Describing a catastrophic health and economic situation for millions of Americans, President Joe Biden estimated Friday that the toll of the epidemic could exceed 600,000 dead. The new tenant of the White House has also started signing the first decrees to help those hardest hit by the crisis.
The health and economic crisis “worsens” according to Joe Biden. The new president on Friday, January 22, painted a grim picture of the situation in the United States, as he signed the first executive orders promising immediate help to millions of hungry unemployed Americans.
Describing an America “in pain” and urging both Democrats and Republicans to “act quickly”, the president estimated that the toll of the Covid-19 epidemic in the United States, of more than 400,000 currently dead, “could reach well over 600,000 “deaths.
“Families are hungry. People are being evicted. Job losses are on the rise again. We must act now,” insisted the president before signing two decrees aimed at increasing food aid in the country and strengthening social rights.
Two days after his inauguration, the new American president thus continues to list his priorities with presidential decisions.
Overwhelmed food banks
In three days, he will have taken nearly thirty. Joe Biden, who wants to go fast, also saw a key member of his government being confirmed by the Senate on Friday: Defense Minister Lloyd Austin. Votes on the nominations of Foreign Ministers Antony Blinken and Economy and Finance Minister Janet Yellen are expected to follow.
“One in seven households in America, one in seven, and more than one in five in black and Latino households report that they do not have enough to eat,” Biden exclaimed. “This includes almost 30 million adults and 12 million children, and they have nothing to do with it. It is scandalous,” he added.
In the United States, where schools provided daily meals to students from poor families, 12 million children are no longer fed in institutions. Some 600,000 people have lost their teaching jobs, said Joe Biden.
In cities, soup kitchens have grown longer and food banks are overwhelmed, including in affluent suburbs of the federal capital Washington.
Joe Biden will ask the Department of Agriculture to expand and relax its Assistance Program for Individuals and Families with Low or No Income (SNAP), which replaced the Food Stamps program, which allowed low-income families to purchase basic food items from licensed stores.
The electronic card EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer), having succeeded the tickets of 1, 5 and 10 dollars, should be increased by 15%. Currently, it offers up to $ 5.70 a day per child in school.
These emergency initiatives precede “a rescue plan” for the economy that will “tackle the pandemic and provide direct financial assistance to Americans who need it most,” the president continued, referring to the plan. $ 1.9 trillion in aid.
It would bring in particular, added the president, a direct payment of 2,000 dollars in total – including the 600 dollars already provided recently under the administration of Donald Trump – to the households which need it most.
Joe Biden, who has a very slim majority in Congress, insisted the plan “received bipartisan support from a majority of mayors and governors.”
“Even Wall Street firms have emphasized its importance,” he said, citing an economic study by Moody’s which said the bailout would create 7.5 million jobs this year.
“I do not believe that it is Democrats or Republicans who are hungry and lose their jobs. I believe that they are Americans (…) and we have the tools to stop that,” he insisted.
The new White House host recalled that 16 million Americans were living on unemployment benefits and that 14 million of them were already behind on their rents, risking eviction.
Unemployment on the rise
The second signed decree should improve social rights so that it is possible to refuse a job if it risks endangering the health of the employee, without losing their unemployment rights.
Among the immediate economic measures, Joe Biden had already issued an executive order to extend the moratorium on housing evictions for unpaid rents.
Unemployment stood at 6.7% in December, a far cry from 3.5% a year ago, before the outbreak of the pandemic.
The president reiterated his call for an increase in the federal minimum hourly wage to $ 15 from the current $ 7.25, although in fact it is already higher in half of the states.
“No one in America should be working 40 hours a week to stay below the poverty line. $ 15 an hour puts these people above the poverty line,” he said.