Actions Address the COVID-19 Pandemic, Provide Economic Relief, Tackle Climate Change, and Advance Racial Equity
Today, hours after taking the oath of office, President-elect Biden will take a historic number of actions to deliver immediate relief for families across America that are struggling in the face of converging crises. He will sign a combination of executive orders, memoranda, directives, and letters to take initial steps to address these crises, including by changing the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, providing economic relief, tackling climate change, and advancing racial equity. President-elect Biden will take action — not just to reverse the gravest damages of the Trump administration — but also to start moving our country forward. These actions are bold, begin the work of following through on President-elect Biden’s promises to the American people, and, importantly, fall within the constitutional role for the president.
Below are more details about how President-elect Biden’s executive actions will deliver relief for American families and address the crises we face.
CHANGING THE COURSE OF THE COVID PANDEMIC AND PROTECTING PUBLIC HEALTH
Launch a “100 Days Masking Challenge” and Leading by Example in the Federal Government
Today, President-elect Biden is launching his “100 Days Masking Challenge,” asking the American people to do their part — their patriotic duty — and mask up for 100 days. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that masks “are a critical tool in the fight against COVID-19 that could reduce the spread of the disease.” President-elect Biden is also doing his part by issuing an Executive Order today requiring masks and physical distancing in all federal buildings, on all federal lands, and by federal employees and contractors. He is also asking the Department of Health and Human Services and Center for Disease Control to engage with state, local, Tribal, and territorial officials to implement masking, physical distancing, and other CDC public measures to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Re-Engage with the World Health Organization (WHO) to Make Americans and the World Safer
Today, President-elect Biden will take action to cease the previous Administration’s process of withdrawing from the World Health Organization — an entity that is critical to coordinating the international response to COVID-19, advancing preparedness for future epidemics and pandemics, and improving the health of all people. The Biden-Harris Administration — with Dr. Tony Fauci as Head of Delegation — will participate in the WHO Executive Board meeting that is ongoing this week. Dr. Fauci will deliver remarks as Head of Delegation to the Executive Board on January 21. Once the United States resumes its engagement with the WHO, the Biden-Harris Administration will work with the WHO and our partners to strengthen and reform the organization, support the COVID-19 health and humanitarian response, and advance global health and health security.
Structure Our Federal Government to Coordinate a Unified National Response
The federal government must act swiftly and aggressively to combat COVID-19. President-elect Biden will sign an Executive Order creating the position of COVID-19 Response Coordinator, who will report directly to the President and be responsible for coordinating all elements of the COVID-19 response across government, including managing efforts to produce, supply, and distribute personal protective equipment, vaccines, and tests. In addition, this Executive Order restores the NSC Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense to focus on domestic and global biological threats, play a critical role in stopping the COVID-19 pandemic, and prevent future biological catastrophes.
PROVIDING ECONOMIC RELIEF AND SUPPORT TO WORKING FAMILIES
Extend Eviction and Foreclosure Moratoriums
The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered an almost unprecedented housing affordability crisis. Today, 1 in 5 renters and 1 in 10 homeowners with a mortgage are behind on payments. President-elect Biden is asking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to consider immediately extending the federal eviction moratorium until at least March 31, 2021, while calling on Congress to provide much needed rental assistance and extend it further. And, he will ask the Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, to consider extending foreclosure moratoriums for federally guaranteed mortgages and continuing applications for forbearance for federally guaranteed mortgages until at least March 31, 2021. On Tuesday, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) extended its foreclosure and eviction moratoriums until February 28, 2021. The president-elect will call on the agency to consider extending the foreclosure moratorium further and continue forbearance applications for all loans guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Extend Student Loan Pause
Currently, borrowers owe over $1.5 trillion in federal student loans. Borrowers of all ages are often faced with a tough tradeoff between making their student loan payments, investing in their long-term financial future, or paying their bills. The pandemic has only increased the economic hardship of the millions of Americans who have student debt. The president-elect is asking the Department of Education to consider immediately extending the pause on interest and principal payments for direct federal loans until at least September 30, 2021.
