Posts tagged with "Executive Orders"

Education Department writes to Texas and Florida governors—backing schools amid mask mandate fight

August 17, 2021

On Friday, August 13, the U.S. Department of Education sent letters Friday to the Republican governors of Texas and Florida, as well as Florida school administrators, amid an escalating battle between the White House and state officials over school mask guidance as the Delta variant of COVID-19 surges, reports CNN.

In the latest letters to Governors Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona stressed that their respective states’ school mask policies go against “science-based strategies for preventing the spread of COVID-19” and sharply voiced the Biden administration’s support for the states’ educators.

Cardona wrote to DeSantis that he is “deeply concerned” by the governor’s executive order, issued last month, directing health and education departments to leave it to parents to decide if students wear masks. Cardona also took aim at the recent threat from the governor’s office that the state board of education could move to withhold the salaries of superintendents and school board members who disregard his executive order, which effectively prohibits mask mandates.

“The Department recognizes that several school districts in your State have already moved to adopt such policies in line with guidance from the CDC for the reopening and operation of school facilities despite the State level prohibitions. The Department stands with these dedicated educators who are working to safely reopen schools and maintain safe in-person instruction,” Cardona wrote in the letter, which was also addressed to Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran.

In Texas, Abbott prohibits mask mandatesbut two judges there have issued restraining orders temporarily blocking the enforcement of his order. Cardona sent a similar warning to Abbott and the state’s education commissioner, Mike Morath, underscoring that “Texas’s recent actions to block school districts from voluntarily adopting science-based strategies for preventing the spread of COVID-19 that are aligned with the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) puts these goals at risk and may infringe upon a school district’s authority to adopt policies to protect students and educators as they develop their safe return to in-person instruction plans required by Federal law.”

Cardona’s direct messages come as President Joe Biden and members of his administration have specifically targeted the governors of Florida and Texas for standing in the way of mask and vaccine requirements—pointing to the extraordinary number of COVID cases and hospitalizations in their states.

CNN’s requests for comment from the offices of both governors and state education commissioners were not immediately returned Friday.

In Friday’s letter to DeSantis and Corcoran, Cardona pointed to how Florida school districts can use funds from federal COVID relief for educators’ salaries, noting that “any threat by Florida to withhold salaries from superintendents and school board members who are working to protect students and educators (or to levy other financial penalties) can be addressed using ESSER funds at the sole and complete discretion of Florida school districts.”

In the letter to the Florida Association of School Administrators on Friday, Cardona further emphasized the administration’s support for the state’s educators: “I want you to know that the U.S. Department of Education stands with you. Your decisions are vital to safely reopen schools and maintain safe in-person instruction, and they are undoubtedly in the best interest of your students.”

Research contact: @CNN

Biden plans executive action to expand food stamps and speed stimulus checks

January 25, 2021

President Joe Biden plans to issue two Executive Orders on Friday, January 22—aimed at speeding additional federal aid to American families struggling to afford food amid the COVID-19 pandemic; as well as at helping workers stay safe on the job, The New York Times reports.

Biden, who has vowed to use the power of the presidency to help mitigate economic fallout from the pandemic, will also direct the Treasury Department, now to be helmed by Janet Yellen, to find ways to deliver stimulus checks to millions of eligible Americans who have not yet received the funds.

The president also plans to sign a second Executive Order that will lay the groundwork for the federal government to institute a $15 an hour minimum wage for its employees and contract workers, while making it easier for federal workers to bargain collectively for better pay and benefits.

The actions are part of an attempt by Mr. Biden to override his predecessor, former President Donald J. Trump, on issues pertaining to workers, the economym and the federal safety net, the Times notes. The orders Biden will sign on Friday signal a break from the Trump Administration’s attempts to limit the scope of many federal benefits that Trump officials said created a disincentive for Americans to work.

Mr. Biden has issued a series of economic orders in his first days in the White House, which his aides have cast as emergency relief for Americans struggling in the Covid economy. He has also called on Congress to approve a $1.9 trillion economic rescue package in the coming weeks.

“We are at a precarious moment in our economy,” Brian Deese, who directs the National Economic Council, told reporters in a call previewing the orders. “The American people cannot afford to wait. So many are hanging by a thread.”

The orders that Biden is signing are intended to increase the weekly value of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, commonly known as food stamps, for about 12 million families who depend on the program the most, according to White House estimates. The aid would increase weekly benefits by 15% to 20% for a family of four, Deese said. Congress approved enhanced benefits as part of its economic aid efforts last year, but the Trump administration did not expand benefits for households receiving the maximum benefit under the program.

The order also will increase the value of an emergency benefit, also included in economic rescue legislation, to provide money for families to replace the free meals students would have been receiving at school before the pandemic forced students out of classrooms. That expansion would amount to an extra $100 every two months for a family of three.

The president also will seek to allow workers to draw unemployment benefits if they quit jobs they fear are unsafe amid the pandemic, by asserting “that workers have a federally guaranteed right to refuse employment that will jeopardize their health, and if they do so, they will still qualify for unemployment insurance,” White House officials said in a fact sheet detailing the orders.

To help struggling individuals and families, Mr. Biden will direct the Treasury Department to find new ways to get stimulus checks, including $600 checks passed in December and $1,200 checks passed in March, to as many as eight million eligible people who have not yet received them.

The second order also will direct federal agencies to determine which of their workers earn less than $15 an hour, and to develop “recommendations to promote a $15 per hour minimum wage for them,” the fact sheet said.  Biden has called on Congress to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for all workers.

