Category Archives: Biden Administration

SGOTUS Emhoff at Holocaust Remembrance: US Joins Fight Against Hate, AntiSemitism

From the exhibit, “Auschwitz: Not long ago. Not far away” at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, NYC, 2020. Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff had just visited Auschwitz, told a gathering the United States would renew alliances to combat hate and antisemitism. “Antisemitism has been around for millennia—and some call it the oldest form of hatred—but in recent years, it has been a growing threat in the United States, in Europe, and around the world.  We see ‘so-called’ leaders use antisemitic tropes to promote warped agendas or for their own political gain. .. We cannot normalize this. We must not stay silent.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

These are the remarks of Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff at a Roundtable on Combatting Antisemitism, held at the Galicia Jewish Museum in Krakow, Poland:

SECOND GENTLEMAN DOUGLAS EMHOFF: Thank you all for being here. 

Thank you to the Galicia Jewish Museum for hosting us and to Director Jakub Nowakowski.

It’s really fitting to gather here today. The Museum aims to challenge stereotypes and to educate Poles and Jews about their own histories – my history. 

The Museum also encourages everyone to think about our shared future.

My trip to Poland and Germany has two main priorities: 

One: I am here not only to honor the victims of the Holocaust, but to talk about and educate people on the true nature of the Holocaust. 

Let’s be clear: the Holocaust was real. 

It happened. And there is no denying that. 

It was a systemic, state-sponsored mass murder aimed to annihilate the Jewish people. This atrocity was motivated by antisemitic ideology and ethnic hatred. 

This trip is a major part of our Administration’s effort to push back against Holocaust denial, distortion, and disinformation.  

Two: I am here as a representative of President Biden and my wife, Vice President Harris, to deepen our relationships with European partners — in and out of government — to combat the rise in antisemitism. 

The President and Vice President have made a priority of revitalizing our partnerships and alliances—and that extends to fighting hate and antisemitism.  

Yesterday, I visited Auschwitz and participated in the wreath laying and memorial service. The service was incredibly moving and powerful.

I am still trying to process what I saw. 

The magnitude of cruelty, hate, and evil that Auschwitz represents is just staggering. 

As the first Jewish spouse of a United States President or Vice President, I know this visit has a special significance — for me, for our Administration, and for Jews around the world. 

My great-grandparents fled persecution in Poland 120 years ago. I am here because they were able to leave. 

Yet, so many others were not. 

I feel a deep connection to all those who perished in Auschwitz. I know many American Jews feel the same way. 

It was an incredibly solemn and sad experience but, it also reminds us why the work we are doing is so important.

Given the rise in antisemitism, it is important for me — and for all of us — to put a spotlight on the history of Jews in Europe.

We know that in some cases knowledge about the Holocaust among young people is vague or nonexistent. 

We must find new ways to remember and educate the next generation about the horrors of the Holocaust. 

To tell the testimonies of survivors. 

To remember the stories of those that perished. 

And work to ensure “Never Again.”

This convening is a critical part of that. 

Antisemitism has been around for centuries. It is based on lies, misleading tropes, and falsehoods that we are all too familiar with. 

Antisemitism is also ever evolving. Our efforts to combat it must be wide-ranging and relentless. 

We must learn to recognize antisemitism in its many forms, so that we can call hate by its proper name and take effective action.

Antisemitism has been around for millennia—and some call it the oldest form of hatred—but in recent years, it has been a growing threat in the United States, in Europe, and around the world.  

We see ‘so-called’ leaders use antisemitic tropes to promote warped agendas or for their own political gain. 

We see other ‘so-called’ leaders who lack the courage to speak out.

We see murderous attacks on Jewish communities. 

We see vandalism, threats, and violent, hateful rhetoric.

People used to be afraid to say the ugly epithets and lies out loud. Now they are literally screaming them.

We are witnessing an epidemic of hate in our country and internationally. 

President Biden and Vice President Harris are firmly committed to countering the rise in global antisemitism.

In fact, before I left on this trip, I spoke to President Biden and the Vice President about it.

The President spoke to me about how his father spoke to him about the horrors of the Holocaust at his dining room table.

And how when he became a father and grandfather, he took his children and grandchildren to see the Dachau concentration camp. 

To teach the next generation the horrors of history.

The Vice President and I have spoken at length about these issues. She has spent her career—as Attorney General, United States Senator, and Vice President—combatting hate and working to bring people together in coalitions. 

And she has really encouraged me to use this platform to push back on the scourge of hate.

They both have told me how important this trip is.

We all need to speak out against antisemitism and call out those who don’t.

We cannot normalize this. We must not stay silent.

We each need to do our part to educate those around us and instill knowledge in the next generation of leaders to help fight antisemitism.

And we are committed to working with you all – community leaders, religious leaders, and experts to take this on. 

You all have done impressive work to promote tolerance, education, and inclusiveness. 

I am with you in this fight. 

So, on behalf of President Biden and Vice President Harris, it is my honor to join you here in Krakow today, and I am looking forward to our work together. Thank you.

See:

‘THE HOLOCAUST: WHAT HATE CAN DO’ AT MUSEUM OF JEWISH HERITAGE HOLDS LESSONS, WARNING FOR TODAY

GROUNDBREAKING EXHIBIT AT MUSEUM OF JEWISH HERITAGE TRANSPORTS TO ‘AUSCHWITZ: NOT LONG AGO. NOT FAR AWAY’

President Biden Marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Crematorium at Mauthausen Concentration Camp one of the killing centers in Hitler’s Final Solution. On International Holocaust Remembrance Day, President Biden denounced the rise in antisemitism, Holocaust deniers and those who are complicit © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Jill and I will pause to mourn the six million Jews who were systematically and savagely murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators during the Holocaust — and to grieve the Roma and Sinti, Slavs, people with disabilities, LGBTQ+ individuals, and political dissidents who were also killed. As we join nations around the world in bearing witness to this dark chapter in our shared history, we also honor survivors and their stories—pledging to always remember, and to keep faith with that sacred vow: “never again.”
 
“Never again” was a promise my father first instilled in me at our family dinner table, educating me and my siblings about the horrors of the Shoah. It’s a lesson I’ve passed on to my own children and grandchildren by taking them to Dachau to understand for themselves the depths of this evil—and the complicity of those who knew what was happening, yet said nothing. Seeing neo-Nazis and white nationalists march from the shadows in Charlottesville in 2017, spewing the same antisemitic bile we heard in the 1930s in Europe, drove me to run for president.
 
Sadly, we have seen over and over again that hate never goes away. It only hides—waiting to reemerge whenever it is given just a little bit of oxygen. And today, across our country, we are seeing swastikas on cars, antisemitic banners on bridges, verbal and physical attacks against Jewish businesses and Jewish Americans – even Holocaust denialism. It’s vile. It goes against everything we value as Americans. And each of us must speak out against this poison. Together, we must affirm, over and over, that hate has no safe harbor in America. 
 
That is exactly what my Administration is doing. Working with partners around the country, we held a historic White House Summit on combating hate-fueled violence. We appointed the first Ambassador-level Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism. We are developing a national strategy to fight antisemitism. We’ve secured the largest increase in funding ever for the physical security of non-profits—including synagogues and Jewish Community Centers. We continue to support Holocaust survivors to ensure they can live the rest of their lives with dignity and security. And to mark this day of remembrance, the Second Gentleman of the United States, Douglas Emhoff, is participating in a commemoration ceremony at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland, and will be visiting Berlin, Germany to coordinate international efforts to combat antisemitism.
 
On International Holocaust Remembrance Day  and every day, the United States stands with Holocaust victims, their families, and their descendants. We remember. We honor their stories. We will face down the hate and the lies that carry in them the terrifying echoes of one of the worst chapters in human history. And for generations to come, we will continue to defend our foundational values as a nation—freedom, equality, and dignity for all human beings.
 

See:

‘THE HOLOCAUST: WHAT HATE CAN DO’ AT MUSEUM OF JEWISH HERITAGE HOLDS LESSONS, WARNING FOR TODAY

GROUNDBREAKING EXHIBIT AT MUSEUM OF JEWISH HERITAGE TRANSPORTS TO ‘AUSCHWITZ: NOT LONG AGO. NOT FAR AWAY’

FACT SHEET: Biden-Harris Administration Announces New Actions to Protect Renters and Promote Rental Affordability

The Biden-Harris Administration is announcing new actions to increase fairness in the rental market and further principles of fair housing. These actions align with a new Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights that the Administration is also releasing. The Blueprint lays out a set of principles to drive action by the federal government, state and local partners, and the private sector to strengthen tenant protections and encourage rental affordability. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The Biden Administration also launches Resident-Centered Housing Challenge, a call-to-action to improve the quality of life for renters

The Biden-Harris Administration is announcing new actions to increase fairness in the rental market and further principles of fair housing. These actions align with a new Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights that the Administration is also releasing. The Blueprint lays out a set of principles to drive action by the federal government, state and local partners, and the private sector to strengthen tenant protections and encourage rental affordability. Key actions announced include:

  • The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), both independent agencies, announced they will collect information to identify practices that unfairly prevent applicants and tenants from accessing or staying in housing in order to inform enforcement and policy actions under each agency’s jurisdiction. This is the first time the FTC has issued a request for information exploring unfair practices in the rental market. The two agencies will seek information on a broad range of practices that affect the rental market, including the creation and use of tenant background checks, the use of algorithms in tenant screenings, the provision of adverse action notices by landlords and property management companies, and how an applicant’s source of income factors into housing decisions.
     
