The order directs the Department of Agriculture to increase Pandemic-EBT benefits by 15%. The Pandemic-EBT program was created last spring to help replace the subsidized or free meals that tens of millions of children normally get at school. The order also aims to allow states to increase SNAP emergency benefits for those most in need.
The presidential executive order continues the temporary suspension of payments and interest accrual on federal student loans held by the Department of Education until Sept. 30, 2021.
Environment and Energy
Climate Crisis – New Oil Leases Halted, Task Forces Formed, Environmental Justice Commissions Created
On Jan. 27, President Joe Biden issued an executive order to address the “climate crisis at home and abroad.” The order is aimed at “combating climate change” and not only directs the federal government to consider climate change in federal infrastructure investment and expand environmental justice priorities, but also includes several measures focused on the energy, environment and agricultural sectors.
Most notably, the order temporarily blocked new leases for oil and gas drilling on federal lands and offshore waters pending review, while also directing the federal government to look for ways to increase renewable energy production from offshore wind. Federal agencies were also ordered to “eliminate fossil fuel subsidies,” and to explore new measures to spur innovation and deployment of clean energy-related technologies and infrastructure.
The order directs the White House Council on Environmental Quality and the Office of Management and Budget to ensure that any federal infrastructure investment is made with the reduction in pollution in mind, and reverses rules from the previous administration which prohibited federal agencies from considering the effects of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change in their environmental reviews. The director of national intelligence is called onto develop an estimate on the security implications of climate change, and an interagency National Climate Task Force was developed to address the issue.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is directed to solicit input from farmers, ranchers, and others within the community on how to best use federal programs to encourage agriculture practices which increase carbon storage and reduce carbon emissions. Currently, the USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program pays a yearly rental payment in exchange for farmers removing environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production and for planting species that will improve environmental quality. Additionally, the Department of Interior was called upon to work with USDA, other relevant agencies, and state and local stakeholders, to develop a plan to conserve at least 30% of national lands and waters by 2030.
Among others, the order works to address environmental justice issues by establishing new commissions to address concerns of those communities that live near pollution sources and begins an incentive to ensure 40% of federal investments within energy, transit and other programs are diverted to historically disadvantaged communities.
Executive Order on Environmental and Energy Issues: President Joe Biden issued several presidential actions involving environment and energy issues—ranging from a required review of federal regulations, to the revocation of existing federal permits, and changes to national land and sea monuments.
Notably, the order calls for an immediate review of federal agency actions taken during the previous administration, and if appropriate, to consider “suspending, revising or rescinding” the agency actions. Specifically, the president called for the agencies to consider “publishing for notice and comment a proposed rule suspending, revising, or rescinding,” 104 energy and environmental rules, including those on methane emissions standards, greenhouse gas emission and fuel economy standards, the Environmental Protection Administration’s scientific transparency rulemaking, and several efficiency standard rulemakings.
Additionally, the order placed a temporary moratorium of all activities related to oil and gas leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, pending a new environmental impact analysis, and withdrew additional areas from oil and gas drilling. TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline permit to “construct, connect, operate, and maintain” pipeline facilities was revoked as well.
Within the order, the president established an Interagency Working Group on the Social Costs of Greenhouse Gasses (GHG) to develop a federal amount for the “social cost of carbon,” “social cost of nitrous oxide,” and “social cost of methane,”—the monetized damages associated with incremental increases in the associated GHG emissions. The developed “social costs” would be used in cost-benefit analysis for regulatory actions.
Among other actions, the order also revoked several orders issued by former President Donald Trump related to environmental and energy policy.
Biden signed a letter rejoining the 2015 Paris Agreement, undoing a 2017 decision by Trump. The Paris Agreement aims to limit global temperature rise within this century to below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, with an ideal pursuit of limiting the increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. It does not require specific actions by any country though the agreement enables nations to address rising GHG emissions through a cooperative system that encourages and relies upon transparency and accountability.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
The order would increase the federal cost share for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Public Assistance. The grant would provide 100% reimbursement for the cost of approved non-congregate sheltering in hotels and motels across the country through September 2021, including individuals experiencing homelessness and individuals of congregate living facilities. In addition, the order directs the FEMA to expedite the reimbursement of all eligible emergency work projects and provide an advance of the federal share on a percentage of the expected reimbursement.
