WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden, in just his third day on the job, ordered help for hungry Americans Friday in a rush to pull the country from its multi-pronged pandemic crisis.
The latest orders boosting food aid and speeding up stimulus payments were modest in scale but reinforced Biden’s message that he wants to act decisively against coronavirus and the related economic fallout.
It’s a task he is trying to accomplish while simultaneously getting his government confirmed — with defense secretary nominee Lloyd Austin winning Senate approval Friday — and bracing for turmoil from a looming Trump impeachment trial.
“The American people can’t afford to wait,” Brian Deese, director of the White House’s National Economic Council, told reporters.
“So many are hanging by a thread. They need help and we are committed to doing everything we can to provide that help as quickly as possible.” The new administration has brought a calmer style after the stormy Donald Trump era, but Biden’s cascade of executive orders since Wednesday is making plenty of noise of its own.
Day one saw the 78-year-old Democrat sign 17 actions, day two he signed 10, and later Friday he was expected to reach for the box of ceremonial pens to put his signature on two more.
The slew of orders has covered top campaign agenda items, including the political hot potato of immigration reform.
Here, Biden extended protections from deportation for so-called “Dreamers” — children of illegal immigrants who have grown up in the country.
But the offensive is overwhelmingly targeted on a Covid-19 pandemic that the new president described Thursday as a wartime-level catastrophe, with the current toll of more than 400,000 dead likely to hit half a million next month.
He is simultaneously trying to reenergize and expand a faltering vaccination program. Only 16.5 million vaccines have been administered to Americans and Biden is calling for 100 million shots in 100 days.
With unemployment jumping by another 1.3 million applications last week, Biden argues that recovery from the initially catastrophic plunge in the US economy after the pandemic first hit last year is faltering.