  • The CFPB announced it will issue guidance and coordinate enforcement efforts with the FTC to ensure accurate information in the credit reporting system and to hold background check companies accountable for having unreasonable procedures.
     
  • The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), an independent agency, announced it will launch a new public process to examine proposed actions promoting renter protections and limits on egregious rent increases for future investments. FHFA will maintain transparency throughout the process and provide periodic updates, including one within 6 months, to interested stakeholders. As announced in November, the FHFA will also increase affordability in the multifamily rental market by establishing requirements that encourage the financing of multifamily loans that guarantee affordable housing. In 2022, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae purchased a combined $142 billion in multifamily loans supporting over one million units. If the same activity holds in 2023, this would mean an investment in approximately 700,000 affordable units.
     
  • A U.S. Department of Justice workshop will inform potential guidance updates around anti-competitive information sharing, including in rental markets.
     
  • The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will publish a notice of proposed rulemaking that would require public housing authorities and owners of project-based rental assistance properties to provide at least 30 days’ advanced notice before terminating a lease due to nonpayment of rent.
     
  • The Administration will hold quarterly meetings with a broad, diverse, and varying group of tenants and tenant advocates to ensure they continue to have a seat at the table and can share ambitious ideas to strengthen tenant protections.

These new announcements are part of a broader set of federal actions that exemplify the principles laid out in the Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights, which underscores key protections every renter deserves:

  • Safe, Quality, Accessible, and Affordable Housing: Renters should have access to housing that is safe, decent, and affordable.
     
  • Clear and Fair Leases: Renters should have a clear and fair lease that has defined rental terms, rights, and responsibilities.
     
  • Education, Enforcement, and Enhancement of Renter Rights: Federal, state, and local governments should do all they can to ensure renters know their rights and to protect renters from unlawful discrimination and exclusion.
     
  • The Right to Organize: Renters should have the freedom to organize without obstruction or harassment from their housing provider or property manager.
     
  • Eviction Prevention, Diversion, and Relief: Renters should be able to access resources that help them avoid eviction, ensure the legal process during an eviction proceeding is fair, and avoid future housing instability.

In addition, the Administration is rallying state and local stakeholders and private housing actors to drive further action to protect renters in line with the Blueprint. As part of this effort, the Administration is launching the Resident-Centered Housing Challenge (Challenge), a call to action to housing providers and other stakeholders to strengthen practices and make their own independent commitments that improve the quality of life for renters. The Challenge, which will occur during the Spring of 2023, also encourages states, local, Tribal, and territorial governments to enhance existing policies and develop new ones that promote fairness and transparency in the rental market. Early commitments in support of the Challenge, which would affect over 15 million rental units, include:

  • Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) and Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) have capped annual rental increases to 5 percent per year for federally or state subsidized affordable housing. Beginning in 2023, WHEDA policy applies to existing residents in properties utilizing state or federal Low-Income Housing Tax CreditsPHFA applied this policy to their portfolio of 450 properties with PHFA funding in 2022.  
  • Members of the Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future (SAHF), which collectively own or manage 145,000 housing units across the U.S., commit to offer flexible payment plans for residents with unpaid rent who have engaged with property management and to provide the following notices and protections where permitted by local law and financing documents: at least 30 days’ notice to vacate for nonpayment of rent; at least 5 days to cure a missed rent payment; and 60 days’ notice to tenants of any proposed sale or closure of a property. SAHF also commits to launching a task force of its members to identify best practices for resident-centered practices and share resources with the field including model policies and procedures, sample notices, and case studies.
  • Realtor.com Rentals will pilot a new listing process through their DIY landlord product, Avail, highlighting units and landlords that indicate that they welcome Housing Choice Vouchers. Realtor.com will be able to share this information with its nearly 5 million monthly rentals search visitors. They will also ensure that more than 1.3 million Avail renters have access to their application information so they can submit their application to multiple property owners on the platform without additional cost.
     
  • The National Apartment Association commits to promoting resident programming and practices, such as helping tenants build and improve credit through reporting of positive rent payments to credit bureaus, through their website, industry events and other content channels that reach a network of more over 95,000 members owning and operating more than 11.6 million apartment homes globally.
     
  • The National Association of Realtors and its affiliate, the Institute of Real Estate Management, commit to creating new resources for property managers in their network of 1.5 million members that highlight ways they can incorporate resident-centered property management practices in their businesses. Practices would include a range of examples that have proven effective, such as advertising to prospective residents that Housing Choice Vouchers are accepted at their property, providing information about rental assistance, and using alternative credit scores for applicants without a detailed credit history. 
     
  • The National Multifamily Housing Council commits to working with its 2,000 members to identify business standards that align with principles of resident-centered management practices, such as helping residents build credit, providing resource information to residents in financial distress, and communicating these practices through a new resource hub on its website.

The Administration welcomes additional commitments from interested stakeholders to: pursue high-road practices aligned with the Blueprint principles; create new benefits for residents that enhance their economic mobility, build credit, and prepare them for homeownership; reduce or eliminating rental “junk fees,” which are the hidden fees, charges, and add-ons that take cash out of people’s pockets; expand pathways to eviction mitigation and prevention; and enhance and increase communication about tenant rights. To join the Challenge, interested partners can complete this survey by April 28, 2023. Questions regarding the White House Resident-Centered Housing Challenge team, can be directed to [email protected].

Over a third of the American population – 44 million households – rent their homes. Before the pandemic, well over 2 million eviction fillings and roughly 900,000 evictions occurred annually – disproportionately affecting Black women and their children. Since then, rental housing has become less affordable with some landlords taking advantage of market conditions to pursue egregious rent increases.  Today’s announcements recognize there are responsible housing providers – large and small, national and local – willing to treat renters fairly, but it also holds accountable those who exploit market realities at the cost of renters’ housing access and stability. 
 
Since taking office, the President has taken substantial steps to promote fairness in the rental market and ease the burden of rental costs for millions of American renters. The Administration kept the national eviction moratorium in place until August 2021, which helped to prevent over 1.5 million eviction filings nationwide. The Administration has delivered over 8 million rental or utility assistance payments to reduce renters’ risk of eviction or housing instability through Emergency Rental Assistance programs and provided over $769 million for housing stability services. Last May, the Administration released a Housing Supply Action Plan, which set the goal of closing America’s housing supply shortfall in five years. The Administration has been making progress advancing a long-term goal of providing housing vouchers to all eligible households: the 2022 and 2023 President’s Budgets proposed to expand rental assistance to an additional 200,000 households – and the Administration has secured rental assistance to more than 100,000 households through the 2022 and 2033 appropriations bills and the American Rescue Plan. And, last week, HUD published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on its efforts to Affirmatively Further Fair Housing.   
 

Biden Administration Introduces New Regulations to Reduce Cost of Federal Student Loan Payments

The Biden Administration’s proposed regulations for a Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) plan would create the most affordable income-driven repayment (IDR) plan that has ever been made available to student loan borrowers, simplify the program, and eliminate common pitfalls that have historically delayed borrowers’ progress toward forgiveness and provide student debt relief to some 40 million borrowers © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Despite ongoing opposition by Republicans, President Joe Biden continues to introduce programs to relieve the burden of student loans. This is a fact sheet from the Department of Education describing a Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) plan to provide student debt relief for 40 million borrowers:

Today, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) proposed regulations to reduce the cost of federal student loan payments, especially for low and middle-income borrowers. The regulations fulfill the commitment President Biden laid out in August when he announced his Administration’s plan to provide student debt relief for approximately 40 million borrowers and make the student loan system more manageable for student borrowers. The proposed regulations would create the most affordable income-driven repayment (IDR) plan that has ever been made available to student loan borrowers, simplify the program, and eliminate common pitfalls that have historically delayed borrowers’ progress toward forgiveness.  

“Today the Biden-Harris administration is proposing historic changes that would make student loan repayment more affordable and manageable than ever before,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “We cannot return to the same broken system we had before the pandemic, when a million borrowers defaulted on their loans a year and snowballing interest left millions owing more than they initially borrowed. These proposed regulations will cut monthly payments for undergraduate borrowers in half and create faster pathways to forgiveness, so borrowers can better manage repayment, avoid delinquency and default, and focus on building brighter futures for themselves and their families.” 

The proposed regulations would amend the terms of the Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) plan to offer $0 monthly payments for any individual borrower who makes less than roughly $30,600 annually and any borrower in a family of four who makes less than about $62,400. The regulations would also cut in half monthly payments on undergraduate loans for borrowers who do not otherwise have a $0 payment in this plan. The proposed regulations would also ensure that borrowers stop seeing their balances grow due to the accumulation of unpaid interest after making their monthly payments.  

