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Tracking the Biden-Harris Administration's Executive Orders

Publication date: 
Tuesday, February 23, 2021


The first 30 days of the Biden-Harris term have certainly been active as the new administration dealt with the aftermath of the Capitol Insurrection, oversaw a second impeachment trial, and continued to ramp up its pandemic response. Biden has also received attention for the record number of Executive Orders his administration has enacted early on, spanning a wide range of issues, including emergency needs in immigration, racial justice, gender equality, environmental concerns, health care, the economy, and COVID-19 recovery and relief. 

While many of Biden's directives focused on reversing the previous administration's Executive Orders, many others represent new initiatives to provide support to marginalized populations and communities. These actions might significantly impact philanthropy while also giving us insight into the administration's future political direction. 


A perceived alignment between the administration and philanthropy

Philanthropy has historically been called upon to innovate and partner across sectors to meet our most vulnerable populations’ needs. While our sector has worked diligently to respond equitably to these needs, it alone cannot fill the gap in government funding for public programs and services. This gap was undeniably widened during the previous administration and further exacerbated by the COVID pandemic and racial injustice. While philanthropy has pushed itself in the last year to address this widening gap, the sector has struggled to support organizations charged with providing services to the people and communities disproportionately impacted by crises. 

The Executive Orders administered by the Biden Administration have shown a commitment to many of the core concerns of the philanthropic community and signal a desire to lessen that gap, thus reducing the strain on philanthropy. Of the 50 executive orders and memoranda issued thus far, nearly one-third (15) focused on COVID relief, with much of it directed towards communities of color and those living in poverty. Beyond that emergency support, another third of the executive orders aim to provide long-term equity for Black and Brown people, immigrants, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Core to that commitment to racial equity is the “Executive Order On Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government.” This order eliminates the “1776 Commission,” and removes penalties for organizations providing racial bias training, and explores the process of achieving equity for underserved communities. 


A reset and return to old public policy

Over the past several years, philanthropy was called upon to use its voice on countless statements and letters opposing the previous administration's Executive Orders ranging from racial bias training, DACA, public charge, separation of families at the border, the census citizenship question, and more. Coordinating these actions have forced philanthropy to reallocate its resources toward countermeasures instead of efforts that support individuals, communities, and other causes that funders prioritize. 

Although some of these countermeasures were successful, many of the initiatives remained in effect until Biden reversed them by creating new Executive Orders. Outside of COVID relief orders, nearly 50% of the Biden Administration’s Executive Orders have been reversals. Through those signatures alone, philanthropy was relieved of the economic burden of opposing those orders and allowed to pursue continued service to those populations and advocacy for systemic legislation directed towards our most vulnerable communities. In many ways, the new Executive orders have provided a reset to the past four years’ reactionary measures and will allow philanthropy to return to traditional public policy tracking, analysis, and influence. 


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