TACKLING CLIMATE CHANGE, CREATING GOOD UNION JOBS, AND ADVANCING ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE
Rejoin the Paris Agreement on Climate Change
The president-elect will sign the instrument to rejoin the Paris Agreement. The instrument will be deposited with the United Nations today, and the United States will officially become a Party again 30 days later. The United States will be back in position to exercise global leadership in advancing the objectives of the Agreement.
Roll Back President Trump’s Environmental Actions in Order to Protect Public Health and the Environment and Restore Science
Today, President-elect Biden will sign an Executive Order that takes critical first steps to address the climate crisis, create good union jobs, and advance environmental justice, while reversing the previous administration’s harmful policies.
The order jumpstarts swift, initial action to tackle the climate crisis by:
- Directing all executive departments and agencies to immediately review and take appropriate action to address federal regulations and other executive actions taken during the last four years that were harmful to public health, damaging to the environment, unsupported by the best available science, or otherwise not in the national interest, including agency actions identified on the attached list;
- Directing agencies to consider revising vehicle fuel economy and emissions standards, methane emissions standards, and appliance and building efficiency standards to ensure that such standards cut pollution, save consumers money, and create good union jobs;
- Directing the Department of Interior to protect our nation’s treasures by reviewing the boundaries and conditions of the Grand Staircase-Escalante, Bears Ears, Northeast Canyons, and Seamounts Marine National Monuments and placing a temporary moratorium on all oil and natural gas leasing activities in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge;
- Re-establishing the Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases (GHG) and directing the issuance of an interim social cost of GHG schedule to ensure that agencies account for the full costs of GHG emissions, including climate risk, environmental justice and intergenerational equity; and
- Revoking, revising, or replacing additional Executive Orders, Presidential Proclamations, Memoranda, and Permits signed over the past 4 years that do not serve the U.S. national interest, including revoking the Presidential permit granted to the Keystone XL pipeline.
ADVANCING RACIAL EQUITY & SUPPORTING UNDERSERVED COMMUNITIES
The president-elect’s equity agenda is grounded in advancing racial justice and building back better for communities who have been underserved, including people of color and Americans with disabilities, LGBTQ+ Americans, religious minorities, and rural and urban communities facing persistent poverty.
Everyone across America benefits when we take deliberate steps to become a more just society. Analysis suggests that closing racial gaps in wages, housing credit, lending opportunities, and access to higher education would amount to an additional $5 trillion in gross domestic product in the American economy over the next 5 years, and create millions of new jobs. We are a nation founded on principles of equality and it is in the interest of everyone across the country that the government be intentional in ensuring that its policies reach all of us in an equitable way. By advancing such equity, the federal government can build pathways so that everyone across America has the opportunity to reach their potential.
President-elect Biden will sign executive actions today to:
Launch a Whole-of-Government Initiative to Advance Racial Equity
The president-elect will sign an Executive Order beginning the work of embedding equity across federal policymaking and rooting out systemic racism and other barriers to opportunity from federal programs and institutions. The Executive Order will define equity as the consistent and systematic fair, just, and impartial treatment of all individuals, including individuals who belong to underserved communities, such as Black, Latino, Indigenous and Native American persons, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and other persons of color; LGBTQ+ persons; people with disabilities; religious minorities, persons who live in rural areas; and persons otherwise affected by persistent poverty or inequality. The president-elect will:
- Establish that advancing equity for all — including people of color and others who have been historically underserved and marginalized — is the responsibility of the whole of our government;
- Direct every federal agency to undertake a baseline review of the state of equity within their agency and deliver an action plan within 200 days to address unequal barriers to opportunity in agency policies and programs;
- Launch a new equitable data working group to ensure that federal data reflects the diversity of America;
- Task the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) with working to more equitably allocate federal resources to empower and invest in communities of color and other underserved communities;
- Improve the delivery of government benefits and services to ensure that families of all backgrounds across the country can access opportunity, for example by reducing language access barriers;
- Study new methods that federal agencies can use to assess whether proposed policies advance equity;
- Direct agencies to engage with communities who have been historically underrepresented, underserved, and harmed by federal policies.