While these regulations would provide critical relief to student borrowers, the Biden-Harris Administration is also committed to ensuring postsecondary institutions and programs are held accountable if they leave borrowers with unaffordable debts. The Department is currently working on a proposed gainful employment regulation that would cut off federal financial aid to career training programs that fail to provide sufficient financial value and require warnings for borrowers who attend any program that leaves graduates with excessive debts. The same regulatory package will also include proposals to strengthen the conditions that can be placed on institutions that fail to meet the requirements of the Higher Education Act or exhibit signs of risk.  

The Department is also taking steps today to carry out President Biden’s announcement from August that the Department would publish a list of the programs at all types of colleges and universities that provide the least financial value to students. To advance this effort, the Department is publishing a request for information to seek formal public feedback on the best way to identify the programs that provide the least financial value for students. This public comment process will ensure the Department is carefully considering a range of perspectives and considerations as it constructs the list. Once the list is published, institutions with programs on this list will be asked to submit improvement plans to the Department to improve their financial value.  

Estimated effects of the proposed IDR Plan 

The proposed regulatory changes would substantially reduce monthly debt burdens and lifetime payments, especially for low and middle-income borrowers, community college students, and borrowers who work in public service. Overall, the Department estimates that the plan would have the following effects compared to the existing REPAYE plan: 

  • Future cohorts of borrowers would see their total payments per dollar borrowed decrease by 40%. Borrowers with the lowest projected lifetime earnings would see payments that are 83% less, while those in the top would only see a 5% reduction. 
  • A typical graduate of a four-year public university would save nearly $2,000 a year relative to the current REPAYE plan. 
  • A first-year teacher with a bachelor’s degree would save more than $17,000 in total payments while pursuing Public Service Loan Forgiveness—a two-thirds reduction in what they would pay in total under REPAYE.  
  • 85% of community college borrowers would be debt-free within 10 years
  • On average, Black, Hispanic, American Indian and Alaska Native borrowers would see their lifetime payments per dollar borrowed cut in half. 

Building on an Unparalleled Record of Debt Relief 

The draft regulations build upon the work the Biden-Harris Administration has already done to improve the student loan program, make colleges more affordable, approve $48 billion in targeted relief to nearly 2 million student loan borrowers, and fight to provide up to $20,000 in one-time debt relief to over 40 million eligible borrowers, including 26 million who have already applied. These regulations also propose to build on the Administration’s commitment to ensuring IDR plans deliver relief to eligible borrowers. This includes ongoing steps to provide accurate counts of progress toward forgiveness for borrowers through a one-time account adjustment

The proposed regulations and request for information will be published in the Federal Register tomorrow. The public may comment on both documents through the Regulations.gov website for 30 days. The Department expects to finalize the rules later this year and aims to start implementing some provisions later this year, subject to any changes made based on public comments. 

View an unofficial copy of proposed IDR regulation here and a fact sheet with further information here. View an unofficial copy of the RFI here, and a fact sheet with further information here.

Fighting for Debt Relief at the Supreme Court

Since President Biden first announced his intention to cancel up to $20,000 in student loan debt for the vast majority of borrowers, opponents of student debt relief have filed legal challenges seeking to halt this effort. In December, the Supreme Court agreed to hear two of these challenges– Nebraska v. Biden (recaptioned Biden v. Nebraska at the Supreme Court), brought by Republican officials in Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas, South Carolina, Arkansas, and Iowa, and Brown v. Biden (recaptioned Biden v. Brown at the Supreme Court), a challenge brought by student loan borrowers in Texas and funded by a right-wing dark-money group. 

Today, an historic coalition of cities, states, experts, and advocates filed more than a dozen amicus curiae briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the Biden Administration’s student debt relief program. 

This week’s briefs support the Justice Department’s effort to defend this policy before the nation’s highest court. To date, more than 26 million Americans have applied for student debt relief and more than 40 million Americans are expected to benefit when this program is fully implemented.

Leaders and public officials join law scholars, economists, sociologists, higher education and public policy experts from across the political and ideological spectrum in briefing the high court. The briefs represent the breadth of communities that stand to benefit from student debt relief, including working people, borrowers of color, veterans, older people, people of faith, along with cities and states across the country. Together, these briefs showcase the broad support, strong legal foundation, and urgent economic necessity underpinning President Biden’s effort to cancel student debt for 40 million Americans.

Amici Curiae Quote Sheet is available here: https://protectborrowers.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/Student-Debt-Relief-Amici-Curiae-Quote-Sheet.pdf

Amici Curiae Summaries and Highlights are available here: https://protectborrowers.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/Student-Debt-Relief-Amici-Curiae-Summaries-and-Highlights.pdf

The amicus curiae briefs filed in support of the U.S. Department of Justice in Biden v. Nebraska and Biden v. Brown include:

FACT SHEET: Biden-Harris Administration Announces New Border Enforcement Actions

New Measures Leverage Success of Venezuela Enforcement Initiative to Limit Disorderly and Unsafe Migration

President Joe Biden announces new border enforcement actions © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com via MSNBC.

Republicans love to rail against the Biden Administration – even threatening impeachment – and Democrats over the “border crisis,” but the fact is that President Joe Biden, like President Barack Obama before him, have tried over and over to enact policies and procedures to address the influx of people LAWFULLY making a claim of asylum. Republicans are making hay – even as they are incapable of electing a Speaker of the House – over “open border” but it is the Democrats who have proposed rational, humane processes that have, in fact, accounted for 2.7 million taken into custody in 2022 – the vast majority fleeing climate disasters, gang violence – immediately repatriating 45 percent.

The people who were essentially human trafficked by Texas Governor Greg Abbott to Vice President Kamala Harris’ home in Washington DC, and to New York City and other “blue” state sanctuary cities were not “illegal aliens” but people who were processed for a hearing, as international and federal law requires. Meanwhile, Republicans have not come up with any plan to address the flood of desperate people who are legally entitled to seek refuge, but instead, have obstructed any comprehensive reform effort, refused to adopt the DREAM Act, even going to court to overturn the Obama-era DACA program that gives people who were brought to the US as children and spent their entire lives in the US legal status to go to school, college and work.

Obama was forced to issue his DACA policy since the Republicans in Congress refused to consider the bipartisan Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill, which did exactly what was asked: spent a ton of money on border enforcement. But Republicans refused to provide any path to legal status for the 11 million undocumented people living for years in the US until the border was sealed shut. An impossibility of which they were well aware.

Republicans are not satisfied with any immigration “reform” that does not include taking toddlers and infants from the arms of their mothers, and turning them into orphans, putting children in cages, allows migrant women to be sterilized against their will.

President Biden has issued his latest plan for border enforcement, that includes sending more immigration judges and social services to these border entry sites. Here is a White House Fact Sheet–Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com.

While the courts have prevented the Title 42 public health order from lifting for now, the Biden-Harris Administration today is announcing new enforcement measures to increase security at the border and reduce the number of individuals crossing unlawfully between ports of entry. These measures will expand and expedite legal pathways for orderly migration and result in new consequences for those who fail to use those legal pathways. They also draw on the success of the Venezuela initiative, which launched in October 2022 and has resulted in a dramatic drop in the number of Venezuelan nationals attempting to enter the United States unlawfully.
 
The Administration is also announcing that it is surging additional resources to the border and the region, scaling up its anti-smuggling operations, and expanding coordination and support for border cities and non-governmental organizations. Importantly, the actions announced today are being implemented in close partnership with Mexico and governments across the Western Hemisphere.
 
While these steps will help address some of the most acute challenges at the Southwest border, they will not solve all of the problems in an immigration system that has been broken for far too long. That can only happen if Republicans in Congress who have spent the past two years talking about border security quit blocking the comprehensive immigration reform and border security measures President Biden proposed on his first day in office, and opposing the billions of dollars in additional funds the President has requested for border security and management.
 
Unlike some Republican officials playing political games and obstructing real solutions to fix our broken immigration system, President Biden has a plan and is taking action. Under the new enforcement measures announced today, the Biden-Harris Administration will:
 
Impose New Consequences for Individuals who Attempt to Enter Unlawfully
 
To facilitate a return to the processing of all noncitizens under Title 8 authorities when Title 42 eventually lifts, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is:

  • Increasing the Use of Expedited Removal. Effective immediately, individuals who attempt to enter the United States without permission, do not have a legal basis to remain, and cannot be expelled pursuant to Title 42 will be increasingly subject to expedited removal to their country of origin and subject to a five-year ban on reentry.
  • Announcing New Measures to Encourage Individuals to Seek Orderly and Lawful Pathways to Migration. DHS and the Department of Justice today are announcing their intent to propose a new regulation that would encourage individuals to seek orderly and lawful pathways to migration and reduce overcrowding along the southwest border and the strain on the immigration system.
     

Expand Legal Pathways for Safe, Orderly, and Humane Migration
 
The Biden-Harris Administration and its international partners in the region are also announcing new and expanded legal pathways to the United States and other countries that individuals can and should use to avoid consequences for crossing the border unlawfully. These include:

  • Expanding the Parole Process for Venezuelans to Nicaraguans, Haitians, and Cubans. Today, the Biden Administration is announcing it will extend the successful Venezuela parole process and expand it to nationals of Nicaragua, Haiti, and Cuba. Up to 30,000 individuals per month from these four countries, who have an eligible sponsor and pass vetting and background checks, can come to the United States for a period of two years and receive work authorization. Individuals who irregularly cross the Panama, Mexico, or U.S. border after the date of this announcement will be ineligible for the parole process and will be subject to expulsion to Mexico, which will accept returns of 30,000 individuals per month from these four countries who fail to use these new pathways.
     
