Help for those affected
US President Joe Biden signed two decrees intended to assist those Americans most severely affected by the COVID-19 epidemic.
The President ordered the Treasury Department to take steps to speed up the process of issuing financial aid to those in need, e.g. by using special Internet tools for submitting appropriate applications. The executive order also directs the Department of Labour to ensure that employees are not required to accept jobs that jeopardise their health and that they remain eligible for unemployment benefits in the event of dismissal.
President Biden also ordered the Department of Agriculture to develop a plan to increase food aid to needy Americans.
In the early days of his presidency, Biden stresses that he takes the threat posed by COVID-19 extremely seriously. More than 400 000 Americans have died and millions of jobs have been lost as a result of the epidemic.
In signing the decrees at the White House, Biden said: "It is not only a moral imperative; it is an economic imperative". According to the US president, his administration's $1.9 trillion economic aid package, which is being debated in Congress, has been welcomed by business, unions and Wall Street. Republican lawmakers have been negative about the size of the proposed aid, and have proposed an alternative plan to invest in infrastructure, green energy, education and research.
"Many Americans are suffering. The virus continues to spread. Families are beginning to go hungry. People are at risk of losing their homes. Once again, jobs are shrinking. We need to act. Regardless of how it looks, but we need to act", Biden said.
In December, Biden pledged 100 million vaccinations against the coronavirus in the first hundred days of his presidency. On Friday, he suggested that a higher result could be achieved.