Saturday Snippets is a regular weekend feature of Daily Kos.
President Biden on Friday signed two executive orders to help Americans struggling with the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. Noting that one in seven American households (and one in five Black and Latino households) “report they do not have enough food to eat”—30 million adults and 12 million children—Biden said this is unconscionable. The Biden-Harris team has put forth a $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan designed to provide more help, delivering additional food and emergency financial assistance to millions. “But families literally can’t wait another day,” Biden said in brief remarks before signing. Moreover, the rescue plan will require a vote in Congress whose outcome is in no way certain. Biden ordered the Department of Agriculture to take immediate steps to make it easier for the hardest hit families to enroll and claim more generous benefits in food assistance. “Nobody should have to choose between their livelihood and their own health or the health of their loved ones in the middle of a pandemic,” Biden said, adding that he expects the Department of Labor to guarantee people the right to refuse employment that would normally jeopardize their health and still remain eligible for unemployment benefits.
Specifics include boosting the amount of money a family with three children can claim for missing free or subsidized lunches because of school closures by about $100 over two months, a 15% increase. The USDA will also look into making sure that congressionally mandated emergency increases in SNAP (food stamp) benefits actually get to all the eligible low-income people, which is not now the case. That is calculated to help 12 million Americans. The Thrifty Food Plan currently provides the basis for calculating how much a healthy, adequate diet costs. But the plan is outdated and SNAP benefits need to be increased to account for this. Because some eligible Americans have still not received the direct stimulus payments Congress authorized in December, the Department of the Treasury will engage in outreach and other methods to reach those who have not yet seen these payments, estimated at more than 1 million. A survey showed that less than 40% of service workers furloughed by the pandemic received their unemployment benefits in a timely way. As a result, federal “Benefit Delivery Teams” will be established to find and get unemployment benefits to Americans who haven’t received them. In addition, a review of boosting the minimum wage of all federal workers to $15 an hour restores collective bargaining protections.