(Reuters) - President Joe Biden on Friday plans to issue a pair of executive orders that could deliver modest, but critical, support to millions of Americans hit hard by the pandemic recession.
Among the highlights of the economic executive orders:
EXPANDED PANDEMIC FOOD AID
Last spring Congress set up a program to make sure students in low-income families dependent on school meals could still eat when schools were closed. The program, called Pandemic EBT, provides vouchers for groceries. But with schools open in some communities and closed in others, and delayed guidance to states on how to implement the program, accessing the aid has been problematic.
Biden's executive order asks the Department of Agriculture to increase the amount available to families under the program, and make it easier for families to claim benefits.
It also asks the USDA to allow states to increase emergency allotments for food stamp money to the poorest households -- those already receiving the maximum before the crisis hit. Several states sued over the way the USDA had implemented the law under former Republican President Donald Trump, saying it excluded some 40% of food stamp recipients who ought to be entitled to the extra aid.
HELP TO GET STIMULUS CHECKS
The order asks the Treasury Department to help those eligible for stimulus payments under last year's Congressional pandemic package to get the money if they have not already, by developing "online tools for claiming their payments, working to make sure that those who have not yet accessed their funds get the relief they deserve, and analyzing unserved households to inform additional outreach efforts."
RESTORES PROTECTIONS FOR FEDERAL WORKERS
Biden's order rescinds three 2018 directives by Trump that weakened employment protections for federal employees, limited their paid time to conduct union business, and required union contracts to be negotiated in less than a year.
PROMOTES $15 WAGE
On the campaign trail Biden, a Democrat, promised to boost the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. The executive order directs agencies to "review which federal workers earn less than $15 per hour" and develops recommendations for bumping their wages up. Biden also plans to require federal contractors to pay a $15 minimum wage and provide emergency paid leave, and the executive order directs his administration "to start the work" that would allow him to issue such an order within 100 days.
The federal minimum wage has been at $7.25 an hour since 2009.
(Reporting by Ann Saphir and Steve Holland; Editing by Leslie Adler)