Biden-Harris administration's first 100 days: What parents and caregivers can expect
The first 100 days of any presidency are an important time. It’s a time to enact impactful policy changes that set the tone of the presidency and to act on promises made to voters during the election.
Former president Franklin Delano Roosevelt set the standard for a whirlwind of accomplishment and change during the first 100 days when he oversaw the passing of 76 new laws within his early presidency in 1933. The Biden-Harris administration faces extraordinary challenges due to the pandemic and subsequent economic downturn, and many are hoping for a similarly rapid and comprehensive response.
During his campaign, President-elect Joe Biden made a number of promises related to combatting COVID-19, repairing the economy, addressing ongoing issues in health care and education and improving the lives of working parents. Here’s what we know so far about what the soon-to-be president plans to accomplish for parents and caregivers when he takes office on January 20.
COVID-19 pandemic response
The pandemic is the most pressing issue the United States faces. In a briefing on Tuesday, December 8, President-elect Biden detailed a three-point plan his administration will put into place immediately upon taking office to combat COVID-19.
Vaccines: Aim to distribute 100 million vaccines during the first 100 days of the Biden-Harris administration. Vaccines for health care workers, residents in long term care facilities, educators and other high-risk populations will be prioritized.
Mask mandate: Biden has pledged to sign an executive order on his first day in office that mandates masks on public transportation, in federal buildings and in any other location where the federal government holds authority.
Re-open schools: Enable “the most schools possible” to re-open within 100 days. Biden has called on Congress to pass funding for personal protective equipment (PPE) and other needs to make it safe for all students and teachers to return to class.
The administration’s coronavirus response will be led by a panel of experts that includes Dr. David Kessler, a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner; former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy; and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, an associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at Yale School of Medicine. Biden has also pledged to rejoin the World Health Organization (WHO) on his first day in office.
Aid for caregivers
Caregivers are among the hardest hit by the pandemic, and many need immediate support. Biden has both short and long-term plans to address ongoing problems within caregiving. The Biden-Harris transition website lists the following as immediate priorities:
Emergency funding: Biden has pledged to “immediately provide states, tribal, and local governments with the fiscal relief they need to keep workers employed and keep vital public services running, including direct care and child care services.” This may include a “restart package” that helps small businesses, like day cares, reopen and cover the costs of operating safely, including things like plexiglass and PPE.
Pandemic support: Biden plans to use the Defense Production Act, a federal law that gives presidents the authority to expedite and expand the production of materials needed for national defense, to ramp up production of masks, face shields and other PPE.
Improving working conditions: Biden plans to increase pay and benefits for caregivers, including making the minimum wage at least $15 per hour. Additionally, he’d like to promote union organization for caregivers to give workers more collective bargaining power.
It’s unclear how quickly these priorities will be carried out. While they are listed as transition goals, the administration has not committed to a specific timeline. Pandemic-related goals will likely take priority. Pay raises and other improvements may also be dependent upon cooperation from Congress.
In the long-term, Biden has proposed a comprehensive plan for expanding and improving caregiving roles in the U.S. In addition to higher pay, increased benefits and support for unions, Biden also plans to establish a fund to support innovations in care, offer a $5,000 tax credit to informal caregivers, create three million new care jobs and expand the Indian Health Service, which provides care for Native Americans and Alaska Natives. These are all a part of Biden’s plan for economic recovery, which will cost about $775 billion over 10 years.
Child care and benefits for working parents
During his presidential campaign, Biden put forth many proposals for addressing the needs of working families. The Biden-Harris administration’s transition goals include two major proposals that would specifically benefit working families:
Paid leave: The president-elect has pledged to sign legislation mandating 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave for every working American.
Equal pay protections: Encourage Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would increase penalties for violations of equal pay provisions and protect employees’ rights to disclose their income. The main aim of the legislation is to address wage discrimination on the basis of sex, which would be a win for working moms.
Long-term, Biden has proposed that families making less than $125,000 annually be offered a child care tax credit of up to $8,000. Under his plan, families making between $125,000 and $400,000 would receive a partial tax credit. A sliding scale child care payment option would be available to low-income and middle-class families who would prefer that option over a tax credit.
The cost of these proposals would be covered under Biden’s $775 billion economic recovery plan. At the time of this writing, deadlines have not been set for accomplishing these goals.
Biden’s contributions to health care in the first 100 days will likely center around his pandemic response. In addition to his three-pronged attack plan for combating the virus, transition goals also include:
Making COVID-19 vaccines free: Biden plans to invest $25 billion in a vaccine manufacturing and distribution plan that will guarantee it gets to every American, cost-free.
Establishing a US Public Health Jobs Corps: This would employ 100,000 Americans to perform contact tracing and protect at-risk populations from COVID-19.
Addressing inequalities in healthcare: Vice President-elect Harris has proposed a COVID-19 Racial and Ethnic Disparities Task Force to provide recommendations and oversight on disparities in the public health response to the pandemic.
Biden and Harris have also proposed lowering health care premiums, reducing the price of prescription drugs and adding a public health insurance option, like Medicare, for all Americans. Many of Biden’s campaign promises about health care hinge on expanding the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which is currently under review by the Supreme Court.
In November, the Supreme Court began hearings on a challenge to the ACA’s legality that could ultimately unravel existing provisions on guaranteed coverage for pre-existing medical conditions, emergency care, prescription drugs and maternity care. A decision from the court is expected in spring 2021, and many long-term health care fixes may be on hold until then.
Improvements in education
During his first 100 days, the president-elect is facing mounting pressure to eliminate a majority of federal student loan debt. On December 17, U.S. Representatives Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, Alma Adams and Maxine Waters introduced a resolution urging Biden to act immediately to forgive $50,000 of federal debt for student borrowers.
Prior to the election, Biden expressed support for legislation that would cancel $10,000 of debt per borrower. He has not specified when or if he will take immediate action on this.
Biden and Harris also previously laid out ambitious plans for addressing the needs of students and teachers. It’s unclear if we’ll see movement on these plans during the first 100 days, beyond the proposal for emergency COVID-19 funding to reopen schools.
One important step Biden has already taken is his promise to replace current Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos with a teacher.
Other education goals Biden and Harris may begin work on include:
Legislation to provide universal preschool to 3- and 4-year-old children.
Legislation to ensure teachers receive a competitive wage and benefits.
Increased funding for Title I schools
Doubling the number of psychologists, counselors, nurses, social workers and other health professionals in schools.
Making public colleges and universities tuition-free for all students whose family incomes are below $125,000.
With January 20 right around the corner, the U.S. will soon see just how much of this sweeping agenda — aimed at addressing some of the country’s most urgent issues — the Biden administration will be able to tackle right out the gate.
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