  • Tripling Refugee Resettlement from the Western Hemisphere. The Biden-Harris Administration intends to welcome up to 20,000 refugees from Latin American and Caribbean countries during Fiscal Years 2023 and 2024, putting the United States on pace to more than triple refugee admissions from the Western Hemisphere this Fiscal Year alone. This delivers on the President’s commitment under the Los Angeles Declaration for Migration and Protection to scale up refugee admissions from the Western Hemisphere.
     
  • Launching Online Appointment Portal to Reduce Overcrowding and Wait Times at U.S. Ports of Entry.  When Title 42 eventually lifts, noncitizens located in Central and Northern Mexico seeking to enter the United States lawfully through a U.S. port of entry have access to the CBP One mobile application for scheduling an appointment to present themselves for inspection and to initiate a protection claim instead of coming directly to a port of entry to wait. This new feature will significantly reduce wait times and crowds at U.S. ports of entry and allow for safe, orderly, and humane processing. 
  • New Legal Pathways to Other Countries Across the Region. Countries across the Western Hemisphere are delivering on their commitments under the Los Angeles Declaration to expand legal immigration pathways. Colombia, Ecuador, Costa Rica, and Belize are each implementing new regularization or temporary protection policies to provide legal status to hundreds of thousands of migrants. Canada, Mexico, and Spain have expanded refugee resettlement and temporary work opportunities. Mexico and Guatemala have also significantly grown their asylum system. Individuals are encouraged to avail themselves of this wide range of legal pathways in the region and avoid the dangerous consequences of irregular migration.
     
  • Increasing Humanitarian Assistance in Mexico and Central America. The United States is announcing today nearly $23 million in additional humanitarian assistance in Mexico and Central America. This new assistance will help governments in the region respond to the increased humanitarian and protection needs of migrants, refugees and other vulnerable populations in their care. Recognizing that no one country can respond to these needs alone, this assistance will help support shelter, health, legal assistance, mental health and psychosocial support, water, sanitation, hygiene products, gender-based violence response, livelihoods, other protection related activities, and capacity building for partners. 

 
Surge Resources to Secure the Border, Disrupt Criminal Smuggling Networks, and Support Border Communities
 
The Biden-Harris Administration is surging resources and expanding efforts to securely manage the border, disrupt the criminal smuggling networks preying on vulnerable migrants, and support communities receiving migrants as they await their immigration enforcement proceedings. New and expanded efforts include:

  • Mobilizing Record Resources for Safe, Orderly, and Humane Processing of Migrants. The Biden Administration is marshalling available authorities and resources from across the Federal Government to help ensure the border is secure and well-managed when the Title 42 public health order eventually lifts. DHS and DOJ are surging asylum officers and immigration judges to review asylum cases at the border more quickly – with the aim of reducing initial processing times from months to days. The two agencies are also expanding capabilities and technologies to support faster processing, including by installing hundreds of phone lines and privacy booths to conduct these interviews and proceedings. DHS is also hiring and deploying additional agents and officers to join the over 23,000 already working to secure the border. In addition, DHS is significantly scaling up its air and ground transportation capabilities to quickly remove migrants when warranted or transport migrants to less-congested border sectors for further immigration enforcement proceedings.
     
  • Taking Thousands of Smugglers off the Streets and Countering Smuggler Misinformation. In Los Angeles earlier this year, President Biden announced a first-of-its kind operation against the multi-billion-dollar human smuggling industry. Since April, this operation has led to over 7,300 arrests, forcing many criminal smuggling organizations out of business. The Administration is also taking on the smuggler misinformation. The Department of State is expanding its paid and earned media outreach to ensure timely and accurate information is reaching migrants. Messaging and outreach will target high out-migration communities and migrant routes through relevant communications channels (e.g., radio, digital, trusted partners, and more.) with an estimated reach of over 85 million potential migrants
     
  • Expanding Coordination with and Support for Border Cities, Receiving Communities, and Non-Governmental Organizations. The Biden-Harris Administration is increasing funding available to border cities and those cities receiving an influx of migrants, in addition to strengthening ongoing coordination and collaboration across all levels of government. DHS is also expanding outreach efforts with local jurisdictions to provide coordination of resources and technical assistance support and the Administration has been facilitating coordination between state and local officials and other federal agencies. Additionally, the Administration will continue to mobilize faith-based and non-profit organizations supporting migrants, including those providing temporary shelter, food, and humanitarian assistance before often reuniting with family as they await the outcome of their immigration proceedings.

The Biden-Harris Administration will do everything within its authority and available resources to manage this challenge, but until and unless Congress delivers the funding as well as comprehensive immigration reform measures President Biden requested, the United States’ broken immigration system will indeed remain broken.

Federal, State Officials Get Serious About Combatting Antisemitism. ‘Silence is Complicity’

New York State Governor Kathy Hochul awards a proclamation to UJA-Federation CEO Eric Goldstein at the Shine a Light event at Times Square to raise awareness of antisemitism and show Jewish pride. Hochul reiterated her support for programs to combat anti-Semitism. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News-Photos-Features.com

Nearly one out of every four Jews in the U.S. experiences antisemitism. It’s become normalized across our culture — on social media, in pop culture and politics, and on the streets, writes the organizers of a Shine a Light event in which Jews were called upon to proudly display their identity in lighting the menorah at Times Square. Leaders from President Joe Biden and New York State Governor Kathy Hochul and on down have declared that antisemitism, bigotry and hate will no longer be tolerated.

Antisemitism is on the rise across the United States. The Anti-Defamation League which tracks antisemitic behavior nationwide, found 2717 incidents in 2021, a 34 percent rise over 2020 – accompanied by unabashed rise and weaponization of fascism and political violence, the attacks more brazen, more violent, more deadly and more politically strategic.

Charlottesville (where a woman was murdered, after which Trump said there were “good people” on both sides). The Tree of Life Synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh.

The Jewish community has a propensity to dismiss anti-Semitic rhetoric and not draw too much attention. But the time is passed for dismissing, or ignoring, or minimizing. American Jews came out to the Shine a Light on Antisemitism event in Times Square to celebrate and stand up for their Jewish identity © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“This is the highest total we have ever tracked in more than 40 years of doing this work,” Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO and National Director, Anti-Defamation League said on Newshour on PBS. “And we should keep in mind that antisemitic acts were going down in the United States for almost 15 years, and then, in 2016, they started to move up. And we’re now at the point where we have nearly triple the number of incidents today that we did in 2015.” In 2022, assaults increased 167 percent, with increases in incidents of vandalism and harassment.  

“So I think antisemitism really isn’t just a Jewish problem. It’s an American problem,” he asserted. “[Antisemitism] is typically the canary in the coal mine. And so, as things are beginning to unravel more broadly, the Jewish community is often the target of scapegoating and victimized in that way.”

Antisemitism is not new in America, but Greenblatt noted, “We have never seen a situation like this before. You had Jews being beaten and brutalized in broad daylight, say, in the middle of Times Square or Los Angeles or the Strip in Las Vegas, where people who were simply identified as Jewish came under assault and attack. That was new. And I think what you’re seeing is a kind of normalization of antisemitism and extremism.”

NYS Attorney General Letitia James: “I stand with the Jewish community and Israel. Love will overcome hate.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Taking a cue from Trump, whose entire political career has been built upon fear-mongering bigotry, politicians who once would never have dared profess support for Hitler and Nazism will actually be in positions of power in Congress, including Marjorie Taylor Greene (who charged that Jewish space lasers were to blame for California’s wildfires and who embraces QAnon, which has repackaged the Jewish Blood Libel conspiracy from the Middle Ages to incite attacks on Jews), while others, like Speaker Wannabe Kevin McCarthy and incoming Congressman George Santos, stand by instead of denouncing attacks.

Celebrities like Kanye West, who command the following of millions use social media to incite attacks on Jews. Only last week, a 63-year old man was attacked in Central Park by a man who shouted anti-Semitic slogans and had a sign, Kanye 2024.

The MC of the Shine a Light event, comedian Ariel Elias, who grew up in Kentucky (very few Jews there) related how a video of her performing in a comedy club went viral after someone threw a beer can at her. She only connected it to antisemitism after noting the timing of the incident: it coincided with Kanye West’s “defcon3” tweet © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

In just the few weeks since the recent takeover of Twitter by billionaire Elon Musk, who fired moderators and brought back those who were thrown off for inciting violence, hate-filled tweets have increased fivefold.

“The Holocaust didn’t begin with systematic murder of 6 million Jews, it began with rhetoric, normalization of rhetoric that the average person picked up on and ran with; it began with attacks on individuals, businesses, communities, perpetrated by citizens with permission by rhetoric,” Rabbi Michael Knopf, Temple Beth-el, Richmond, told “All Things Considered’ on NPR.