Memorandum to Extend Federal Support to Governors’ Use of the National Guard to Respond to COVID-19 and to Increase Reimbursement and Other Assistance Provided to States
This measure directs the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to fund 100% of the cost of activities associated with all mission assignments for the use of the National Guard for COVID-19 response. It directs FEMA to make Public Assistance Grant funding, emergency protective measures, available to state, local governments, tribal and territorial governments for the purpose of safely opening and operating eligible schools, child-care facilities, healthcare facilities, non-congregate shelters, domestic violence shelters, transit systems, and other eligible applicants. The measures specifically mentions personal protective equipment, disinfecting services, and supplies as an eligible expense for schools–reversing a prior administration policy, and in line with prior NCSL advocacy. The order makes this assistance available at a 100% federal cost share until Sept. 30, 2021. The order generally directs FEMA to provide advanced reimbursement for eligible emergency work projects for COVID-19 under the Public Assistance Grant.
Health and Human Services
The order is asking to accelerate the development of novel therapies to treat COVID-19 and improve all Americans’ access to quality and affordable healthcare. This will include having the secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) in consultation with the director of the National Institutes of Health to develop a plan supporting a range of studies, develop a plan with non-governmental partners to support research in rural hospitals and other rural locations and consider steps to ensure that clinical trials include populations that have been historically underrepresented in such trials. The secretary of HHS will also promptly issue recommendations on how states and healthcare providers can increase the capacity of their healthcare workforces to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
The heads of all executive departments and agencies will facilitate the gathering, sharing and publication of COVID-19 related data in coordination with the coordinator of the COVID-19 Response Coordinator. It will assist federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial authorities in developing and implementing policies to facilitate informed community decision-making. Relevant federal agencies will designate a senior official to serve as their agency’s lead to work on COVID-19 and pandemic-related data issues. In consultation with the COVID-19 Response Coordinator these officials will convene on the collection, provision and analysis of data regarding the COVID-19 response and share such data with state, local, tribal and territorial authorities.
The order will allow the secretary of HHS to consider establishing a special enrollment period for uninsured and under-insured Americans to seek health care coverage through the federally facilitated marketplace. Relevant federal secretaries along with the heads of all other executive departments and agencies with authorities and responsibilities related to Medicaid and the ACA will, as soon as practicable, review all existing regulations, orders, guidance documents and policies to determine whether such agency actions are inconsistent with the policy set for in this order. Read the White House fact sheet for more information on the order.
Establishes a national COVID-19 testing and public health workforce strategy including: establishing a COVID-19 Pandemic Testing Board, coordinate federal government efforts to promote COVID-19 diagnostic and surveillance testing, make recommendations to the president with respect to prioritizing the federal government’s assistance to state, local, tribal and territorial authorities in order to expand testing and reduce disparities in access to testing, and identify barriers to access and use of testing to coordinate federal government efforts to increase testing for a variety of communities, populations and settings.
Requests that the secretary of HHS to review the Title X rule from the previous administration and any other regulations governing the Title X program that impose undue restrictions on the use of federal funds or women’s access to complete medical information and shall consider, whether to suspend, revise or rescind or publish for notice and comment proposed rules suspending, revising or rescinding, those regulations.
The federal workforce and individuals interacting with the federal workforce and to ensure the continuity of government services and activities, on-duty or on-site federal employees, on-site federal contractors and other individuals in federal buildings and lands should all wear masks, maintain physical distance and adhere to other public health measures, as provided in CDC guidance. The heads of executive departments and agencies shall immediately act, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law. The director of the Office of Management and Budget, the director of the Office of Personnel Management and the administrator of General Services, in coordination with the President’s Management Council and the coordinator of the COVID-19 response shall promptly issue guidance to assist heads of agencies. Heads of agencies will promptly consult, as appropriate, with state, local, tribal and territorial government officials and other federal employees and related parties.
Creates a position of coordinator of the COVID-19 response and counselor to the president and takes other steps organizing the White House and the activities of the federal government to combat COVID-19 to prepare for future biological and pandemic threats. The coordinator and the position of deputy coordinator of the COVID-19 response will report directly to the president to advise and assist the president and executive departments and agencies in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Duties will include coordinating a government-wide effort to reduce disparities in the response, care and treatment of COVID-19 including racial and ethnic disparities.