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Monthly Legislative Newsletter: February 2021
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The Biden Administration is Off and Running

Immediately after President Biden’s inauguration on January 21, 2021, he and his team got to work. After being sworn in, President Biden went to the White House where he issued a plethora of Executive Actions, throughout his first week in office, that affect immigration, public health, COVID-19 response, climate, international travel, and discrimination.

After issuing these orders, President Biden received criticism from House and Senate Republicans stating that unilateral Executive Action is not working in a bipartisan way and will not help Biden’s goal of uniting the country.

In addition to President Biden’s Executive Actions, he released a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus plan that provides money for states and local governments, individual stimulus checks, funding for vaccine distribution, and more money for hospitals. That plan was also met with opposition by House and Senate Republicans, stating that it is too expensive and does not provide the targeted relief that is needed. President Biden indicated that he is more than willing to work with Republicans to find a bipartisan COVID-19 deal, however he would also consider using budget reconciliation, a parliamentary process that is filibuster proof, to pass his plan should a
bipartisan agreement not be reached.

Below you will find more information on President Biden’s Executive Actions related to health, President Biden’s COVID-19 relief plan, and budget reconciliation.

President Biden’s Executive Orders on Health

In his first week in office, President Biden issued a number of Executive Actions aimed at public health, COVID-19 mitigation, and the health supply chain. Below you will find relevant Executive Actions with short summaries.

Executive Order on Strengthening Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act
This Executive Order, issued on January 28, 2021, issues a special enrollment period for uninsured and under-insured Americans to seek coverage through the Federally Facilitated Marketplace. Additionally, the order directs all departments and agencies with authorities related to Medicaid and ACA to review existing regulations, orders, guidance, and policy to determine if they are inconsistent with the new Biden administration policy.

Executive Order on Establishing the COVID-19 Pandemic Testing Board and Ensuring a Sustainable Public Health Workforce for COVID-19 and Other Biological Threats
This Executive Order, issued on January 21, 2021, uses a government-wide approach to establish a COVID-19 testing and workforce strategy, increase the supply of tests, bring test manufacturing to the United States, enhance laboratory testing capacity, work to expand the public health workforce, and support screening testing for schools and other priority populations. The order also establishes a COVID-19 Pandemic Testing Board that is made up by representatives from executive departments and agencies and chaired by the COVID-19 Response Coordinator. The board’s mission is to support the implementation and oversight of the policies detailed above.

Executive Order on Protecting Worker Health and Safety
This Executive Order, issued on January 21, 2021, directs federal agencies, primarily the Secretary of Labor, to review worker protections and improve these protections if necessary in
light of the COVID-19 pandemic. For workers not covered by OSHA, the order directs federal agencies, including the Department of Transportation, to explore mechanisms to protect workers. 

Executive Order on Supporting the Reopening and Continuing Operation of Schools and Early
Childhood Education Providers

This Executive Order, issued on January 21, 2021, directs the Secretary of Education, in consultation with the Secretary of Health and Human Services, to provide evidenced based guidance to assist States, elementary and secondary schools, and institutions of higher education on how and whether to reopen. The order also requires the Secretary of Education, in consultation with the Secretary of Health and Human Services to issue guidance on how to safely conduct in-person learning and implement mitigation measures. In doing this, they are also ordered to establish various mechanisms for States, schools, and other education institutions to share best practices. The order also directs the Department of Education to collect data on how the pandemic has affected various groups of students.

Executive Order on Ensuring an Equitable Pandemic Response and Recovery
This Executive Order, issued on January 21, 2021, establishes a COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force within the Department of Health and Human Services. The task force shall provide specific recommendations to the President for mitigating health inequities caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the ultimate goal of preventing such inequities in the future. Additionally, all other agencies are directed to consult with the Health Equity Task Force when making decisions on pandemic response that could cause health inequities.

Executive Order on a Sustainable Public Health Supply Chain
This Executive Order, issued on January 21, 2021, calls for immediate action to secure supplies that are necessary for responding to the pandemic. These supplies need to be and remain available to the Federal, State, local, Tribal, and territorial authorities, as well as America’s health care workers and patients. In order to do this, the order calls for immediate inventory of response supplies and the identification of emergency needs. Additionally, the order directs the heads of departments and agencies to address the pricing of pandemic response supplies and to develop a pandemic supply chain resilience strategy.