“We ought not to wait around for another Charlottesville, another [Tree of Life Synagogue massacre in] Pittsburgh. “When it manifests, it requires calling out.”

A celebration and statement of Jewish identity at the Shine a Light on Antisemitism event in Times Square © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The Jewish community, he said, has a propensity to dismiss anti-Semitic rhetoric, and not draw too much attention. “That is really dangerous. Not just celebrities, but celebrities endorsed by and in relationship with incredibly powerful figures, the former president, refuse to distance themselves from that ideology, welcome and embrace it”. Indeed, they embrace them as their voting base.

But the time is passed for dismissing, or ignoring, or minimizing.

Nearly one out of every four Jews in the U.S. experiences antisemitism. It’s become normalized across our culture — on social media, in pop culture and politics, and on the streets, writes the organizers of a Shine a Light event in which Jews were called upon to proudly display their identity in lighting the menorah at Times Square. Antisemitic incidents and attacks have mushroomed on college campuses, even at City University of New York – indeed, the menorah was lit by four CUNY students who have been victims of antisemitism. Washington DC-area high schoolers, interviewed on NPR’s All Things Considered, how they are made to feel like outsiders, diminished, less equal, and have new fears of being attacked.

Montana Tucker, TikTok Influencer, at the Shine a Light on Antisemitism event in Times Square. “Antisemitism is intensifying. Our efforts to fight it must be even stronger. Nearly one out of every four Jews in the U.S. experiences antisemitism. It’s become normalized across our culture — on social media, in pop culture and politics, and on the streets,” the organizers stated © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, chairing the first-ever White House summit to combat antisemitism and hate-fueled violence, cited “an epidemic of hate, a rapid rise in antisemitic rhetoric and acts. Let me clear, words matter. People are no longer saying the quiet parts out loud, they are literally screaming them.”

President Biden is taking action, establishing an inter-agency group led by Domestic Policy Council staff and National Security Council staff to increase and better coordinate federal government efforts to counter antisemitism, Islamophobia and related forms of bias and discrimination. The President has tasked the inter-agency group as its first order of business to develop a national strategy to counter antisemitism by raising understanding about antisemitism and the threat it poses to the Jewish community and all Americans, and addressing antisemitic harassment and abuse both online and offline. The President also has secured the largest increase in federal funding ever for the physical security of non-profits, including synagogues and Jewish Community Centers.

The Ramaz Upper School Choir at the Shine a Light on Antisemitism event in Times Square © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

One can almost process antisemitism in rearing up in places where there are few Jews and therefore so easy to fabricate the fantastical conspiracies and caricatures. But New York City? Long Island? New York State, which has the largest population of Jews outside of Israel, which is the most richly filled melting pot of nationalities, religions, races on the planet? What does that say?

Governor Kathy Hochul, who came out to the Shine a Light on Antisemitism event in Times Square on Monday, days earlier announced the launch of a new statewide Hate and Bias Prevention Unit, within the state’s Division of Human Rights. The unit is charged with leading public education and outreach efforts, serving as an early warning detection system in local communities, and quickly mobilizing to support areas and communities in which a bias incident has occurred.

“New York State will use every tool at its disposal to eliminate hate and bias from our communities,” Governor Kathy  Hochul said. “We will not let the rise in hate incidents that we see happening online, across the country and across the world, take root here at home.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“New York State will use every tool at its disposal to eliminate hate and bias from our communities,” Governor Hochul said. “We will not let the rise in hate incidents that we see happening online, across the country and across the world, take root here at home.”   Among the issues she raised during the Shine a Light event was the need to teach about the Holocaust with substance, not passing lip service. Holocaust education is mandated in the state’s curriculum.

“New York State will use every tool at its disposal to eliminate hate and bias from our communities,” Governor Kathy  Hochul said. “We will not let the rise in hate incidents that we see happening online, across the country and across the world, take root here at home.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The Governor announced $96 million in state and federal funding to safeguard nonprofit, community-based organizations at risk of hate crimes and attacks; and directed $10 million in state grant funds to support county governments as they develop domestic terrorism prevention plans and threat assessment and management teams.

Rapper Nissim Baruch Black performs at the Shine a Light on Antisemitism event in Times Square © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The Hate and Bias Prevention Unit will be responsible for establishing and implementing a statewide campaign promoting acceptance, inclusion, tolerance, and understanding of diversity, as required by legislation signed last month by Governor Hochul, The campaign will coordinate and cooperate with public and private organizations, including, but not limited to, local governments, community groups, school districts, places of worship, charitable organizations, and foundations and will develop educational materials to be published on the internet, social media, and other platforms to reach the public. The Division also works with the New York State Police to educate New Yorkers on the State’s hate crimes laws.

The cast of National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene’s Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish, directed by Joe Gray, now playing until Jan 1st, give a taste of their performance © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The Shine a Light event – which drew New York Attorney General Letitia James (who called antisemitism “a malignant cancer” that must be wiped out) in addition to Governor Hochul and was organized by UJA Federation New York, AJC New York, Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, ADl-New York/New Jersey– was aimed at giving Jews an opportunity to proudly display their identity and commitment to their faith and heritage and raise awareness more broadly of antisemitism.

The Moshav Band brings cheer at the Shine a Light on Antisemitism event in Times Square, a celebration and declaration of Jewish identity © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The MC of the event, comedian Ariel Elias, who grew up in Kentucky (very few Jews there) related how a video of her performing in a comedy club went viral after someone threw a beer can at her. She only connected it to antisemitism after noting the timing of the incident: it coincided with Kanye West’s “defcon3” tweet.

“What I was talking about [before the beer can was thrown] was being Jewish and growing up in Kentucky,” Elias said. “But because antisemitism doesn’t always look the way it used to, it took a long time for me to connect the dots when it first happened.”

Mayor Frank Scott, Jr. (Little Rock, AR), President, African American Mayors Association, declared his support for combating antisemitism at the Shine a Light event in Times Square © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Antisemitism is intensifying. Our efforts to fight it must be even stronger.Nearly one out of every four Jews in the U.S. experiences antisemitism. It’s become normalized across our culture — on social media, in pop culture and politics, and on the streets,” the Shine a Light organizers stated. Shine a Light comprises more than 80 Jewish and non-Jewish organizations which are committed to addressing rising antisemitism.

CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez at the Shine a Light on Antisemitism event in Times Square: “People are not born hating, they are taught to hate,” pointing to the unthinkable incidents of antisemitism on New York’s campuses © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Antisemitic incidents and attacks have mushroomed on college campuses, even at City University of New York – indeed, the menorah in Times Square was lit by four CUNY students who have been victims of antisemitism. Washington DC-area high schoolers, interviewed on NPR’s All Things Considered, how they are made to feel like outsiders, diminished, less equal, and have new fears of being attacked.

UJA-Federation CEO Eric Goldstein, who spoke at the Shine a Light event, said that putting on an event like this in a public place is important in order to show that Jews are standing up to antisemitism. “A really important piece of this is to live [a] proudly public, happy Jewish life.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

UJA-Federation CEO Eric Goldstein, who spoke at the Shine a Light event, told the New York Jewish Week that putting on an event like this in a public place is important in order to show that Jews are standing up to antisemitism. “A really important piece of this is to live [a] proudly public, happy Jewish life.”

Around Manhattan, there were numerous trucks manned by Orthodox Jews, playing festive music. “Are you Jewish,” someone would ask, and offering a Hanukkah kit in a box.

Dancing in the street on Fifth Avenue in celebration of Hanukkah © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

We are here. We are here to stay.

“We live in a very challenging world, and the only thing we can use to overcome hatred, intolerance, prejudice and antisemitism is light – because light overcomes darkness and hatred,” Nassau County Legislator Arnold W. Drucker (D – Plainview) said at a “Latkes and Lights” celebration at the county executive building.

“We live in a very challenging world, and the only thing we can use to overcome hatred, intolerance, prejudice and antisemitism is light – because light overcomes darkness and hatred,” Nassau County Legislator Arnold W. Drucker (D – Plainview) said at a “Latkes and Lights” celebration © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Drucker, a member of the county’s Task Forceto CombatAntisemitism which was formed in May, said “The biggest problem is education. The task force intends to meet with school district administrators to get input –from faculty, student body – as to the root cause of antisemitism “rearing its ugly head. We are seeing symptoms throughout the country. We don’t want it to happen here. One example is too many.” He said he has reached out to Hochul’s office to being named as a Long Island representative on the satellite offices she is setting up throughout the state.

But in fact, there are been many instances, now, of antisemitism on Long Island, including leaflets left in neighborhoods suggesting a Jewish cabal controlling government, and only weeks ago, a Long Island man arrested at Penn Station with weapons who had made threats against the Jewish community.

Just this month, Municipal Leaders Against Antisemitism was formed to counter an uptick in antisemitic incidents in Long Island. There were 28 incidents in Nassau County so far this year, up from 24 in 2021.

At a Hanukkah reception at the White House, Biden stated that in the face of emboldened antisemitism in the US and around the world, “silence is complicity and we must forcefully say that all forms of hate, antisemitism and violence can have no safe harbor in America.”

