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New Biden Orders on Pandemic, Climate  01/20 06:09

   In his first official acts as president, Joe Biden is signing executives 
orders on a broad range of issues, from the coronavirus pandemic to climate 
change and immigration, to fulfill campaign promises.

   (AP) -- In his first official acts as president, Joe Biden is signing 
executives orders on a broad range of issues, from the coronavirus pandemic to 
climate change and immigration, to fulfill campaign promises.

   Highlights of actions Biden is taking Wednesday:

   THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

   MASK REQUIREMENT: Biden is requiring the use of masks and social distancing 
in all federal buildings, on federal lands and by federal employees and 
contractors. Consistently masking up is a practice that science has shown to be 
effective in preventing the spread of the coronavirus, particularly when social 
distancing is difficult to maintain.

   He is challenging all Americans to wear a mask for the first 100 days of his 
administration. That's a critical period, since communities will still be 
vulnerable to the virus even as the pace of vaccination increases in pursuit of 
Biden's goal of 100 million shots in 100 days.

   WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: Biden also is directing the government to rejoin 
the World Health Organization, which Donald Trump withdrew from earlier this 
year after accusing it of incompetence and bowing to Chinese pressure over the 
coronavirus.

   Symbolizing Biden's commitment to a more prominent global role, White House 
coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients announced that Dr. Anthony Fauci will 
deliver a speech Thursday to the WHO as head of a U.S. delegation. Fauci, the 
government's top infectious disease expert, will lay out how the administration 
intends to work with the WHO on reforms, supporting the coronavirus response 
and promoting global health and health security

   ___

   CLIMATE

   PARIS CLIMATE ACCORD: Biden will sign an executive orders to rejoin the 
Paris climate accord, fulfilling a campaign pledge to get back into the global 
climate pact on Day One. Trump, a supporter of oil, gas and coal, had made a 
first priority of pulling out of global efforts to cut climate-damaging fossil 
fuel emissions.

   It will take 30 days for the U.S. to officially be back in.

   REVIEWING TRUMP ROLLBACKS: Biden's Day One plans also include a temporary 
moratorium on new Trump administration oil and gas leasing in the Arctic 
National Wildlife Refuge, moving to revoke a presidential permit for the 
Keystone XL oil and gas pipeline and reviewing a Trump administration freeze on 
vehicle mileage and emissions standards. Biden also is setting in motion an 
evaluation of another Trump move that cut boundaries and protections for some 
national monuments.

   Agencies will be directed to consider impact of climate change on 
disadvantaged communities and on future generations from any regulatory action 
that affected fossil fuel emissions, a new requirement.

   ___

   IMMIGRATION

   ENDING BAN ON MUSLIM TRAVELERS: Biden is ending what is variously known as 
the "travel ban" or the "Muslim ban," one of the first acts of the Trump 
administration. Trump in January 2017 banned foreign nationals from seven 
mostly Muslim countries from entry into the country. After a lengthy court 
fight, a watered-down version of the rule was upheld by the Supreme Court in a 
5-4 decision in 2018.

   The new administration says it will improve the screening of visitors by 
strengthening information sharing with foreign governments and other measures.

   BORDER WALL: Biden is immediately ending the national emergency that Trump 
declared on the border in February 2018 to divert billions of dollars from the 
Defense Department to wall construction. He also is halting construction to 
review contracts and how wall money might be redirected.

   Despite Trump's repeated promises that Mexico would pay for the wall, U.S. 
Customs and Border Protection says Americans have committed $15 billion for 
more than 700 miles (1,120 kilometers). It is unclear how many miles are under 
contract and what penalties the government would have to pay for canceling them.

   The Supreme Court has scheduled arguments Feb. 22 on the legality of Trump's 
diverting Defense Department funds for counter-narcotics efforts and military 
construction projects to wall construction.

   DACA: Biden will order his Cabinet to work to preserve the Deferred Action 
for Childhood Arrivals program, which has shielded hundreds of thousands of 
people who came to the country as young children from deportation since it was 
introduced in 2012.

   Trump ordered an end to DACA in 2017, triggering a legal challenge that 
ended in June when the Supreme Court ruled that it should be kept in place 
because the Trump administration failed to follow federal rule-making 
guidelines in undoing it. But DACA is still facing legal challenges.

   In his presidential proclamation, Biden is calling on Congress to adopt 
legislation that gives DACA recipients permanent legal status and a path to 
citizenship. There are currently about 700,000 people enrolled.

   DEPORTATIONS: Biden is revoking one of Trump's first executive orders, which 
declared that all of the roughly 11 million people in the country illegally are 
considered priorities for deportation. The Department of Homeland Security will 
conduct a review of enforcement priorities. Biden's campaign site says 
deportations will focus on national security and public safety threats.

   The order says nothing about a 100-day moratorium on deportations that Biden 
promised during the campaign. Susan Rice, who is tapped to run the White House 
Domestic Policy Council, says any decision on moratoriums would come from 
Homeland Security.

   CENSUS: Biden is reversing a Trump plan to exclude people in the country 
illegally from being counted in the 2020 Census. The once-a-decade census is 
used to determine how many congressional seats and Electoral College votes each 
state gets, as well as the distribution of $1.5 trillion in federal spending 
each year.

   Biden's team says the new administration will ensure the Census Bureau has 
time to complete an accurate count for each state and that the apportionment is 
"fair and accurate."

   ___

   STUDENT DEBT

   Biden is asking the Education Department to extend a pause on federal 
student loan payments through at least Sept. 30, continuing a moratorium that 
began early in the pandemic but was set to expire at the end of January.

   Borrowers, who owe a collective $1.5 trillion, would not be required to make 
payments on their federal student loans, their loans would not accrue any 
interest, and all debt collection activity would halt through September.

   Congress paused student debt payments last March as part of a virus relief 
package, and the Trump administration extended it twice.

   Biden's order does not include the type of mass debt cancellation that some 
Democrats asked him to orchestrate through executive action. He has said that 
action should come from Congress.

   ___

   HOUSING FORECLOSURES

   Housing foreclosures and evictions would be delayed until at least March 31, 
2021. Almost 12% of homeowners with mortgages are late on their payments, while 
19% of renters are behind, according to a Census Bureau survey of households.

   The federal moratoriums would ensure that people could stay in their homes 
even if they cannot afford their monthly bills. Biden is also calling on 
Congress to extend assistance to renters. While the moratoriums have aided 
several million Americans during the pandemic and helped to contain the 
disease, they have also meant that billions of dollars in housing costs have 
gone unpaid.

 
 
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