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Utah Life Sciences News & Events

President Biden Signs Flurry of Executive Orders on COVID-19, $15 Minimum Wage for Federal Workers, Buy American Next

January 22, 2021

Following his inauguration on January 20, President Biden signed 17 executive orders — including several aimed at COVID-19 and others overturning a number of President Trump’s previous executive orders and policies.

The January 20 orders included a mask mandate for all federal properties and for interstate travel, rejoining the World Health Organization, reinstating the Global Health Security Office, reentry into the Paris Climate Accord and pausing payment of federal student loan payments through at least Sept. 30, amongst others.

On day two, he signed 10 more executive orders – mostly related to COVID testing and other measures for the pandemic.

Today, the president will sign a new executive order that directs the Office of Personnel Management to develop recommendations to pay more federal employees at least $15 per hour. Biden is also directing his administration to start the work that would allow him to issue an executive order within the first 100 days that requires federal contractors to pay a $15 minimum wage and provide emergency paid leave to workers.

While the president has the power to push agencies to raise federal employee wages and require federal contractors to pay employees a certain minimum, he would need congressional approval to raise the federal minimum wage for most others. The minimum wage increase is part of Biden’s larger $1.9 trillion COVID-19 rescue package. However, the Biden administration will face significant hurdles in getting the $15 minimum over the finish line.

Last year, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did not allow the Senate to consider the Raise the Wage Act passed by the House of Representatives. He cited a Congressional Budget Office study, which found that raising the minimum to from $7.25 to $15 by 2024 could cause 1.3 million workers to lose their jobs. The minimum wage has not been raised since 2009, so there may be a path forward for biparisan compromise, but amid an economy struggling to recover, it’s unclear if a middle ground is in the cards. In the past, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has supported a $10 minimum wage. The minimum wage in Utah is $7.25.

As part of Biden’s “First Ten Days” agenda, the President is expected to issue this weekend an executive order to enhance “Buy American” provisions, according to a memo from Ron Klain, Biden’s chief of staff. While short on details for now, the “Buy American” initiative will likely require a greater share of federal purchasing from companies that manufacture their products in the U.S.