Some orders signed by the president will impact housing insecurity, mask safeguards, and student loans for everyday Arizonans.
President Joe Biden and his administration signed nearly 30 executive orders in his first two days in office, including several that will have immediate impacts for Arizona residents.
The flurry of new legislation will undo a lot of former President Donald Trump’s controversial work.
Biden has already signed orders that stopped construction on Trump’s promised border wall, reversed the travel ban on majority-Muslim countries, and nullified a Trump order to exclude noncitizens from the census.
But some of the executive orders Biden signed will have a a more immediate impact in communities throughout the country.
Here’s a look at three executive orders signed by the president that will impact housing insecurity, mask mandates and student loans for everyday Arizonans.
One of the first things Biden signed into action is an extension on the federal ban on evictions through March 2021. An eviction moratorium protects renters from being forcefully removed from their homes after not paying rent. In the months since the pandemic began, hundreds of thousands of renters across the nation have struggled to make their rent payments due to job losses and a crippled economy.
The current eviction moratorium was scheduled to expire at the end of January, which would have forced many renters to find alternate housing.
Public health and homelessness experts have also noted that alternate housing like shelters have led to a significant increase in COVID-19 cases and deaths. People experiencing homelessness and living in shelters often don’t have access to basic strategies that slow the spread of the coronavirus like frequent hand washing and access to space that is socially distanced.
Approximately 14 million Americans are currently behind on their rent, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
In Arizona, more than 277,000 residents reported to the Census Bureau —which conducts a weekly Household Pulse Survey online to study how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting households across the country— that they were behind on mortgage payments, while another 147,000 were behind on their rent payments at the end of December.
Roughly 10% of the 1.2 million Arizona renters surveyed, or more than 129,000, said they did not feel confident that they could pay next month’s rent. More than 40,000 said it was very likely that they could be evicted from their home in the next two months.
Extending the moratorium gives renters more time to stay in their homes while the United States continues to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Biden also plans to ask Congress to extend the moratorium into the fall of 2021.
Research shows that wearing a mask and other measures, like social distancing, can make a significant difference in the spread of COVID-19.
In his first hours in office, Biden implemented a mask safeguard for all federal grounds and signed an order requiring masks in airports, planes, trains, and intercity buses.
When you think of federal buildings you might think of Washington, DC. But even some of the smallest towns in America have federal lands on which people will now be required to mask up. According to the General Services Administration, the federal government owns some 9,600 buildings in more than 2,000 communities across the country.
The mandate won’t just apply to federal office buildings. Post offices, some laboratories, courthouses, and ports of entry into the country can all count as federal lands.
There are 14 federal courthouses, buildings, or ports of entry in Arizona, according to the US General Services Administration.
Gov. Doug Ducey hasn’t enforced a statewide mask safeguard since the start of the pandemic, instead punting the decision to city and county officials, but many buildings and businesses have already required that people wear masks for several months.
The mandate would also apply to federal lands like national parks and even some local public parks. According to the Congressional Research Service, the federal government owns about 640 million acres of land in the United States.
It’s not yet clear how the federal government plans to enforce mask wearing on public land and throughout national parks, but prepare to wear a mask if you plan on visiting Grand Canyon National Park anytime soon.
Student Loan Freeze
Biden also directed the Department of Education to extend a pause on student loan payments through Sept. 30.
The current pause, which was implemented last March, was scheduled to resume at the end of January.
On average, student loan borrowers have payments between $200 to $299 due every month. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York student loan debt in the United States is upwards of $1.6 trillion, spread across more than 40 million Americans.
Student loan payments became nearly impossible for borrowers to meet as the country experienced an unprecedented wave of lost jobs and pay cuts. And consumers having more money in their pockets now–instead of paying banks–means they are spending on goods and services, which does far more to bolster their local economy.
Student loan debt in Arizona is on par with the rest of the country, and Arizonans are slightly less likely to have student loan debt compared with the rest of the country, according to EducationData.org.
EducationData found that approximately 840,000 Arizonans pay student loans, owing an average of $34,100 in debt.
But the rate of people defaulting on their student loans was higher than the national average in 2016, at 11.45%, according to LendEDU, a consumer financial information company.
The halt on payments is designed to take some of the financial pressure off borrowers who, at first, were still required to make their payments even as job losses mounted and the economy took a dive in the early days of the pandemic.