Still, the question must be despite all these positive pronouncements and announcements and initiatives, whether it is just lip service or actual action, and whether these programs will be sustained long enough to reverse course again, making antisemitism culturally deplorable.

Happy Hanukkah for all those who celebrate – proudly.

__________________________

© 2022 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email [email protected]. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures. ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

FACT SHEET: Biden Administration Announces COVID-19 Winter Preparedness Plan

Administration focused efforts on making vaccinations, testin, and treatments even more widely available and accessible as COVID-19 cases increase
 

The Biden Administration’s plan to stay ahead of an increase in COVID-19 cases this winter includes working with states, medical providers, businesses, and other groups to expand awareness about updated COVID-19 vaccines, highly effective treatments, and resources to stand up additional vaccination sites and other delivery options to make it easier and more convenient to get vaccinations and treatments. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features

The Biden Administration announced a plan to stay ahead of an increase in COVID-19 cases this winter. While COVID-19 is not the disruptive force it once was, the virus continues to evolve, and cases are on the rise again as families are spending more time indoors and gathering for the holidays. Throughout the COVID-19 response, this Administration has been prepared for whatever the virus throws our way – and this moment is no different.
 
The Administration’s COVID-19 Winter Preparedness Plan includes:
 
Expanding easy access to free COVID-19 testing options in the winter. COVID-19 testing is an important tool to help mitigate and slow the spread of the virus. The Administration is encouraging Americans to use at-home COVID-19 tests when they have symptoms of COVID-19, before and after traveling for the holidays, or visiting indoors with immunocompromised or vulnerable individuals. The Administration has made free COVID-19 testing widely available and easily accessible. This includes providing over 15,000 free community testing sites nationwide, covering over-the-counter tests under Medicare, and requiring all health insurance plans to cover eight free at-home tests per month per individual, which can be easily accessed at local pharmacies and online. Ahead of continued increases in cases, the Administration is taking new action to ensure that all Americans have easy and free access to COVID-19 tests in the winter months.
 

  • Making free at-home, rapid COVID-19 tests available through COVIDTests.govThe Administration is announcing that COVIDTests.gov is open for a limited round of ordering this winter. Starting today, all U.S. households can order a total of four at-home COVID-19 tests that will be mailed directly to them for free. In the absence of Congress providing additional funding for the nation’s COVID-19 response, the Administration has acted with its limited existing funding to add more at-home COVID-19 tests to the nation’s stockpile and support this round of ordering ahead of continued increases in COVID-19 cases. Orders for this round of testing will begin to ship starting the week of December 19th and continue in the weeks ahead. The Administration will also make tests available to individuals who are blind or have low-vision through this program. People who have difficulty accessing the internet or need additional support placing an order can call 1-800-232-0233 (TTY 1-888-720-7489) to get help in English, Spanish, and more than 150 other languages – 8:00 a.m. to midnight E.T., seven days a week. For more information, people can visit www.COVIDTests.gov.  
     
  • Distributing more free tests to Americans at trusted locations. In addition to continuing to support access to free COVID-19 tests in schools, community health centers, rural health clinics, long-term care facilities, and other convenient locations, the Administration is announcing additional distribution programs to reach people with free, at-home tests. This includes distributing free at-home tests at more than 6,500 Department of Housing and Urban Development-assisted rental housing properties serving seniors; and expanding a program to distribute free at-home tests to as many as 500 major food banks for them to distribute to people in their communities.

 
Making vaccinations and treatments readily available to all Americans as cases rise. As we have throughout the pandemic, the federal government continues to leverage all capabilities to support state, local, territorial, and Tribal communities to prepare for, prevent, and respond to increased incidence of COVID-19. That includes working with states, medical providers, businesses, and other groups to expand awareness about updated COVID-19 vaccines, highly effective treatments, and resources to stand up additional vaccination sites and other delivery options to make it easier and more convenient to get vaccinations and treatments. 

  • Offering resources and assistance to increase vaccinations and respond to a possible surge. Today, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra is sending a letter to all governors outlining key actions that he would like state leaders to take as they prepare for increased cases and hospitalizations this winter, and reminding them of federal supports that are available for their COVID-19 responses. This includes setting up additional mobile and pop-up vaccination sites, surge testing sites, as well as Test to Treat sites where Americans can not only get tested for free, but also can get prescribed and dispensed safe, effective COVID-19 treatments right on site if they test positive and treatment is appropriate for them.
     
  • Collaborating with communities to open pop-up and/or mobile vaccination sites. Communities across the nation are answering the call to expand vaccine access through the increased presence of mobile and pop-up vaccination clinics. This includes efforts in Los Angeles County to open up to 800 pop-up clinics per week; expanded use of mobile vaccination, testing, and treatment units, as well as outbound vaccine and treatment calls to people age 65 and older, at-home administration of vaccines and free home delivery of treatments in New York City; and an increase in Chicago’s at-home vaccine administration program, which provides vaccines for up to 10 people per visit in their place of residence. The Administration has been engaging jurisdictions on the availability of federal resources to continue and increase these efforts, including through use of flexible single-dose vials, and will continue to engage state, local, Tribal, and territorial leaders in the weeks ahead.
     
  • Getting additional resources to community health centers and aging and disability networks to support COVID-19 vaccination efforts. The Administration for Community Living is awarding $125 million to support community-based organizations in the aging and disability networks to hold accessible vaccine clinics and provide in-home vaccinations, transportation, and other supportive services to increase COVID-19 vaccinations for older adults and people with disabilities.

 
Preparing personnel and resources. Together with states, we will monitor the impacts of variants, cases, and hospitalizations on our communities and – should it become necessary – escalate our support to states and communities. The Administration stands ready with federal capabilities to support urgent needs as they present, including through clinical staffing, personal protective equipment and supplies, and technical assistance. 
 
Readying clinical personnel for deployment as needed to support jurisdictions. The Administration continues to make federal teams and medical personnel available to alleviate strains on hospitals and health care systems through the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS’) Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR), the U.S. Public Health Services Corps, and the Department of Defense. Federal agencies can also help offer support for states to take actions, such as providing more flexibility to hospitals balancing patients and staffing, exercising telemedicine options, pursuing staffing options such as contracts, and employing the National Guard to help alleviate strains on health and medical facilities.  
 

  • Pre-positioning critical supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile. Tanks to the President’s leadership, the U.S. government has hundreds of millions of N-95 masks, billions of gloves, tens of millions of gowns, and over 100,000 ventilators stored in the Strategic National Stockpile—all ready to ship out if and when states need them. The Administration has pre-positioned these supplies in strategic locations across the country so that we can send them to states that need them immediately.
     
  • Closely monitoring emerging variants and assessing their potential impacts on testing, treatments and vaccines. This winter, federal agencies will continue to monitor Omicron subvariants and the spread of any other emerging variants of the virus in the United States. This includes genomic surveillance of specimens from representative populations to detect new variants and to monitor trends in currently circulating variants. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tracks and reports on genomic sequencing results from a variety of sources, including public health and commercial laboratories.  CDC also recently expanded variant reporting from additional sources, including wastewater and through international air travel. The Traveler-Based Genomic Surveillance Program currently collects samples from international air travelers arriving from more than 25 countries at several major U.S. airports. This data, which provides an early warning system for detection of variants and trends over time, is publicly shared on the CDC COVID-19 Data Tracker.


Focusing on protecting the highest-risk Americans. As we have done since the beginning of the Administration, we remain focused on meeting the needs and protecting Americans at highest risk of severe illness from COVID-19. This includes residents of nursing homes and other congregate care facilities, where we know vaccination rates remain too low. This also includes older Americans, individuals who are immunocompromised, disabled individuals, and others who face a higher risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19.   

  • Releasing a winter playbook for nursing homes and long-term care facilities. The Administration will release a winter playbook for administrators of nursing homes and long-term care facilities that summarizes the actions these facilities should take to reduce serious illness, prevent hospitalizations and deaths, and minimize disruptions in their communities. Nursing homes often serve residents at great risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19, and congregate care settings have an increased risk of spread of respiratory infections. All facilities should take concrete actions to ensure that every resident is educated on and offered an updated COVID-19 shot; that every resident who tests positive for COVID-19 is evaluated and offered treatment; and that every facility is taking steps to improve its indoor air quality.
     
  • Expanding the pool of providers that may administer COVID-19 vaccinations. In addition to working with their partners, staff at nursing homes will now be able to administer COVID-19 vaccines to all residents. HHS will work with states to launch teams and use partner with their Quality Improvement Organizations (QIOs), home health agencies, and Emergency Medical Technicians to deliver vaccines to residents of long-term care facilities. On December 1, 2022, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) also added COVID-19 vaccination rates of health care staff and the residents at these facilities to the “Measures under Consideration” list, the list of measures it will potentially consider for certain Medicare quality payment programs, reinforcing its commitment to increased vaccination and improving outcomes for patients.
     
  • Reaching out to governors on nursing home vaccinations. In Secretary Becerra’s letter to governors reminding them of available federal COVID-19 supports, he also highlighted how their states are performing as compared to their peers on vaccinating residents of long-term care facilities, and asked governors for their assistance and partnership in increasing COVID-19 vaccination rates for long-term care residents and staff. CMS leadership will also be reaching out to the jurisdictions with the lowest vaccination rates at these long-term care facilities to remind them of what additional steps they can take to increase vaccination rates among seniors and long-term care facility residents.
     
