It has been 36 days since Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States —it feels both like it was just yesterday and a million years ago.
After a chaotic and traumatizing four years where Americans — and indeed, the world — were constantly on the edge of their seats, dreading what the 45th president would do next, these past 27 days have seemed almost…uneventful?
But don’t let the lack of melodrama and hysterics fool you. So far, President Biden has accomplished quite a lot in the little over a month he’s been in office.
Before he was sworn in, Biden vowed to dedicate his first 100 days to tackling four major crises: COVID-19, the economy, immigration, human rights, and climate change.
Because of our legislative system’s constraints, much of these promises had to be fulfilled via executive orders — a process in which the president writes and signs a directive that is immediately adopted as law.
While, as of now, Biden has signed 29 executive orders, there are a few that garnered the most headlines and, ultimately, a few that will make the biggest impact on Americans’ lives.
Of course, the most pressing crisis and the topic at the top of everyone’s minds (because there is literally no escaping it) is how the country will move forward amid this devastating pandemic. After the disastrous handling of the COVID-19 crisis by the previous administration, Biden pledged to allocate immense amounts of energy, resources, and time to curb the spread of the virus and distribute as many vaccines to as many Americans as possible. Biden signed the below pandemic-related executive orders:
- Requiring Mask-Wearing on Federal Grounds: The “Executive Order on Protecting the Federal Workforce and Requiring Mask-Wearing” directs federal employees to wear masks while at work and directs agencies to help curb the spread of the virus through other methods like social distancing.
- Expanding COVID-19 care: This “Executive Order on Improving and Expanding Access to Care and Treatments for COVID-19” works to combat the virus by providing more funding to state and local governments. The goal is to get Americans access to better medicine and more affordable, quality healthcare.
- A Sustainable Public Health Supply Chain: Biden enacted the Defense Production Act to compel able companies to create the supplies needed to combat the pandemic.
- “Economic Relief Related to the COVID-19 Pandemic”: In this order, Biden writes: “All executive departments and agencies (agencies) shall promptly identify actions they can take within existing authorities to address the current economic crisis resulting from the pandemic.”
Immigration & Human Rights Actions
The previous administration’s veritable trademark was their xenophobic and inhumane approach to human rights issues — like immigration policy and combating structural racism. Biden pledged to provide “a clear road map to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants.” He also vowed he would “make this an era of action to reverse systemic racism with long overdue and concrete changes.” See what orders he signed below:
- Ending Private, For-Profit Prisons: This order aims to “reduce profit-based incentives to incarcerate” by phasing out the federal government’s reliance on private, for-profit prisons.
- Strengthening DACA: This order seeks to strengthen and fortify the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals act in order to enable undocumented immigrants “to support themselves and their families, and to contribute to our economy.”
- Terminating Construction of Trump’s Border Wall: In this executive order, President Biden wrote: “It shall be the policy of my Administration that no more American taxpayer dollars be diverted to construct a border wall.”
- Ending Muslim Ban: This order ended Trump’s “ban” on immigrants from Muslim-majority countries. “We will not turn our backs on our values with discriminatory bans on entry into the United States.”
- “Enabling All Qualified Americans to Serve Their Country in Uniform”: In this order, Biden wrote: “It shall be the policy of the United States to ensure that all transgender individuals who wish to serve in the United States military and can meet the appropriate standards shall be able to do so openly and free from discrimination.”
- Immigration “Task Force” Aimed at Reunifying families: Biden wrote: “My Administration will protect family unity and ensure that children entering the United States are not separated from their families, except in the most extreme circumstances where a separation is clearly necessary for the safety and well-being of the child or is required by law.”
Climate Change & Environmental Actions
Immediately upon entering office, former President Trump removed any mention of the phrase “climate change” from the EPA’s website. But President Biden has always been inclined to listen to scientists. Before taking office, he promised he would rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement on Day One. And that he did.
He also signed a comprehensive executive order, “On Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis,” that did the following:
- Created goals to conserve at least 30% of US lands and oceans by 2030.
- Pause oil and drilling on federal lands “to the extent possible.”
- Directed federal agencies to make “evidence-based decisions guided by the best available science and data.”
- Canceled the Keystone XL Pipeline.
In 2020, Americans lost 30 million jobs by May. Unemployment rose from 3.5% to 14.7% in mid-April. By December 2020, unemployment rates were still at a whopping 7.9%. An incompetent administration and a gridlocked GOP-controlled Senate did next-to-nothing to bring relief to millions of struggling Americans. As soon as Joe Biden took office, he did the following:
- Further pausing student federal loan payments: “Too many Americans are struggling to pay for basic necessities and to provide for their families,” he wrote. “They should not be forced to choose between paying their student loans and putting food on the table.”
- Moratorium on evictions: “President-elect Biden is asking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to consider immediately extending the federal eviction moratorium until at least March 31, 2021, while calling on Congress to provide much-needed rental assistance and extend it further.”
- COVID-19 Economic relief: This order guarantees unemployment wages to those infected with COVID-19, expands the food stamp program and asks the Treasury Department to “specifically consider actions that facilitate better use of data” when it comes to coordinating with confused and desperate Americans.
So as you can see, there is still a long way to go, but progress is indeed happening.