Research contact: @nytimes

 

President Biden to sign executive actions aimed at ending COVID pandemic

January 22, 2021

On first full day in the Oval Office, President Joe Biden is expected to sign a second set of executive actions, aimed at making good on his plans to use the might of the federal government to end the coronavirus pandemic, The Guardian reports.

His administration plans a coordinated federal coronavirus response aimed at restoring trust in the government and focused on boosting vaccines, increasing testing, reopening schools, and addressing inequalities thrown up by the disease.

“We can and will beat COVID-19. America deserves a response to the COVID-19 pandemic that is driven by science, data and public health—not politics,” the White House said in a statement outlining the administration’s national strategy on COVID-19 response and pandemic preparedness.

The administration’s new strategy is based around seven major goals:

  1. Restoring public trust in government efforts;
  2. Getting more vaccine doses into more arms;
  3. Mitigating the spread—including mask mandates;
  4. Emergency economic relief;
  5. A strategy to get schools and workers functioning ag;
  6. Establishing an equity task force to address disparities in suffering involving issues of race, ethnicity and geography; and
  7. Preparing for future threats.

According to The Guardian, Biden has pledged to vaccinate 100 million people in 100 days and reverse the impact of a year of mismanaged response under Donald Trump that saw more than 400,000 people die and more than 24 million infected – by far the worst rates in the world.

But his executive orders are set to go far beyond just boosting vaccination efforts.

The 46th U.S. president plans to re-engage with the World Health Organization—a reversal from the Trump administration’s move to cut ties during the pandemic. In other moves, the new administration says it plans to set up pandemic testing and vaccination sites, and devise a speedy vaccine distribution program.

On traveling, Biden will sign an executive order requiring people to wear a mask on trains, airplanes and maritime vessels. Another Health and Human Services to give guidance on safely reopening schools.

Biden also will release a presidential memorandum utilizing the FEMA disaster relief fund for providing reimbursement for personal protective equipment (PPE), cleaning, and costs needed to safely reopen schools.

The Biden administration is also looking to fix supply shortfalls. Biden plans to direct federal agencies to fulfill supply shortfalls using the Defense Production Act.

Biden will restore a White House team on global health risks set up under Barack Obama and dismantled under Donald Trump.

The executive orders aim to help people of color in particular. One will set up the COVID-19 health equity taskforce.

Biden will issue an order to develop a national strategy to reopen schools, hoping to meet his goal of having most elementary and middle schools open within his first 100 days in office and will ask Congress to provide $130 billion additional aid to schools, $35 billion for colleges and universities, $25 billion for child care centers at risk of closing and $15 billion in childcare aid for struggling families.

Research contact: @GuardianUS

UN Human Rights Office condemns U.S. separation of immigrant children and parents

June 7, 2018

The current policy in the United States of separating “extremely young children” from their asylum-seeker or migrant parents along the country’s southern border “always constitutes a child rights violation,” the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR), said on June 5.

Since last October, “several hundred” youngsters —including a 12-month-old infant— have been separated from their families while their parents serve out prison sentences for entering the U.S. illegally, or wait in detention while their asylum claims are processed, OHCHR spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani said at a press conference in Geneva, Switzerland..

She said OHCHR had received information on cases dating from last October; although the policy had begun in January 2017 when the newly inaugurated president, Donald Trump, issued two executive orders related to migration.

The current separation of children “was a direct consequence of that decision,” Shamdasani said, adding that the policy is applied to asylum-seekers and other migrants “in vulnerable situations.” She noted that a class action has been brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, on behalf of hundreds of parents—mainly from Central and Latin American countries—who have been separated from their children.

Shamdasani noted that there is “nothing normal about detaining children”, and that it “… is never in the best interests of the child and always constitutes a child rights violation”.

And on the legal issue of entering a country “without the right papers”, the UN human rights office spokesperson insisted that it should not be a criminal offence and “does not warrant jailing children”.

Once separated from their parents, Shamdasani said that children are often transferred into the care of the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement, and that efforts are made to find them a temporary guardian. When their parents are released, youngsters are reunited with them and deported back to their country of origin. For the majority this means to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, where “rampant insecurity and violence” has forced them to flee, she explained.

In a call for an end to the practice, Shamdasani noted that the United States “generally held in high regard” the rights of children.

And although it is the only UN Member State not to have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, it had signed the international accord and ratified others, which meant that it had legal obligations to children in its car, the OHCHR spokesperson explained.

For its own part, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security says 700 children have been separated from their parents since the fiscal year began last October. In making the case for the program early last month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said, “If you are smuggling a child then we will prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you as required by law,” NBC News reported. Sessions added, “If you don’t like that, then don’t smuggle children over our border.”

Administration officials explained that the goal of the program is 100% prosecution of all who enter the U.S. illegally. When adults are prosecuted and jailed, their children will be separated from them, just as would happen for a U.S. citizen convicted and jailed.

President Trump, himself, has said that the Democrats are to blame, because they will not fund his wall at the southern border.

Based on findings of an Ipsos poll conducted in February, fewer than one in five Democrats (18%) support building a wall or fence along the entire U.S.-Mexico border, while two-thirds of Republicans (68%) support the measure. A majority of Republicans (63%) also support a movement to end the ability of legal immigrants to bring extended family members to the United States compared to 30% of Democrats and 49% of Independents.

Notably, two-thirds of all Americans (65%) support giving legal status to undocumented or illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children, although partisan differences are still evident. Half of Republicans (51%) support this plan, along with two-thirds of Independents, and 81% of Democrats.

Research contact: @ipsosus