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Saturday, 23 January 2021

Joe Biden warns U.S. faces more than 600,000 COVID deaths, days after total passing 400,000, as he signs more orders to aid economy

 President Joe Biden warned Friday that  the United States faces more than 600,000 COVID deaths as he signed executive orders aimed at helping deal with its impact.

They included measures aimed at providing assistance for those facing food insecurity, protecting American workers and providing economic relief to struggling families.  

'I'm going to close and summarize this way,' Biden said at an event Friday in the state dining room of the White House. 

'A lot of America is hurting. The virus is surging. We're 400,000 dead, expected to reach well over 600,000. 

'Families are going hungry. People are at risk of being evicted. Job losses are mounting again. We need to act. No matter how you look at it we need to act.' 

The president did not indicate when he thought that total would be reached.  

The United States now has more than 24.7 million cases and more than 410,000 deaths. 

The nearest official forecast to 600,000 is from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which projected this week that the country will have recorded up to 508,000 COVID-19 deaths by mid-February. 

New strains of the virus are emerging. And scientists are concerned the mutant coronavirus strain which emerged in south east England may be more deadly than the original. 

President Biden signed executive orders on Friday aimed at providing assistance for those facing food insecurity, protecting American workers and providing economic relief to struggling families

President Biden signed executive orders on Friday aimed at providing assistance for those facing food insecurity, protecting American workers and providing economic relief to struggling families


One of the orders Biden will sign Friday will help struggling families buy groceries - above volunteers collect donated food collect as part of the Dr. Martin Luther King Day of service in Pennyslvania

One of the orders Biden will sign Friday will help struggling families buy groceries - above volunteers collect donated food collect as part of the Dr. Martin Luther King Day of service in Pennyslvania

29 million adults ¿ and at least 8 million children ¿ are struggling with food insecurity; above volunteers from the Los Angeles Food Bank help load boxes of food into vehicles

29 million adults – and at least 8 million children – are struggling with food insecurity; above volunteers from the Los Angeles Food Bank help load boxes of food into vehicles


Biden said urgent action was needed to help the millions of Americans suffering as part of the economic fallout from the pandemic. 

The government needs to act 'decisively and boldly' to help Americans who are seeing their paychecks reduced and are 'barely hanging on,' the president said. 

'Sometimes the anxiety about what's going to happen next is more consequential than what actually happened, but this is happening today in America, and this cannot be who we are as a country. These are not the values of our nation. We cannot, will not let people go hungry,' he said.

Biden kicked off his presidency with a series of orders aimed at undoing much of President Donald Trump's legacy and helping those devastated by the coronavirus pandemic.  

On Friday he signed executive orders aimed at speeding up delivery of stimulus checks to families who haven't received them and increasing food aid for children who normally rely on school meals as a main source of food. 

He also directed his administration to start the work that would allow him to issue an executive order to require federal contractors to pay a $15 minimum wage to their employees. The federal minimum wage has been at $7.25 an hour since 2009.

The pandemic has hit the American economy hard.

More than 10 million Americans are unemployed, 14 million renters are behind on payments, and 29 million adults – and at least 8 million children – are struggling with food insecurity. 

Women, minorities and low-income service workers have been disproportionately impacted. Black and Hispanic workers face higher jobless rates than white workers.

'We are at a precarious moment for the virus and the economy. 

Without decisive action, we risk falling into a very serious economic hole,' Brian Deese, director of the White House National Economic Council, said at Friday's White House press briefing.

'We are facing right now a period of multiple crises. And what we're going to need is to be able to act on multiple fronts,' he said.  

In one order, Biden directed the Treasury Department to find new ways to get stimulus checks, including $600 checks passed in December and $1,200 checks passed in March, to as many as eight million Americans who have not yet received them. 

He also issued an order to direct the Department of Agriculture to help families with schoolchildren buy groceries by increasing the weekly value of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, commonly known as food stamps, for about 12 million families.

It could provide a family with three children more than $100 of additional support every two months, the White House estimated.

'USDA will consider issuing new guidance that would allow states to increase SNAP emergency allotments for those who need it most. This would be the first step to ensuring that an additional 12 million people get enhanced SNAP benefits to keep nutritious food on the table,' a fact sheet distributed by the administration said. 

Biden will also seek to allow workers to draw unemployment benefits if they quit jobs they fear are unsafe amid the pandemic by noting 'that workers have a federally guaranteed right to refuse employment that will jeopardize their health, and if they do so, they will still qualify for unemployment insurance,' the White House fact sheet said.

His orders overturned many of President Trump's directives on issues pertaining to federal workers. The order also eliminates Schedule F, a class of worker that Trump had established that stripped federal workers of many job protections.

Biden has made fighting COVID his top priority as president - above Biden volunteered with grand daughter Finnegan and daughter Ashley at Philabundance, Philadelphia's largest hunger relief organization, before he was inaugurated

Biden has made fighting COVID his top priority as president - above Biden volunteered with grand daughter Finnegan and daughter Ashley at Philabundance, Philadelphia's largest hunger relief organization, before he was inaugurated

Biden is also seeking to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour for contract employees such as those who do custodial work - above workers clean the White House briefing room

Biden is also seeking to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour for contract employees such as those who do custodial work - above workers clean the White House briefing room


President Biden has made fighting the COVID pandemic his top priority while in office.

'To a nation waiting for action, let me be clear on this point: Help is on the way,' he said Thursday when he signed 10 executive orders related to the COVID pandemic.

He has signed more than two dozen orders related to the pandemic, addressing climate change and reversing Trump policies such as the so-called Muslim ban on travelers from certain countries and stopping the building of the border wall.

In addition to the executive orders, Biden is also pushing a $1.9 trillion COVID relief package that includes $1,400 stimulus payments, raising the national minimum wage to $15 an hour, extended jobless benefits, aid for state and local governments and money for a nationwide vaccination program.


Republicans said the package is too expensive. 

Biden's executive orders are designed to help ease people's burdens while Congress works on the president's legislative agenda. 

'While I work with both parties and members of Congress there are steps we can and must stake right now,' he said Friday.

'We're in a national emergency. We need to act like we're in a national emergency, so I've got to move with everything we've got, and we've got to do it together,' he said. 

Biden is expected to sign more executive orders in the coming days. 

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