- The Washington Times - Friday, January 22, 2021

President Biden signed executive orders on Friday designed to strengthen labor rights among the federal workforce and boost emergency food and unemployment benefits, saying people muddling through the current economy need immediate help.

“We cannot, will not let people go hungry,” Mr. Biden said at the White House. “We cannot watch people lose their jobs.”

Mr. Biden moved to revoke a trio of executive orders from former President Trump that put restrictions on the timeline for federal employees to course-correct poor performance and curtailed their ability to pursue grievances on official time.

Mr. Biden also reversed an order from Mr. Trump that made it easier to fire certain civil servants.

All of those efforts under Mr. Trump had been challenged in the courts.

One of the orders Mr. Biden signed Friday said it’s the policy of the United States “to protect, empower and rebuild the career federal workforce.”

“It is also the policy of the United States to encourage union organizing and collective bargaining,” the order said. “The federal government should serve as a model employer.”

The order directs the administration to produce a report on how to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour for federal employees.

Mr. Biden signed another executive order that directed executive departments and agencies to identify the steps they can take within existing authorities to address the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

In response, the Treasury Department said it would work to get previously authorized direct payments to eligible households.

The Agriculture Department also announced Friday it would work to increase emergency food benefits.

Mr. Biden rolled out a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package last week that includes direct aid to individuals, states, localities, and businesses.

He said Friday that he looks forward to working with members of both parties to move “quickly” on getting the package through Congress.

Brian Deese, one of Mr. Biden‘s top economic advisers, is planning to talk about the plan with a bipartisan group of senators over the weekend.

Congressional Republicans have already signaled they’re not going to go along with major parts of the framework.

They’ve been outspoken in their opposition to Mr. Biden‘s proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, saying that struggling small businesses won’t be able to afford it.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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