The White House issued a number of executive actions during President Biden's first week in office. Host of the Your Political Playlist podcast, Emily Tisch Sussman, sat down with White House economist Heather Boushey to understand how these actions will impact families and to discuss pandemic relief with the 'American Rescue Plan'.

By Emily Tisch Sussman
February 01, 2021
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Despite being in office less than two weeks, President Joe Biden has already taken action to tackle the multiple crises facing the U.S., using the power of his pen with numerous executive orders. It's no secret families across the country are facing hardships and boosting the economy for all people is critical to combating the multiple crises.

"[President Biden] has been really focused on how it is that we can meet this moment. What is actually going on in the economy, and what do we need to do to fix it?" says Heather Boushey, member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. "So, when you start there and say, 'OK, well, what's happening right now is that there's lots of people that can't go to work. What is it that people in those communities need?' The foundation of thinking is about how you address the economic challenges for those folks who are out of work."

I sat down (virtually) with Boushey to understand the executive orders and how they will help American families.

Offering Pandemic Relief

The executive actions started first, she says, with getting the pandemic under control. "The economic crisis that we've had in 2020, has fundamentally been about our failure, our inability to contain this pandemic," says Boushey. "The very number one priority for the President, has been to do whatever he can to contain the pandemic. It's also why we prioritize [pandemic relief] in the American Rescue Plan, the legislation that he's put forward for Congress to take up."

With compounding economic issues facing the country, Boushey noted they are looking at relief from a variety of angles, issuing executive order on "everything from continuing to extend the moratorium on student debt, and the foreclosure and eviction moratorium, so that people don't have to worry about being out on the street during this economic crisis." Also included are fair housing rules to address racial equity. "These orders show the American people that addressing racial equity is absolutely important for people all across our society, and also for our economy," adds Boushey.

An image of Joe Biden.
Credit: Getty Images.

Combatting Climate Change

We know that the weak economy is not the only challenge Americans are facing. Climate change remains a crisis, especially as parents think about the future their kids will inhabit. Boushey explains that the executive orders around climate change are good for both our planet and for the economy: "The orders are making sure that as we transform our economy to this new economy where we're going to move beyond fossil fuels, that we make sure that the jobs that we're creating are good jobs. And that we really think strategically about how we're going to make our economy competitive, and that we're going to bring the American people and American workers along with us."

Working to Reopen Schools

And as every parent knows, reopening schools and assistance with caregiving remain top-of-mind. Boushey says the Biden administration considers these extremely important in the reenergizing of the economy. "If there's one lesson in 2020 that I take, it is that, 'Wow, if people can't access care for their children, for their loved ones and they can't get to work, the economy doesn't work.' And so, you really see that getting schools reopened is absolutely mission critical to getting workplaces up and functioning and allowing workers to do their jobs, allowing those parents to support their families."

Along with expanding testing, Biden's plans to use funds to safely reopen schools with measures including reducing class sizes, improving ventilation, hiring more janitors, providing personal protective equipment, and closing the digital divide that has affected so many students from low-income families.

Focusing on Diversity

But not all families are facing the same challenges during the pandemic, says Boushey, and addressing these challenges will require different approaches. "I think that 2020 is just a year that has shown us the importance of these issues and the resonance of them across our society. These are issues that all families face at some point during their life. And different families, of course, face them in different ways. "

Having a diverse staff—in race and ethnicity, gender, family status, and more—can help the administration understand the different challenges facing Americans. Boushey underscores the importance of this, noting, "Who's in the room matters, right? And the voices and the perspective that you bring to the table, it matters. Because people bring their life experiences, they reflect the concerns of their families, their communities where they come from," says Boushey.

Even in this short time, Boushey has been able to see the impact of having these different points of views. "Already I've had a number of conversations where the policies that we're talking about, the different perspectives that are around the table, are being informed by the diversity of the people that President Biden has brought into this administration," she says. "And it's really exciting to see a group of people that looks more like America and where the concerns of the American worker and the American family are being put front and center."

Hear Heather Boushey's full interview on Your Political Playlist podcast.

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