Enthusiasm for President Biden’s ambition is rampant among progressives. In the first 100 days of his presidency, he has inspired premonitions of the second coming of Franklin Roosevelt. In his address to Congress last week, Biden himself invoked the parallel, “turning peril into possibility.” And no wonder: after breaking through in the Democratic primaries as a centrist, President Biden has surpassed his party’s expectations for the scale of his vision and moved sharply to the left in his early days in office.
While President Biden, alongside Vice President Harris, moved forward with a significant election promises and policies, we will highlight most impactful ones in the context of present challenges and changes in the world due to the pandemic.
Days before his inauguration, Biden put forth a massive economic relief proposal, asking Congress to approve $1.9 trillion in funding to provide Americans with another round of stimulus checks, aid for the unemployed, support for small businesses and money to help schools reopen safely.
In March, Congress approved the package, known as the American Rescue Plan. Much of it mirrored Biden’s proposal, though there were some key changes, including narrowing the scope of the $1,400 stimulus payments, trimming the federal boost to unemployment benefits and jettisoning an increase in the federal minimum wage to $15 a hour.
So far, the Biden administration has sent out more than 160 million stimulus payments worth up to $1,400 per person, released more than $80 billion in aid to state education agencies and beefed up Affordable Care Act subsidies on the federal exchange. It has also delivered $39 billion to states to help child care providers reopen or stay afloat.
States have largely implemented the $300 federal enhancement to weekly jobless benefits and the extension of two key pandemic unemployment programs through early September. Also in place is a federal income tax break on $10,200 in unemployment compensation for those earning less than $150,000.
Public health and health services
Biden has acted swiftly to strengthen the Affordable Care Act, one of his main campaign promises. His administration has already taken multiple steps to reverse efforts by Trump to destroy the Democrats’ landmark health care law. Biden reopened the federal Affordable Care Act exchange in mid-February, giving uninsured Americans until mid-August to sign up for 2021 coverage and allowing existing enrollees to shop for better plans with their beefed-up subsidies, which last for two years.
That additional assistance was part of the Democrats’ $1.9 trillion relief package. Enrollees will now pay no more than 8.5% of their incomes toward coverage, down from nearly 10%. And lower-income policyholders and the jobless will receive subsidies that eliminate their premiums completely. Also, those earning more than 400% of the federal poverty level – about $51,000 for an individual and $104,800 for a family of four in 2021 – are now eligible for help for the first time. The 14 states, and the District of Columbia, that run their own exchanges have also extended enrollment, though the durations differ by state.
Climate Change and Action
Biden signed an executive order on his first day in office reversing Trump’s 2017 decision to withdraw from the 2015 Paris climate accords, the landmark international agreement to limit global warming championed by Obama. The US was the first and only country to pull out of the agreement, officially exiting in late 2020.
Last week, Biden fulfilled his pledge to host a global climate summit within his first 100 days in office. During the event, he committed the US to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 50% to 52% below its 2005 emissions levels by 2030. While the goals are part of the Paris climate agreement, which Biden rejoined upon taking office, they are non-binding and the administration has not rolled out a plan on how the US will meet them.
The COVID19 pandemic
President Biden came into office pledging to administer 100 million vaccine shots by his 100th day in office, after Trump fell short of his goal to vaccinate 20 million Americans by the end of 2020. The Biden administration reached its 100 million-shot goal in mid-March, about 40 days ahead of schedule. The administration reached 200 million vaccine doses on April 21 – a week ahead of Biden’s updated timetable.
To speed up and secure an increased vaccine supply, the President invoked the Defense Production Act with Pfizer and Moderna, as well as in a deal with pharmaceutical rivals Merck and Johnson & Johnson – though delivery of Johnson’s vaccine later was temporarily paused by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration. Biden also committed to having the US purchase hundreds of millions more coronavirus vaccine doses throughout his first months in office. Now the White House says the US will have enough vaccines for all adult Americans by the end of May.