Jan. 22 (UPI) — On his second full day in the White House, President Joe Biden signed two executive orders Friday that direct his administration to provide more economic help to millions of Americans.
One order directs federal agencies to increase the minimum hourly wage for federal workers to $15 per hour and provide them emergency paid leave.
The directive is a companion to Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package proposal, in which he calls for an increase in the national minimum wage to $15 — supporting a movement that has gained traction among workers and advocates nationwide for years.
Presently, the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour and hasn’t been changed in more than a decade. The law sets the minimum nationwide, but states can set their base wage level higher — and most do. Fourteen states require only the federal minimum.
Biden’s directive instructs the federal government to start the work that would allow him to raise the wage within his first 100 days.
“No one in America should work 40 hours a week making below the poverty line,” Biden said. “Fifteen dollars gets people above the poverty line.”
The second order aims to provide more assistance to Americans who are out of work or struggling to buy food, largely as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
His directive instructs the Department of Agriculture to increase benefits by 15%, which would give a family with three children more than $100 in additional support every two months.
It also directs the department to consider allowing states to raise food stamp benefits for 12 million Americans who didn’t receive an earlier increase in emergency allotments.
Biden’s orders come one day after the Labor Department said 900,000 more U.S. workers have filed new unemployment claims. Nearly a million workers filed for new benefits the previous week.
“We’re at a precarious moment in our economy,” White House national economic director Brian Deese said on Thursday. “We saw again today 900,000 new claims for unemployment insurance, another week at a level above any week during the Great Recession.
“More than 10 million Americans are out of work, 14 million Americans are behind on their rent and nearly 30 million adults and as many as 12 million children are experiencing food insecurity.”
Since he was inaugurated on Wednesday, Biden has signed a number of executive orders that seek to increase help for Americans and reverse policies of the former Trump administration. The orders so far have addressed issues like the federal pandemic response, climate change and immigration.