CHN: Continuing flurry of executive actions, Biden Administration combats inequality, defends immigrants, and promotes health and science

Back on January 25, when the Biden Administration was just six days old, the Human Needs Report detailed the many executive actions already taken by the President. These actions covered such areas as COVID-19, immigration, climate change, allowing transgender people to serve openly in the military, and economic security, including extending the eviction moratorium, nutrition assistance, and collective bargaining for federal employees as well as a $15 minimum wage.

Since January 25, the Administration’s flurry of activity has continued. Executive actions issued since then addressing human needs issues include:

  • Equity: direct the Department of Housing and Urban Development to address discriminatory housing practices, combat racism against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, direct agencies to engage in consultations with tribal governments, and expand protection of LGBTQ people around the world. In particular, HUD is asked to examine the effects of two rules finalized by the Trump Administration that undermined the Fair Housing Act, one repealing a 2015 rule known as “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing” and the other weakening the use of the “Disparate Impact Standard.” Both of these Trump rules make it far more difficult to enforce against housing discrimination. Since they were finalized, the Biden Administration will need to embark on its own rule-making process to undo the Trump regulations.
  • Immigration: begin ending the “Remain in Mexico” program and restoring the U.S. asylum system; start roll back of the “Public Charge” rule (which imposes a wealth teston would-be immigrants and those who seek green cards), making the use of certain public benefits disqualifying for attaining such legal status; begin a review of other recent barriers to legal immigration; create a task force to reunite families separated at the border; and rebuild the U.S. refugee resettlement program.
  • Health and science: re-establish the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology; direct agencies to make decisions based on the best available science and evidence; reopen enrollment through Obamacare marketplaces and lower barriers to joining Medicaid; and retroactively reimburse states fully for FEMA-eligible costs tied to COVID-19. The Biden Administration has taken first steps to reverse the Trump approvals of Medicaid work requirements, indicating that the pandemic-caused economic downturn makes work requirements especially problematic. On February 12, the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) sent letters to 9 states announcing it was beginning a process to determine whether to withdraw approval of the work requirement Medicaid waivers. It also contacted at least Arkansas to rescind a letter sent by the Trump Administration that tried to lock work requirements in place for 9 months even if the new Administration rules against these waiver requests. Instead, the new Administration said it would provide written notice and opportunity to request a hearing if it chooses to end the work requirements.
  • Criminal justice: end the U.S. Justice Department’s use of private prisons.