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Federal Focus

President Biden Executive Actions

During President Joe Biden’s first week in office, he signed 22 executive orders, along with many presidential proclamations and memorandums. Compared to his previous three predecessors, this is significantly more – in their first weeks four executive orders issued by President Donald Trump, five by President Barack Obama, and zero by President George W. Bush.  Recent presidents have relied on executive orders due to the inability to pass legislation in a highly divided Congress. The flurry of executive actions continues; as of February 1, President Biden has signed 42 executive actions. Many of President Biden’s actions are reversals of former President Trump’s policies, and others are meant to set a new tone in Washington, D.C. Below is a brief synopsis of President Biden executive actions noteworthy to BJC.

COVID-19 Response

Executive Order Protecting the Federal Workforce and Requiring Mask Wearing · January 20, 2021

President Biden’s first executive action relating to the novel coronavirus mandates mask-wearing and social distancing on federal properties and land. Although he lacks the authority to institute a nationwide mask mandate, the order also encourages all Americans to wear masks.

Executive Order on Organizing and Mobilizing the United States Government to Provide a Unified and Effective Response to Combat COVID-19 and to Provide United States Leadership on Global Health and Security · January 20, 2021

This executive order creates the position of the Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response and Counselor to the President (COVID-19 Response Coordinator) and the position of the Deputy Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response within the Executive Office of the President. Their roles are to advise the president and oversee the distribution of vaccines, tests, and other supplies. President Biden selected Jeff Zients to serve as coordinator. He is a management consultant and economist known for his work on finding solutions for failing government projects, including his work to fix the issues during the disastrous rollout of

Letter to His Excellency Antonio Guterres · January 20, 2021

President Biden stopped the United States’ withdrawal from the World Health Organization (WHO). Dr. Anthony Fauci is the head of the delegation to the WHO.

Executive Order on Promoting COVID-19 Safety on Domestic and International Travel · January 21, 2021

In an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19 through travel, President Biden mandates mask-wearing on all forms of public transportation, including in airports, airplanes, and buses.

Executive Order on Improving and Expanding Access to Care and Treatments for COVID-19 · January 21, 2021

This executive order aims to accelerate the development of novel therapies to treat COVID-19, including instituting large scale randomized trials, identifying optimal clinical management strategies, and supporting the most promising treatments that can be easily manufactured, distributed, and administered. The Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) will issue recommendations on how states and health care providers can increase the capacity of their health care workforces to address the COVID-19 pandemic. It will facilitate the equitable and effective distribution of therapeutics and bolster clinical care capacity where need to support patient care.

Executive Order on Ensuring a Data-Driven Response to COVID-19 and Future High-Consequence Public Health Threats · January 21, 2021

Aimed at restoring trust with the general public on data-driven decisions, Biden’s order will enhance federal agencies’ collection, production sharing, and analysis of data, as well as collaboration with respect to support an equitable COVID-19 response and recovery. The data related to the COVID-19 pandemic will be maintained on a CDC public dashboard with the ability to drill down to the county level. This is to help Americans gauge the level of transmission in their own communities to make their own informed choices.

Executive Order on Sustainable Public Health Supply Chain · January 21, 2021

President Biden invoked the Defense Production Act to secure supplies necessary for the federal government, state, local, tribal, and territorial authorities, and health systems to respond to COVID-19. Supplies include PPE and resources to effectively produce and distribute tests and vaccines at scale. This order also takes steps to address the pricing of supplies and whether supplies are threatened for the purpose of hoarding or price gouging. Furthermore, it provides for the development of a strategy to design, build, and sustain a long-term capability in the U.S. to manufacture supplies for future pandemics and biological threats.

Executive Order on Ensuring an Equitable Pandemic Response and Recovery · January 21, 2021

This order establishes a COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force within HHS to provide recommendations for mitigating the health inequities caused or exacerbated by the pandemic. The aim is to prevent inequities in the future. The heads of all agencies with responsibilities relating to the pandemic response and recovery will consult with the COVID-19 Task Force to strengthen equity data collection, reporting, and use related to COVID-19.

Executive Order on Establishing the COVID-19 Pandemic Testing Board and Ensuring a Sustainable Public Health Workforce for COVID-19 and Other Biological Threats · January 21, 2021

This executive order establishes a COVID-19 Pandemic Testing Board to promote COVID-19 diagnostic, screening, and surveillance testing. The order also facilitates COVID-19 testing free of charge to those who lack comprehensive health insurance and clarifies group health plans' and health insurance issuers' obligations to provide coverage for testing.

