After issuing a series of executive orders on his first full day in office and pledging a “full-scale wartime effort” to combat the coronavirus pandemic, President Biden on Friday will continue apace with two more executive orders aimed at steering additional federal aid to families struggling to afford food amid the pandemic and helping workers stay safe on the job.
Mr. Biden, who has vowed to use the power of the presidency to help mitigate economic fallout from the pandemic, will also direct the Treasury Department to find ways to deliver stimulus checks to millions of eligible Americans who have not yet received the funds.
Mr. Biden also plans to sign a second executive order that will lay the groundwork for the federal government to institute a $15 an hour minimum wage for its employees and contract workers, while making it easier for federal workers to bargain collectively for better pay and benefits.
The executive actions are part of an attempt by Mr. Biden to override his predecessor, former President Donald J. Trump, on issues pertaining to workers, the economy and the federal safety net. The orders Mr. Biden will sign on Friday are a break from the Trump administration’s attempts to limit the scope of many federal benefits that Trump officials said created a disincentive for Americans to work.
The orders follow an ambitious raft of measures Mr. Biden took on his first full day in office, on Thursday. He signed a string of executive orders and presidential directives aimed at combating the worst public health crisis in a century, including new requirements for masks on interstate planes, trains and buses and for international travelers to quarantine after arriving in the United States.
“History is going to measure whether we are up to the task,” Mr. Biden declared on Thursday in an appearance in the State Dining Room of the White House. Appearing by his side were Vice President Kamala Harris and Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, his chief Covid-19 medical adviser, who later warned in his first White House address in months that the nation was “still in a very serious situation.”
Later, in a briefing on Thursday, Mr. Biden said he was carrying out his longstanding pledge to invoke the Defense Production Act to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
During the presidential campaign, he had called for using the Korean War-era law to increase the nation’s supply of essential items like coronavirus tests and personal protective equipment. On Thursday, he signed an executive order directing federal agencies to make use of it to increase production of materials needed for vaccines.
With thousands of Americans dying every day from Covid-19, a national death toll that exceeds 400,000 and a new, more infectious variant of the virus spreading quickly, the pandemic poses the most pressing challenge of Mr. Biden’s early days in office. How he handles it will set the tone for how Americans view his administration going forward, as Mr. Biden himself acknowledged.
In a 200-page document released earlier Thursday called “National Strategy for the Covid-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness,” the new administration outlined the kind of centralized federal response that Democrats have long demanded and that Mr. Trump had refused.
But the Biden plan is in some respects overly optimistic and in others not ambitious enough, some experts say. It is not clear how he would enforce the quarantine requirement. And his promise to inject 100 million vaccines in his first hundred days is aiming low, since those 100 days should see twice that number of doses available.
Efforts to untangle and speed up the distribution of vaccines — perhaps the most pressing challenge for the Biden administration that is also the most promising path forward — will be a desperate race against time, as states…