Employment and Earnings 

  • (02/18/21) The White House has introduced a proposed minimum wage hike. The minimum wage would increase to $15/hour in increments, finalizing in 2025. Though this would be instrumental to workers, especially those brutally affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, President Biden is doubtful that they will pass in his $1.9TL COVID relief plan, citing the need for bipartisan support. Luckily, this bill can and will continue as a standalone if it does not move forward in the relief plan. For more information, read our post “Congress Considers a Minimum Wage Boost – What the Fight for 15 Means for Women”. 
  • (02/18/21) Another 861,000 people filed for unemployment for the first time last week. On top of regular state claims, 516,299 Americans filed for benefits through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which provides aid for people like the self-employed or gig workers. This is the highest number this month and though it is lower than the initial 3.3 million claims in March 2020, the amount of jobless claims is still several times higher than the pre-pandemic average. 
  • The House Ways and Means Committee has extended extra unemployment benefits until August, not September like President Biden has initially proposed. Congress has until March 14 to pass the stimulus package in which these benefits are a part of or else 11.4 million Americans are at risk of losing needed aid. The unemployment benefits include $400/week, rather than $300/week, but calls for funding from multiemployer pensions resulting in enough money for five months’ worth of benefits. Some argue that an August end date is insufficient, given that Congress is not in session at the end of that month and will cause a lapse in benefits for those who need them.

Healthcare and Reproductive Health 

  • (02/19/21) US life expectancy dropped a year, according to a report released by the CDC. This report only uses data from the first six months of 2020, implying that it will continue to decline when the later six months’ data is revealed. People of color have suffered larger impacts, with Black Americans’ life expectancy declining nearly three years and Hispanic Americans’ life expectancy declining nearly two years. Asian Americans’ and Native American peoples’ life expectancies were not recorded. These disparities highlight how COVID-19 has asymmetrically affected populations of color. The huge health, economic, and social impacts of COVID-19 make it difficult to imagine recovery, but we must invest in changing the infrastructure that creates health inequities for all members of the population. 
  • (02/17/21) The South Carolina House overwhelmingly passed a bill banning nearly all abortions that would go into effect if the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. The bill was passed 79-35, claiming that as soon as a detectable heartbeat was found via ultrasound, pregnant people could not get an abortion unless in cases of rape, incest, or where the parent’s health was at risk. The bill was immediately sued by Planned Parenthood and The Center for Reproductive Rights, where the suit says a high rate of women, especially African Americans, die during or immediately after childbirth in South Carolina. The abortion ban would fall hardest on low-income women, who wouldn’t be able to travel to a nearby state where abortion is still permitted.

Income Security 

  • (02/16/21) The Biden Administration has announced that it would extend foreclosure moratorium and mortgage forbearance through the end of June. Home foreclosures will be blocked and offer delayed mortgage payments until July, offering some relief to homeowners. However, the eviction moratorium was not included and is still expected to remain in effect until the end of March.

Policy Organizations’ News 

  • (02/17/21) The White House intends to institute a Gender Policy Council. This Council aims to have a diverse crew, including members of the Council of Economic Advisers to the Defense Department. The council will be led by Julissa Reynoso, who served as ambassador to Uruguay, and Jennifer Klein, who served as senior adviser to Hillary Clinton, then the first lady. To read more about what this council will entail and the history behind it, click here. 
  • (02/15/21) The World Trade Organization officially selected Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a Nigerian economist and former finance minister, to be its next leader. This is the first woman and first African person to hold the position of director general. Dr. Okonjo-Iweala will assume this post on March 1.

Presidential Legislation 

  • (02/18/21) Democrats and The White House are slated to unveil an immigration overhaul bill that would reshape U.S. immigration laws and allow millions of immigrants living in the country to obtain legal status. Some of the legal provisions include reducing the time to acquire citizenship from 13 years to eight, replacing the word “alien” to “noncitizen” in immigration laws, providing more funding for immigration judges, and more. For more details on what the bill entails and how it would reflect onto immigrants, read here and here. 
  • (02/17/21) During a daily White House briefing, Biden said “I will not make that happen” when an audience member asked about eliminating student debt up to $50,000. He claims he is more comfortable eliminating debt up to $10,000, something he said he’d make sure happened. White House officials have clarified that Biden would pursue this via legislative action rather than through an executive order, discouraging activists and progressive lawmakers and representatives alike. Roughly 45 million Americans owe approximately $1.6 trillion in federal student loans and canceling $10,000 in student debt could wipe the debt of more than 15 million borrowers. Student debt prevents economic security for many people, preventing income going toward other needs such as housing, food, and caretaking. Receiving financial assistance to prioritize other necessities is instrumental for working toward economic equity.