Executive Order on Protecting Worker Health and Safety · January 21, 2021

With this executive order, President Biden directs federal regulators to issue stronger safety guidance for workplaces operating in the midst of the pandemic. It directs Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to update COVID safety recommendations for businesses, review its enforcement efforts that have been criticized during the pandemic, and study whether an emergency temporary standard, which businesses would have to comply with under the threat of penalties, is necessary. If so, OSHA must issue the emergency standard by mid-March. Standards potentially could include mandating mask-wearing, social distancing, hand-washing breaks, and communication with workers during outbreaks.

Access to Quality, Affordable Health Care

Executive Order on Strengthening Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act · January 28, 2021

This executive order reopens enrollment on from February 15 through May 15 and directs federal agencies to reexamine policies that may reduce or undermine access to the Affordable Care Act. It could also affect previous Trump administration guidance to states on Medicaid, including work requirements, block grants, and specifically, the approval of Tennessee’s Section 1115 block grant waiver.

Memorandum on Protecting Women’s Health at Home and Abroad · January 28, 2021

Through this executive order, President Biden aims to protect women’s access to the health care they need, both in the United States and abroad. It rescinds the “Mexico City Policy,” a ban on the U.S. government funding for foreign nonprofits that perform or promote abortions. Furthermore, it directs the Secretary of HHS to immediately move to consider rescinding the Trump administration rule blocking health care providers in the federally funded Title X family planning program from referring patients for abortions.

Economic Relief

Pausing Federal Student Loan Payments · January 21, 2021

At the request of President Biden, the Acting Secretary of Education extended the pause of federal student loan payments and collections and keep the interest rate at 0% until at least September 30, 2021.

Executive Order on Economic Relief Related to the COVID-19 Pandemic · January 22, 2021

This executive order directs all executive agencies to consider actions to address the economic crisis resulting from the pandemic. The White House issued a fact sheet with further information on what this all-of-government effort will look like. It includes the expansion of food assistance programs and increase the amount of aid people are eligible for; the equitable and effective delivery of direct payments to Americans by asking the Treasury Department to consider changing its delivery structure; and asking the U.S. Department of Labor to consider clarifying that workers who refuse unsafe working conditions can still receive unemployment insurance. 


Executive Order on Ensuring a Lawful and Accurate Enumeration and Apportionment Pursuant to the Decennial Census · January 20, 2021

This executive order requires noncitizens to be included in the census and apportionment of congressional representatives.

Memorandum on Preserving and Fortifying Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) · January 20, 2021

This memo directs the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Attorney General, to take all actions he deems appropriate, consistent with applicable law, to preserve and fortify DACA. Biden has proposed legislation that features a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and makes Dreamers immediately eligible for green cards.


Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government · January 20, 2021

As one of President Biden’s first official acts as President of the United States, this executive order emphasized his commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Biden ordered equity assessments of all government agencies and the reallocation of resources to advance equity for all, including people of color and others who have been historically underserved, marginalized, and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality.  The order also repeals two executive orders issued by President Trump: Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping and Executive Order on Establishing the President’s Advisory 1776 Commission. The first was the executive order that limited the ability of federal government agencies, contractors, and grantees from implementing critical diversity and inclusion training.

Executive Order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation · January 20, 2021

This executive order aims to prevent and combat discrimination in the workplace, housing, schools, and various other realms on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. The order requires the head of each federal agency to review and revise its existing orders, regulations, guidance documents, policies, programs, and other agency actions to develop a plan to implement the policies by April 30, 2021.

Memorandum Condemning Racism, Xenophobia, and Intolerance Against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States · January 26, 2021

This memorandum acknowledges the rise in discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the past year and directs HHS to consider issuing guidance on best practices to improve cultural competency, language access, and sensitivity to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the federal government’s COVID-19 response. It continues to direct the Department of Justice to partner with Asian Americans and Pacific Islander communities to prevent hate crimes and harassment.


Modernizing Regulatory Review · January 20, 2021

All new and pending rules passed in the last days of President Trump’s tenure will be reviewed by department and agency heads. CMS has withdrawn three proposed health care rules developed under the administration of former President Trump. The rules include a revision to Medicare Part A enrollment requirements, altered dialysis coverage requirements for third party payment programs, and increased oversight of accrediting organizations.

For a full list and/or synopsis of President Biden executive actions, please visit one of the following resources:

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Page updated 02/23/2021

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