President Biden ordering economic help as $1.9T relief talks begin

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WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — President Joe Biden took executive action Friday to provide financial relief measures to millions of Americans while Congress begins to consider his much larger $1.9 trillion package to help those affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden signed two executive orders regarding economic relief related to the COVID-19 pandemic and protections for federal workers. The orders increase food aid, protects job seekers on unemployment and clear a path for federal workers and contractors to get a $15 hourly minimum wage.

President Biden said the COVID-19 stimulus check in December was “just the down payment.” He said investment in the American people will grow the economy.

“We need to act. If we act now our economy will be stronger,” Biden said. “If we act now we can better compete across the world. We need to act like we’re in a national crisis.”

Biden reassured that his plan will provide solutions to fix the nation’s economic crisis.

“The American people cannot afford to wait,” said Brian Deese, director of the White House National Economic Council. “So many are hanging by a thread. They need help, and we’re committed to doing everything we can to provide that help as quickly as possible.”

These orders arrive as the Biden White House has declined to provide a timeline for getting its proposed relief package through, saying that officials are beginning to schedule meetings with lawmakers to discuss the proposal as early as Sunday.

But not all components of the package are popular among Republicans, and that could delay passage.

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., said that the push for a higher minimum wage comes at a time when thousands of small businesses like restaurants have gone out of business and that it would lead to more job losses.

Most economists believe the United States can rebound with strength once people are vaccinated from the coronavirus, but the situation is still dire. The latest report released by the Labor Department Thursday shows that the number of people filing for jobless benefits was 900,000. That’s a slight decrease from the previous week but still a historically high level.

New viral infections remain high, averaging about 200,000 a day. The number of deaths in the United States from COVID-19 surpassed 400,000 Tuesday.

Biden signed 10 pandemic-related executive orders on his first full day in office Thursday, aimed at jump-starting his national COVID-19 strategy. He also signed 15 executive orders on Inauguration Day.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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