Joe Biden will tackle one of the most visible effects of the economic crisis caused by the pandemic on Friday, promising immediate help to the millions of unemployed Americans who are hungry and rushing into food banks.
Pending the vote in Congress on the gigantic $1.900 billion emergency plan to help the economy, unveiled last week, the Democrat will issue two decrees: the first to increase food aid in the country to deal with the worst crisis of modern times, the second to strengthen the social rights of federal agents.
The day after his inauguration, the new US president continues to align his priorities with presidential decisions. In three days, he will have taken nearly thirty. Mr Biden, who wants to go fast, should see key members of his government being confirmed by the Senate on Friday: Defence Minister Lloyd Austin, Foreign Affairs Minister Antony Blinken and Minister of Economy and Finance Janet Yellen.
“Almost 30 million Americans suffer from not having enough to eat,” said Brian Deese, director of the White House National Economic Council at a conference with journalists.
“This includes one in five black and Latin adults according to the most recent survey,” he added, noting that in total 1 in 7 households had difficulty feeding properly.
In the United States, where schools provided daily meals to students from poor families, 12 million children do not have enough to eat either.
In cities, queues for popular soups have lengthened and food banks are overwhelmed, including in the wealthy suburbs of the federal capital Washington.
Mr. Biden will ask the Ministry of Agriculture to expand and relax its Low- or No Income Assistance Program (SNAP), which replaced the Food Stamps program, which allowed low-income families to purchase basic food products from licensed stores.
The Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card, which succeeded the $1, 5 and 10 tickets, should be increased by 15% “to properly reflect the cost of missed meals” as a result of school closure. Currently, it provides up to $5.70 per day per child attending school.
— “Not sufficient aid” —
“These are concrete actions and they will help families who need assistance now,” said Brian Deese. “But they are not enough to solve the food crisis we are facing,” he acknowledged.
“Hence the need for a plan to rescue the economy” whose negotiations in Congress are expected to begin shortly, added the senior official.
While many Americans have lost their jobs and are without savings, the Biden administration also wants to ensure that the direct cheques already voted by Congress reach the families most in need.
According to the National Economic Council, “many Americans faced difficulties in receiving the first round of direct payments and up to eight million eligible households did not receive the payments that were issued in March.”
The second decree must improve the social rights of federal employees.
President Biden wants to issue a decree “within the first 100 days” of his mandate which will require private contractors to pay a minimum wage of $15 an hour and will guarantee their employees “paid emergency leave”.
“These measures will help make the federal government a model employer and restore the social protections of career public servants who are so essential to the country,” said the National Economic Council in a note.
Among the immediate economic measures, Joe Biden had already issued a decree extending the moratorium on evictions of housing for unpaid rent.
Some 18 million Americans still live on unemployment benefits. The aid was extended until the end of September, as well as the possibility of taking paid sick leave in case of contamination with Covid-19.
In December, unemployment stood at 6.7%, far from 3.5% a year ago, before the outbreak of the pandemic.
On Thursday, Joe Biden issued a series of decrees to deal with the pandemic itself.
Defeating Covid-19 is the prerequisite for economic recovery, the Democrat has been hammering for months.