biodefense at the National Security Council;
- Required social distancing and mask wearing on all federal property and by all federal employees;
- Reinstated ties with the World Health Organization, which Trump withdrew from last year. Dr. Anthony Fauci will be the head of the U.S. delegation to the organization’s executive board;
- Extended federal moratorium on evictions and asked federal agencies to extend moratorium on foreclosures of federally guaranteed mortgages through at least the end of March;
- Paused federal student loan interest and principal payments through the end of September.
President Biden also took executive action on immigration, climate change, racial and LGBT equality, and government accountability. Lastly, President Biden issued a freeze on all new regulations put into place by President Trump, so his administration can review and decide what regulations should move forward.
National COVID Strategy
On day two, the Biden White House released their national COVID-19 strategy outlining a centralized response to the pandemic. Among other things, the plan creates a “pandemic testing board” to help expand access to testing; calls for new guidelines for reopening schools and businesses; orders the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue guidelines to protect workers; and instructs federal agencies to invoke the Defense Production Act (DPA) when needed in order to bolster supplies.
The new administration has stressed that unlike the Trump administration, they will use the DPA as aggressively as needed. Biden’s COVID-19 supply coordinator has identified 12 immediate supply shortfalls including N95 masks, isolation gowns, gloves, and swabs needed for tests and has also said they will use DPA to accelerate production of syringes and raw materials used in vaccines.
Biden’s national strategy aligns with executive orders issued on day two to require masks in airports and on modes of interstate travel and to increase federal reimbursements to states from 75% to 100% of the cost for National Guard personnel and emergency supplies.
In order to execute this plan, the Biden administration will need more funding from Congress. He has proposed a $1.9 billion stimulus package.