Since his first day as President of the United States, Joe Biden has been busy signing dozens and dozens of presidential executive orders. Biden has signed more than 40 executive orders in his first few weeks in office, by far the most of any new president in the modern era. The majority of his executive orders are aimed at solving the public health crisis and economic damage of the COVID-19 pandemic, but a few address other national issues that may affect your small business.
An executive order is sort of an “instant law” that only the president can create. According to the American Bar Association, executive orders “require no approval from Congress, and Congress cannot simply overturn them.” They can, however, be overturned by the courts.
Biden has rapidly issued dozens of executive orders so far, signing 17 of them on his very first day in office. All of Biden’s executive orders are listed on the Federal Register but in government legalese that’s difficult to understand. NBC News lists all of Biden’s executive orders and explains them in plain language.
Most of these executive orders aren’t likely to impact your business in any way. (That is unless your small business is somehow involved with the Keystone XL Pipeline, Liberian refugees, or ethics pledges for government employees.)
But a significant number of these orders will have some direct effects on your small business, your customers, or the everyday lives of each American. Here’s a rundown on the most significant executive orders Biden has signed so far and what they might mean for your small business.
There is no such thing as a national mandate to wear face coverings to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But Biden has issued numerous mandatory mask orders that apply to certain situations under which he has jurisdiction. One executive order requires masks on all forms of public transportation (including buses, airports, and airplanes), which may make it easier to enforce mask-wearing at your place of business. Another order requires masks to be worn on federal property, so that could affect businesses that deal with the government or federal employees. Yet another executive order directs the Department of Labor to promote wearing masks in the workplace, though that is unlikely to produce any binding requirements.
In addition to the latest round of $600 stimulus checks from the December 2020 COVID-19 relief package, Biden is pushing for another $1,400 direct payment. We don’t know if Congress will go along with that. But we do know that checks will start going out faster and will be easier to track online thanks to this executive order requiring “a series of actions to expand and improve delivery” of stimulus payments. While your business does not get a stimulus check, it’s likely to help your business if consumers have more spending money.
Another flurry of orders aims to protect those having trouble paying their bills because of lost work during the pandemic. One order extends the current freeze on student loan payments, though that freeze is not permanent. Another gives veterans additional protections from other forms of debt collection. These orders also probably won’t affect your business directly but could mean some extra money in your customers’ pockets, particularly if your customer base includes renters, younger people, or veterans.
If you have a food business that accepts customer payments of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, expect more sales from those types of payments. This executive order is an extension of the 15% benefits boost to that program and allows states to add even more. Students who receive Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer for food support will also receive more of that aid.
Several of Biden’s executive orders aim to improve the government’s COVID-19 prevention efforts to minimize the virus’ spread. One of these invokes the Defense Production Act to procure more PPE and testing supplies and more effectively roll out vaccine distribution. Another order increases support for nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Additional Biden executive orders will increase free testing for people without health insurance, hoping to halt the spread of COVID-19 because only stopping the virus can revive the small business economy.
Small businesses that employ immigrants will want to note the new Biden order that reinstates citizenship for deported children who emigrated with undocumented immigrant parents, known popularly as “Dreamers” under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) act. Businesses with Muslim employees will similarly notice an order eliminating the Trump-era Muslim travel ban that denied US entry to immigrants from 7 specific predominantly Muslim countries.
On the other hand, Biden also restored temporary travel bans to and from Europe and Brazil because of those countries’ COVID-19 surges. He also added a South Africa travel ban because of the new variant from that nation.
Biden’s executive order on the US Census undoes previous efforts to exclude undocumented immigrants from being counted. If your small business is in a state with a high immigrant population, this means you won’t lose representation in Congress or current levels of federal funding.
Another executive order has entered the US back into the global Paris Agreement on climate change, so your business may be encouraged to reduce carbon emissions. That order also requires government agencies to buy American-made zero-emission vehicles, which could mean new sources of revenue if your business is connected with the automobile industry.
As we mentioned earlier, any of these executive orders could be thrown out by the courts. But as of press time, there have been no significant legal challenges to any of them. These executive orders represent a potentially significant short-term workaround to partisan gridlock for the new Biden administration. But if the Biden administration’s small businesses agenda has any chance of succeeding, he needs to coax some Republicans into signing on to his plans rather than just signing his own.