President-elect Biden has asked Ambassador Susan Rice, as Domestic Policy Advisor, to lead a robust interagency process to hold the federal government accountable for advancing equity for families across America.
In this Executive Order, the president-elect will also rescind the Trump Administration’s 1776 Commission, which has sought to erase America’s history of racial injustice. And, he will revoke President Trump’s damaging executive order limiting the ability of federal government agencies, contractors and even some grantees from implementing important and needed diversity and inclusion training. Additional actions in the coming weeks will restore and reinvigorate the federal government’s commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility.
Reverse President Trump’s Executive Order Excluding Undocumented Immigrants from the Reapportionment Count
President-elect Biden will sign an Executive Order to revoke the prior Administration’s orders setting out an unlawful plan to exclude noncitizens from the census and apportionment of Congressional representatives. President-elect Biden will ensure that the Census Bureau has time to complete an accurate population count for each state. He will then present to Congress an apportionment that is fair and accurate so federal resources are efficiently and fairly distributed for the next decade.
Preserve and Fortify Protections for Dreamers
In 2012, the Obama-Biden administration adopted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to provide temporary relief from deportation on a case-by-case basis to Dreamers, young people who were brought to this country as children. Since then, more than 700,000 young people have applied for this relief and met rigorous requirements and background checks. Many are serving our country in the armed services or as essential workers on the front lines of the pandemic. The Trump administration has tried to terminate DACA since 2017, but the U.S. Supreme Court rejected that effort and required reconsideration of that decision. The program continues, accepting new applications and renewing DACA for those who qualify under the 2012 requirements. But those opposed to DACA continue to challenge the program, threatening its continuance. The president-elect is committed to preserving and fortifying DACA. Today, he will sign a Presidential Memorandum directing the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Attorney General, to take all appropriate actions under the law to achieve that goal. The Presidential Memorandum will also call on Congress to enact legislation providing permanent status and a path to citizenship for people who came to this country as children and have lived, worked, and contributed to our country for many years.
Reverse the Muslim Ban
The president-elect will sign an Executive Action putting an end to the Muslim Ban, a policy rooted in religious animus and xenophobia. It repeals Proclamations 9645 and 9983, which restrict entry into the United States from primarily Muslim and African countries, and instructs the State Department to restart visa processing for affected countries and to swiftly develop a proposal to restore fairness and remedy the harms caused by the bans, especially for individuals stuck in the waiver process and those who had immigrant visas denied. This is an important step in providing relief to individuals and families harmed by this Trump Administration policy that is inconsistent with American values. The Executive Action also provides for the strengthening of screening and vetting for travelers by enhancing information sharing with foreign governments and capacity building with our partners, and directs reviews of other Trump Administration “extreme vetting” practices.
Repeal of Trump Interior Enforcement Executive Order
President-elect Biden will sign an Executive Order revoking a Trump Executive Order that directed harsh and extreme immigration enforcement. This revocation will allow the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies to set civil immigration enforcement policies that best protect the American people and are in line with our values and priorities.
Stop Border Wall Construction
Bipartisan majorities in Congress refused in 2019 to fund President Trump’s plans for a massive wall along our southern border, even after he shut down the government over this issue. He then wastefully diverted billions of dollars to that construction. By proclamation, President-elect Biden will today declare an immediate termination of the national emergency declaration that was used as a pretext to justify some of the funding diversions for the wall. The proclamation directs an immediate pause in wall construction projects to allow a close review of the legality of the funding and contracting methods used, and to determine the best way to redirect funds that were diverted by the prior Administration to fund wall construction.
Deferred Enforced Departure for Liberians Presidential Memorandum
The president-elect will sign a Presidential Memorandum to extend until June 30, 2022 the long-standing Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) designation for Liberians who have been in the United States for many years. Liberians with DED will also have their work authorization extended. This PM also directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to ensure that Citizen Immigration Services facilitates ease of application and timely adjudication for Liberians applying for residency by the Liberian Relief and Fairness Act.
Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation
All persons should receive equal treatment under the law, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation. The Biden-Harris Administration will prevent and combat discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation. To begin this work, President-elect Biden will sign an Executive Order that builds on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County (2020) and ensures that the federal government interprets Title VII of the the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as prohibiting workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. This Order will also direct agencies to take all lawful steps to make sure that federal anti-discrimination statutes that cover sex discrimination prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, protecting the rights of LGBTQ+ persons.
ENSURING GOVERNMENT WORKS FOR THE AMERICAN PEOPLE
Executive Branch Personnel Ethics Executive Order
President-elect Biden will sign an Executive Order to restore and maintain public trust in government, and ensure that we are a government for the people. The president-elect is ordering every appointee in the executive branch to sign an ethics pledge. The ethics pledge and related ethics rules in the Executive Order are designed to ensure that executive branch employees act in the interest of the American people and not for personal gain. And, the pledge commits federal employees to uphold the independence of the Department of Justice.
Regulatory Process Executive Order and Presidential Memorandum
Regulations are an important tool for the federal government to address the crises facing the nation. The Trump Administration unnecessarily hamstrung this critical tool by creating arbitrary obstacles to regulatory action. Today, the president-elect will issue a Presidential Memorandum withdrawing the Trump Administration’s regulatory process executive orders to remove those needless obstacles to regulating in the public’s interest. And, the president-elect will direct the Director of the OMB to develop recommendations for improving and modernizing regulatory review. These recommendations will create a process to advance regulations that promote public health and safety, economic growth, social welfare, racial justice, environmental stewardship, human dignity, equity, and the interests of future generations.
Today, the White House Chief of Staff will also issue a regulatory freeze memo that will pause any new regulations from moving forward and give the incoming Administration an opportunity to review any regulations that the Trump Administration tried to finalize in its last days. The memo directs all agencies to confer with the Director of OMB before renewing any regulatory activity. This action will allow the Biden Administration to prevent any detrimental so-called “midnight regulations” from taking effect, while ensuring that urgent measures in the public’s interest can proceed.
As President-elect Biden works to aggressively tackle the simultaneous crises our country faces, he is focused on ensuring that the approaches he takes benefit working Americans and advance racial equity across our society. An assessment of how these day one actions further both of those fundamental goals of the Biden presidency is below.
THE PRESIDENT-ELECT’S EXECUTIVE ACTIONS ADVANCE RACIAL EQUITY
President-elect Biden’s executive actions to restore equal treatment under the law for people across America and to direct a whole-of-government approach to racial justice redirects the federal government to treat Americans fairly. These sweeping actions deliver on the president-elect’s commitments to equity and task agencies with taking immediate steps to redress injustices.
The COVID-19 crisis has claimed more than 400,000 American lives — but for Black and Brown Americans, it’s a mass casualty event. Because of structural racism, people of color are contracting COVID-19 at higher rates and dying from COVID-19 at higher rates. President-elect Biden’s executive orders to change the course of the virus, including establishing a coordinated national response and implementing a mask mandate on federal property, will help slow the spread of the virus in communities of color.
Extending the federal eviction moratorium and asking federal agencies to consider extending foreclosure moratoriums for federally guaranteed mortgages will provide relief to the families of color that face higher risks of eviction and housing loss.
The president-elect has also directed all executive departments and agencies to review actions taken over the last four years and revise those policies that run counter to his commitment to environmental justice, including undoing the harmful rollbacks of clean air and clean water protection that disproportionately impact low-income communities and communities of color.
THE PRESIDENT-ELECT’S EXECUTIVE ACTIONS SUPPORT AND PROTECT WORKERS
The president-elect’s day one executive actions will protect workers from COVID-19, including by ensuring that federal employees and contractors wear masks and follow other CDC guidelines, setting an example for employers around the country.
They will provide relief to American workers who have lost their jobs or had their hours or wages slashed through no fault of their own, by extending the pause on student debt and the eviction and foreclosure moratorium.
They will help spur the growth of American manufacturing and supply chains, competitiveness of our industries, and creation of good union jobs by directing agencies to consider revising vehicle fuel economy and emissions standards, methane emissions standards, and appliance and building efficiency standards.
And, they’ll take steps to prevent workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and revoke President Trump’s damaging executive order which limited critical diversity and inclusion training in the workplace.