  • Encouraging hospitals to offer COVID-19 vaccinations to patients before discharge. HHS leadership, including Secretary Becerra, has called upon hospitals through direct outreach to vaccinate their unvaccinated patients or make sure they are up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccinations before they are discharged, especially if they are heading to a nursing home.
     
  • Expanding access to high-quality masks in communities. In January 2022, HHS made up to 400 million N-95 respirators from the Strategic National Stockpile available through tens of thousands of locations including pharmacies and grocery stores, so Americans could have convenient, free access to high-quality masks. About 270 million masks were sent out as part of this initiative, with many still available in stores nationwide. To expand access to these high-quality masks, HHS will offer guidance to participating pharmacies and grocery stores on how they can to work with local health clinics, aging and disability networks, community-based organizations, and health departments to distribute these masks more widely, so that any spare inventory can be utilized through distribution to even more locations.
     
  • Ensuring that every individual has a plan for COVID-19 this winter. With updated COVID-19 vaccines, at-home tests, and effective oral antiviral treatments widely available, the Administration encourages every individual American to have a plan for how to prevent and respond to COVID-19 this winter. CDC has launched a COVID-19 Personal Action Plan, an easy-to-use guide for individuals, caregivers, and clinicians that helps guide individuals through making a plan for where to access free tests, the location of their closest Test to Treat site, and what to ask their provider on treatments if they test positive. The Personal Action Plan helps lay these steps out in an easy-to-use template so that all Americans – especially those at highest risk for severe illness – can decrease the risk of COVID-19 and, if they become infected, have a plan to quickly seek out treatment and avoid its worst outcomes.

Biden-Harris Administration Releases Inflation Reduction Act Guidebook for Clean Energy and Climate Programs

Solar powered New York State farm. New York Governor Kathy Hochul, Co-Chair, U.S. Climate Alliance stated: “States are leading the way to a cleaner, greener climate and with the extraordinary investments made possible through the IRA, we’re getting ready to transform our states and our country. Thanks to the hard work of President Biden, Leader Schumer and Speaker Pelosi, New York and the United States are poised to rapidly reduce emissions, support green jobs, save money for hard-working Americans, and improve the health of our communities. This new resource is a critical tool to help get the job done.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The White House released the first edition of a new resource titled Building a Clean Energy Economy: A Guidebook to the Inflation Reduction Act’s Investments in Clean Energy and Climate Action, which provides clear descriptions of the law’s tax incentives and funding programs to build a clean energy economy, lower energy costs, tackle climate change, and reduce harmful pollution. The Guidebook will help state, local, territorial, and Tribal leaders, the private sector, non-profit organizations, homeowners, and communities better understand how they can benefit from these investments and unlock the full potential of the law. The Guidebook walks through the law program-by-program and provides background on each program’s purpose, eligibility requirements, period of availability, and other key details. 

In a letter at the beginning of the Guidebook, John Podesta, President Biden’s Senior Advisor for Clean Energy Innovation and Implementation, said:
 
“When President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law in August 2022, he said the new law ‘is not just about today, it’s about tomorrow. It’s about delivering progress and prosperity to American families.’ The Inflation Reduction Act makes a historic commitment to build a new clean energy economy, powered by American innovators, American workers, and American manufacturers, that will create good-paying, union jobs and cut the pollution that is fueling the climate crisis and driving environmental injustice.”
 
The Inflation Reduction Act Guidebook follows the successful model of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Guidebook and creates a roadmap for the clean energy and climate funding available under the law at the program level.
 
Since President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act four months ago, his administration has been working quickly to design, develop, and implement its programs. This Guidebook provides information on current and prospective clean energy and climate programs. In the coming weeks and months, new developments will be published on www.CleanEnergy.gov to keep stakeholders and potential beneficiaries up to date on the latest deadlines and details.
 
The Inflation Reduction Act builds on the foundational climate and clean energy investments in President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Through his historic legislative accomplishments, along with key executive actions and international leadership, the Administration is delivering on the President’s ambitious climate agenda centered on workers, families, and communities. President Biden has made transparent communication and open engagement top priorities as a means to ensure successful implementation and to fully unlock the unprecedented benefits of the law. This Guidebook is critical step toward delivering on that vision.
 
To view the Guidebook in full, click here.
 
Here’s what leaders have to say about the new Inflation Reduction Act Guidebook:
 
New York Governor Kathy Hochul, Co-Chair, U.S. Climate Alliance: “States are leading the way to a cleaner, greener climate and with the extraordinary investments made possible through the IRA, we’re getting ready to transform our states and our country. Thanks to the hard work of President Biden, Leader Schumer and Speaker Pelosi, New York and the United States are poised to rapidly reduce emissions, support green jobs, save money for hard-working Americans, and improve the health of our communities. This new resource is a critical tool to help get the job done.”

Mayor Sylvester Turner, Houston, Texas: “Cities have long been on the frontlines of climate change, but the federal support provided by the Inflation Reduction Act will allow us to take action like never before. We thank Congress and President Biden for passing such historic legislation and providing guidance to lawmakers which will light the path forward to justice driven environmental policies, clean energy economies and a livable planet for all.”
 
Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway, Madison, Wisconsin, Co-Chair of Climate Mayors: “As the incoming Chair of Climate Mayors, I am pleased that Congress and the White House are delivering critical resources for climate action in the form of the historic Inflation Reduction act, and providing strong guidance for policy makers. We are eager to begin implementing the Inflation Reduction Act at the local level and will be making use of the climate provisions, rebates, and tax breaks within it to better the lives of people in our communities while also securing a sustainable, resilient, and prosperous future for all.”
 
Abigail Ross Hopper, President and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA): “The Inflation Reduction Act is the most robust and forward-looking climate bill ever enacted. Solar and storage companies are eager for clear guidance on the bill so they can focus on creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs for all Americans and deploying low-cost, reliable energy in communities across the country. Timely, easy to understand discussion of this transformative – but complex – new law is exactly what consumers and industry alike need and we look forward to referring to the IRA Guidebook for this valuable information as we work with other allies to build an equitable and just clean energy future.”
 
Lori Lodes, Executive Director, Climate Power: “Passing the Inflation Reduction Act was an historic victory in the fight against climate change. Now, it’s time for the hard work of implementing the law and making sure people understand how the climate and clean energy investments will positively impact their lives and keep their communities healthy and strong. Cleaner, cheaper, American-made energy is taking off. The guidebook is a critical resource to help people and communities get the information needed to use the incentives found in the climate law.”
 
Faye Park, President, U.S. PIRG: “The new Implementation Guidebook for the Inflation Reduction Act makes it clear: Consumers, cities, states, businesses and community organizations now have myriad opportunities to reduce pollution that makes us sick and worsens global warming. Cities can swap dirty buses and garbage trucks for clean electric ones. Your favorite home chef can get a clean electric or induction stove that doesn’t increase the risk of asthma for their kids. All of us can save energy in our homes and businesses. We encourage everyone to use this great resource to learn more.”
 
Lisa Frank, Executive Director, Washington Legislative Office, Environment America: “Climate change is a problem that impacts all of us. Now, the Inflation Reduction Act helps us all be part of the solution too, by making it cheaper and easier for Americans to go solar, purchase an electric vehicle or weatherize their home. This new implementation guidebook will help raise awareness of new tax incentives and other programs we can use to take President Biden up on this historic offer to save energy, save money and save the planet. We’re excited to put it to work.”
 
David Masur, Executive Director, PennEnvironment: “The Inflation Reduction Act’s tax credits and climate programs will help Pennsylvanians breathe cleaner air, make their homes more energy efficient and expand our use of clean, renewable energy. Thanks to the new Implementation Guidebook, it’ll be easier for cities, school districts, community organizations and all Pennsylvanians to understand and utilize these beneficial programs.”

$600 Million in Refunds Returned to Airline Passengers Under DOT Rules Backed by New Enforcement Actions

Frontier Airlines was one of the airlines fined by the US Department of Transportation for extreme delays in providing refunds to passengers © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced historic enforcement actions against six airlines, which collectively paid $600 million to people who were owed a refund due to a canceled or significantly changed flight. These fines are part of DOT’s ongoing work to ensure Americans receive the refunds they are owed from airlines. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, DOT has received a flood of complaints from air travelers about airlines’ failures to provide timely refunds after they had their flights canceled or significantly changed. 

“When a flight gets canceled, passengers seeking refunds should be paid back promptly. Whenever that doesn’t happen, we will act to hold airlines accountable on behalf of American travelers and get passengers their money back.” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “A flight cancellation is frustrating enough, and you shouldn’t also have to haggle or wait months to get your refund.” 

In addition to the more than $600 million in refunds airlines have paid back, the Department announced today that it is assessing more than $7.25 million in civil penalties against six airlines for extreme delays in providing refunds. With today’s fines, the Department’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection has assessed $8.1 million in civil penalties in 2022, the largest amount ever issued in a single year by that office. A majority of the assessed fines will be collected in the form of payments to the Treasury Department, with the remainder credited on the basis of payments to passengers beyond the legal requirement. The Department’s efforts have helped lead to hundreds of thousands of passengers being provided with more than half a billion dollars in required refunds. The Department expects to issue additional orders assessing civil penalties for consumer protection violations this calendar year. 

