President Joe Biden has a lot of priorities for his first 100 days in office, from vaccinating 100 million Americans to the Equality Act. We show how five of those will impact Michigan.
MICHIGAN—As of noon Wednesday, Joe Biden is president of the United States, and Kamala Harris is vice president of the United States. As has become tradition, from the moment the ceremony is over begins a breakneck race to accomplish as much as possible within 100 days.
Biden has plans to help working families with relief money, a strategy to end the pandemic, and enhanced protections for those facing discrimination. His plans include other issues like addressing housing, increases to the minimum wage, reigniting America’s economy as the pandemic draws to a close, and rejoining the Paris climate accord.
The concept of this 100-day evaluation period was born from President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who called Congress into a special session lasting about 100 days, during which he managed to pass 15 pieces of legislation aimed at his New Deal efforts to get people back to work. Since then, the first 100 days of presidencies have been a mixed bag, often influenced by global or national events more than a president’s agenda.
And compared to Roosevelt, Biden is somewhat hampered in that Democrats’ control of Congress is razor-thin and the Senate still has unseated members, but this has left Biden no less ambitious about the 100 day metric than Roosevelt.
In many ways, Biden is more ambitious. He aims to make phenomenal progress on one of the greatest crises in American history while pursuing a host of other reforms to improve the lives of Americans. And those goals, lofty as they are, could really change things in Michigan.
Mask Up, America
Even with the vaccine slowly making its way into the world, Acacia Williams, a school librarian in Farmington, is not hanging up her mask just yet.
“The recommendation is still to continue wearing a mask, so that’s what I’ll do—I think it’s going to take a while to feel comfortable without one,” she told The ‘Gander. Many shared her sentiment, saying they would do so at least until the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told them it was no longer necessary.
One of the first things Biden will do in the Oval Office is sign an executive order with two purposes. First, the order will require masks be worn on all federal land. Second, it reiterates a challenge Biden has made to the American people before: Spend the first 100 days masked. The “100 Days Masking Challenge,” as the proposal is called, also calls on state leaders to make similar executive declarations.
While on the whole Michigan’s pandemic response has been so effective that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was considered for the vice presidency, there has been growing unrest with the constant state of pandemic vigilance. That unrest, largely a result of pandemic fatigue, set the stage for the sharp uptick in cases and deaths in November that Michigan still struggles to stabilize from.
But plenty of Michiganders are ready to take part in a new masking campaign.
Reforming the Cruelties of Immigration
During the height of the Trump-era policy separating families at the US-Mexico border, Michigan hosted the youngest child apprehended at the border, the 4-year-old Constintin Mutu. Mutu was represented by the Michigan Immigrants Rights Center, a legal group focused on serving undocumented Americans.
While the particular form of family separation at the border that brought Mutu to Michigan has largely come to an end, MIRC told The ‘Gander that other forms of separation exist.
“The frustrating reality is that family separation happens every day, and it happens through the immigration enforcement system,” explained MIRC Staff Attorney Rebeca Ontiveros-Chavez. “Just because there’s a lack of public outcry and it doesn’t look the same, it’s [still] a really big lived reality for people.”
It may come as a relief to MIRC, then, that the immigration package Biden has designed for congressional approval will include things like paths to citizenship and addressing the root causes of migration. The bill would also fast-track the citizenship process for people like those covered under the DREAM Act or refugees.
Paths to citizenship mean, most likely, a dramatic drop in the rate of family separations.
A Bailout for the American People
Another $1,400 stimulus is a top priority for Biden. That’s just the beginning, though, as his recovery plan includes tax breaks for the poorest Americans and a boost to the minimum wage. That means a lot to working families who are struggling to get by.
It’s safe to say there weren’t many policy positions Trump and Biden shared, but both supported a $2,000 stimulus check for each American. Congress, on the other hand, only authorized $600, barely more than a quarter of what both the new and former presidents wanted. So Biden wants to make up the difference.
In the grand scheme of things, a single $1,400 payment isn’t life changing, but it can help ease the burden of poverty, at least in the moment.
“I think of Detroiters who have been overassessed on their property value and as a result have faced tax foreclosure, removing what may have been their only source of cross-generational wealth,” Berkley resident Christopher Copacia told The ‘Gander. “I also think of neighbors in my community that may have mobility challenges and financial challenges that may not be able live life to the fullest because of our lack of convenient transportation options for them to get to places.”
For them, while not life-altering, a new round of stimulus could be at least a little room to breathe in this trying time.
The Equality Act
Michigan has struggled to pass expansions to the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act of 1976, which prohibits discriminatory practices, to include matters of sexual orientation and gender identity. Had the coronavirus pandemic not hampered their efforts, a campaign could have brought an initiative to the ballot to finally modernize it in terms of LGBTQ protections.
That ballot initiative to expand Michigan’s own civil rights legislation is poised to make the 2022 ballot in Michigan if the Legislature doesn’t adopt it first.
Nationally, the Equality Act, a Biden proposal, would add those protections to national non-discrimination standards as well, and it could pass in the first 100 days. That could do a lot for queer Michiganders.
Late last year, a discrimination case was dismissed because the explicit protections for sexual orientation did not exist in law. Even as that case sets the state’s Supreme Court up to re-evaluate and possibly modernize Elliott-Larsen, a legislative solution is always preferred, both by people and by the courts.
“Equality Michigan continues to call upon the legislature to pass a LGBTQ+ law that ensures all Michiganders, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression, are explicitly protected by the state’s civil rights law,” said Erin Knott, the organization’s director.
The Largest Vaccination Campaign in History
Experts and officials alike largely blame the Trump administration for how haphazard and inefficient the rollout of the vaccination campaign has been, but Dr. Matt Longjohn, a public health expert from Kalamazoo, pointed out that the erosion of public health infrastructure far predates Trump.
“Approximately 50,000 public health jobs have been cut over the past decade, and funding for state and local public health agencies has been regularly raided by Republicans and Democrats alike,” he said. “The folks that are left are doing the work of many, under a lot of pressure, with absolute dedication, but with limited resources and little to no coordination from an inept federal political leadership.”
But he sees hope in Biden’s ambitious plan. Over the next 100 days, Biden wants to see 100 million doses of the vaccine administered. That seems a tall order when Michigan seems to average just 50,000-80,000 per day. But leading coronavirus expert Dr. Anthony Fauci reminds Americans that the lofty goal is attainable.
“I can tell you one thing that’s clear is that the issue of getting 100 million doses in the first 100 days, is absolutely a doable thing,” Fauci said on Meet the Press. “What the president-elect is going to do is where we need be, to invoke the [Defense Production Act] to get the kinds of things they need, whatever they may be, be they tests, be they vaccines or what have you.”
A success on this front could turn the coronavirus fight around after recent blows to the system in Michigan.