Jan. 20, 2021 3:35 pm

Nonprofit leaders, mayor react to executive actions that will be issued by President Biden today

Ranging from racial equity and immigration to the COVID-19 response and stopping the Keystone XL pipeline, the issues the new administration is addressing will impact the work of nonprofits across the nation. We reached out to seven local leaders for a quick comment.

Top, l to r: Bill Golderer; Jim Kenney; Will Gonzalez; Farrah Parkes. Bottom, l to r: Sundrop Carter, Sam Chenkin, Vanessa Briggs.

(Courtesy photos)

President Joe Biden, mere hours after his inauguration, will be signing a long list of executive actions, memoranda and directives encompassing everything from racial equity and immigration to the COVID-19 response and stopping the Keystone XL pipeline.

Some of those actions include:

  • Launch a “100 Days Masking Challenge” asking the American to mask up for 100 days and requiring masks and physical distancing in all federal buildings, on all federal lands, and by federal employees and contractors.
  • Take action to cease the previous Administration’s process of withdrawing from the World Health Organization.
  • Sign an Executive Order creating the position of COVID-19 Response Coordinator, who will be responsible for coordinating all elements of the COVID-19 response across government.
  • Asking the attendant agencies to consider immediately extending the federal eviction moratorium, foreclosure moratoriums and continuing applications for forbearance for federally guaranteed mortgages.
  • Ask the Department of Education to consider immediately extending the pause on interest and principal payments for student loans.
  • Sign the instrument to rejoin the Paris Agreement.
  • Launch a whole-of-government initiative to advance racial equity, including rescinding  the Trump Administration’s 1776 Commission, which has sought to erase America’s history of racial injustice, and revoking the executive order limiting the ability of federal government agencies from implementing diversity and inclusion training.
  • Reverse President Trump’s Executive Order excluding undocumented immigrants from the reapportionment count.
  • Preserve and fortify DACA and sign a Presidential Memorandum directing the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Attorney General, to take all appropriate actions under the law to achieve that goal.
  • Reverse the Muslim ban.
  • Sign an Executive Order that ensures that the federal government interprets Title VII of the the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as prohibiting workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • Sign an Executive Order to restore and maintain public trust in government and ordering every appointee in the executive branch to sign an ethics pledge.

(Read the full set of executive actions here.)

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“There is much to laud here,” said Rev. Bill Golderer, president and CEO of the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey.

“But the one that sticks out for me is the ethics pledge. The most difficult thing to quantify is the erosion of trust that has weakened every aspect of our city and nation over months and years. Programs and initiatives matter, but without rebuilding trust we will have limited impact or staying power.”

For Mayor, Jim Kenney, the proposed actions are about follow-through.

“We are pleased to see President Biden immediately follow through on the commitments he made to supporting the American people, immigrants families, racial equity and a better environment,” Kenney told Generocity via email. “It is very promising to see him begin to roll back the racist and xenophobic policies of the Trump administration so that we may refocus our efforts on an inclusive and equitable healthcare response to and recovery from COVID-19.”

“Today marks a new chapter for America,” the mayor added. “We have much work to do, but I am confident the Biden-Harris administration will move our country forward.”

Will Gonzalez, the executive director of Ceiba, noted the “difference a day like today makes.”

“The Executive Orders cover common sense things that if they had been done earlier would have saved thousands of lives and protected our economy,” he told Generocity via email. “How insane things were that we need a new President to issue Executive Orders for our government to ‘Lead by Example’ and to ‘Coordinate a Unified National Response’ to a deadly pandemic.”

Gonzalez added that he believes the new executive orders will propel the country forward.

“For example,” he said, “extending the ‘Student Loan Pause’ not only helps people affected by the pandemic but gives us more time to develop a sane, long-erm, solution to the Student Loan Crisis. The executive orders that ‘Advance Racial Equity’ and leverage the power of immigrants will help our economy heal faster and more justly.”

“And last but not least,” he added, “the executive order requiring that members of the administration adhere to ethical standards restores to Washington some of the sunshine that was lacking in our Capitol during the last four years.”

Farrah Parkes, the executive director of the Gender Justice Fund, said that she was “heartened by the speed with which the Biden administration is moving to address the most pressing issues facing the country and reverse some of the most egregious actions of the former President — particularly those related to immigration.”

“We are well overdue for a coordinated federal response to the pandemic which has claimed over 400,000 lives in the United States,” Parkes added. “It is also gratifying to see swift action on addressing systemic racism and workplace discrimination as well as climate change.”

Parkes noted that the extension on moratoriums outlined in the executive orders were too short-term.

“While the extension of the eviction moratorium to February 28th is laudable, it will most likely prove inadequate,” she said. ” It is my hope that this extension is a stopgap measure and that the administration is working on a comprehensive, long-term plan to address not only the current eviction crisis but the broader problem of housing affordability, which disproportionately impacts women of color. Similarly, I hope that the extension on forbearance for student loan payments foreshadows a more comprehensive response to relieving the nation’s student loan debt burden, two thirds of which is borne by women.”

“Today we begin a new chapter in the fight for immigrant rights, one where our families are respected, protected and welcomed,” said Sundrop Carter, executive director of the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition. “We are happy to see that the new admin has announced it will be taking immediate steps to fulfill its promise to deliver a Roadmap to Freedom for immigrants.”

But, like Parkes, Carter wants to make sure that the new administration’s work on this doesn’t end with the directives signed today.

“The Executive orders announced today are a down payment on the comprehensive changes that must happen to roll back the harm from previous administration and begin the process of creating a truly just and humane immigration system,” Carter said. “PICC and our partners will keep up the pressure on the new administration and Congress to ensure they continue to enact policies that provide a roadmap to citizenship, family reunification, an end to deportations, and an end to family detention.”

Sam Chenkin, the founder of Reclaim the Sector, had mixed feelings as she read the full list of actions and directivess.

“I’m thrilled that some of the most overtly horrible policies of the Trump administration are being changed,” she told Generocity via email.

“And I also know performative acts when I see them. One order requires every appointee in the executive branch to sign an ethics pledge — I’m literally rolling my eyes as I write this. So, I’m taking this as a moment to celebrate, breath, and prepare.”

“These orders and Biden’s inauguration don’t do anything to address the underlying realities of America, she added. “But I hope they will create more generative and easeful ground for the all the work to come.”

Vanessa Briggs, the president and CEO of the Brandywine Health Foundation is focused on how today’s actions can begin to address the divisions of  past four years.

“I say ‘Yes to dialing back the clock on Executive Orders and actions,” she told Generocity via email.

“From furthering the perpetuation of systemic racism, lack of leadership in handling the pandemic, to the devastations of climate change, inhumane acts against immigrants, and withdrawing our government from the World Health Organization, to other destructive acts that deeply divided our nation.”

“Young poet Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem said it best,” Briggs added,“’We will forge our union with purpose.’”


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