The fines assessed today and required refunds provided are: 

  • Frontier – $222 million in required refunds paid and a $2.2 million penalty 
  • Air India – $121.5 million in required refunds paid and a $1.4 million penalty 
  • TAP Portugal – $126.5 million in required refunds paid and a $1.1 million penalty 
  • Aeromexico – $13.6 million in required refunds paid and a $900,000 penalty 
  • El Al – $61.9 million in required refunds paid and a $900,000 penalty 
  • Avianca – $76.8 million in required refunds paid and a $750,000 penalty 

All of the consent orders are available at www.regulations.gov, docket number DOT-OST-2022-0001. 

Under U.S. law, airlines and ticket agents have a legal obligation to refund consumers if the airline cancels or significantly changes a flight to, from and within the United States, and the passenger does not wish to accept the alternative offered. It is unlawful for an airline to refuse refunds and instead provide vouchers to such consumers.  

The fines announced today are one of the many steps the Department is taking to protect consumers. Below are additional actions DOT has taken: 

  • During the summer, the Department rolled out a new airline customer service dashboard to help consumers determine what they are owed when a flight is cancelled or delayed because of an airline issue. Previously, none of the 10 largest U.S. airlines guaranteed meals or hotels when a delay or cancellation was within the airlines’ control, and only one offered free rebooking. However, after Secretary Buttigieg called on airlines to improve their service and created this dashboard, nine airlines now guarantee meals and hotels when an airline issue causes a cancellation or delay and all 10 guarantee free rebooking. The Department will continue to work to increase transparency so Americans know exactly what the airlines are providing when they have a cancellation or delay. 
     
  • The Department’s proposed rule on Airline Ticket Refunds, if adopted, would: 1) require airlines to proactively inform passengers that they have a right to receive a refund when a flight is canceled or significantly changed, and 2) define a significant change and cancellation that would entitle a consumer to a refund. The rule would also 3) require airlines to provide non-expiring vouchers or travel credits when people can’t travel because they have COVID-19 or other communicable diseases; and 4) require airlines that receive significant government assistance in the future related to a pandemic to issue refunds instead of non-expiring travel credits or vouchers when passengers are unable or advised not to travel because of a serious communicable disease. The Department invites the public to submit comment on this rulemaking by December 16, 2022. The Department’s Aviation Consumer Protection Advisory Committee will publicly deliberate on the Department’s proposed rule on Airline Ticket Refunds and decide on recommendations to make to the Department at a virtual meeting on December 9, 2022. To register and attend this virtual meeting, please use the link: https://usdot.zoomgov.com/webinar/register/WN_V2zwVF3RQfuoOkyYFVqvdA
     
  • The Department has proposed a rule that would significantly strengthen protections for consumers by ensuring that they have access to certain fee information before they purchase their airline tickets. Under the proposed rule, airlines and travel search websites would have to disclose upfront – the first time an airfare is displayed – any fees charged to sit with your child, for changing or cancelling your flight, and for checked or carry-on baggage. The proposal seeks to provide customers the information they need to choose the best deal. Otherwise, surprise fees can add up quickly and overcome what may look at first to be a cheap fare. DOT encourages members of the public and interested parties to submit comments by December 19, 2022. 

The Department has proposed a rule to refund passengers for services they paid for that aren’t actually provided (e.g., broken WiFi). 

For information about airline passenger rights, as well as DOT’s rules, guidance, and orders, the Department’s aviation consumer website can be found at: https://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer

FACT SHEET: Biden-⁠Harris Administration Announces Roadmap for Nature-Based Solutions to Fight Climate Change, Strengthen Communities, and Support Local Economies

The Biden-Harris Administration at COP27 in Egypt released the Nature-Based Solutions Roadmap, an outline of strategic recommendations to put America on a path that will unlock the full potential of nature-based solutions to address climate change, nature loss, and inequity. This marks the first time the U.S. has developed a strategy to scale up nature-based solutions. Examples include protection or conservation of natural areas- such as Acadia National Park in Maine – reforestation, restoration of marshes or other habitats, or sustainable management of farms, fisheries, or forests. These actions can increase resilience to threats like flooding and extreme heat, and can slow climate change by capturing and storing carbon dioxide. Nature-based solutions play a critical role in the economy, national security, human health, equity, and the fight against climate change. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

New actions and recommendations announced at COP27 will make nature-based solutions a go-to option for fighting climate change and boost progress towards U.S. climate goals. The White House provided this fact sheet:

The Biden-Harris Administration at COP27 in Egypt released the Nature-Based Solutions Roadmap, an outline of strategic recommendations to put America on a path that will unlock the full potential of nature-based solutions to address climate change, nature loss, and inequity. This marks the first time the U.S. has developed a strategy to scale up nature-based solutions.

To demonstrate how the U.S. is already taking action, the Administration also announced new and recent interagency commitments aligned with the roadmap including: agency actions to ensure over $25 billion in infrastructure and climate funding can support nature-based solutions; a new guide for bringing the power of nature to maximize the value and resilience of military bases; and a new technical working group to better account for nature-based options in benefit cost analysis – a powerful tool for federal decisions.

Nature-based solutions are actions to protect, sustainably manage, or restore natural or modified ecosystems as solutions to societal challenges, like fighting climate change. Examples include protection or conservation of natural areas, reforestation, restoration of marshes or other habitats, or sustainable management of farms, fisheries, or forests. These actions can increase resilience to threats like flooding and extreme heat, and can slow climate change by capturing and storing carbon dioxide. Nature-based solutions play a critical role in the economy, national security, human health, equity, and the fight against climate change.

John Podesta, Senior Advisor to the President for Clean Energy Innovation and Implementation, and chair of President Biden’s National Climate Task Force, unveiled the roadmap at the opening of the U.S. Center at United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s Conference of the Parties (COP27). Mr. Podesta encouraged other nations to join the U.S. by taking bold action to invest in nature and its many benefits.  

On Earth Day 2022, President Biden issued Executive Order 14072, which recognizes the importance of forests and other nature-based solutions to tackle the climate crisis and strengthen communities and local economies. In the Executive Order, President Biden directed the Council on Environmental Quality, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the National Climate Advisor, in consultation with agencies, to identify key opportunities for greater deployment of nature-based solutions across the Federal government. The Roadmap submitted to the National Climate Task Force today calls on expanding the use of nature-based solutions and outlines five strategic areas of focus for the federal government: (1) updating policies, (2) unlocking funding, (3) leading with federal facilities and assets, (4) training the nature-based solutions workforce, and (5) prioritizing research, innovation, knowledge, and adaptive learning that will advance nature-based solutions.

This work builds on President Biden’s climate leadership. The Administration is already advancing nature-based solutions in support of the President’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 50-52% below 2005 levels in 2030, to conserve at least 30% of U.S. lands and waters by 2030, and to increase community resilience to extreme weather and other climate impacts. The new Nature Based Solutions Roadmap will help the Administration seize additional opportunities; key recommendations and related new and recent agency commitments are below.

The Biden-Harris Administration also released a companion resource guide with examples of nature-based climate solutions and over 150 resources to spur action. The Nature-Based Solutions Resource Guide: Compendium of Federal Examples, Guidance, Resource Documents, Tools and Technical Assistance is available here.  

NATURE-BASED SOLUTIONS ROADMAP: FIVE STRATEGIC AREAS FOR ACTION

  1. Update Policies to Accelerate Nature-Based Solutions

The roadmap recommends that agencies update federal policies and guidance, making it easier to consider and adopt nature-based solutions. Major areas for advancement include policies and guidance for federal planning, permitting, cost-sharing, risk management, and benefit cost analysis. Aligned Administration actions include:

  • Guidance on valuing nature: Current federal policies and guidance on accounting and analysis can under-value nature-based solutions. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is reviewing central guidance on benefit cost analysis (Circulars A-4 and A-94) to help federal agencies more fully account for the value of nature in regulatory and funding decisions. Today, the White House is standing up a new technical working group on Frontiers of Benefit Cost Analysis to support agencies in benefit cost analysis for nature-based solutions and other analysis needs. This is coupled with the developing National Strategy for a system of natural capital accounts, which will place nature on the nation’s balance sheet and allow regular tracking of the economic benefits that investments in nature-based solutions provide.
  • Nature-based solutions in floodplain management: The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is revising its floodplain management requirements to require consideration of nature-based solutions as alternatives for all projects that have the potential to affect floodplains or wetlands. This action is in response to Executive Order 13690, which established the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard that requires federal agencies to amend their floodplain policies to consider the use of nature-based solutions. Interim program policies are underway.
     
  1. Unlock Funding for Nature-Based Solutions

Federal funding for domestic and international projects can provide a strong lever to increase deployment of nature-based solutions. The roadmap recommends that Federal agencies do more to prioritize nature-based solutions in funding decisions; increase and ease access to this funding; and catalyze private investment. Actions by the Administration to unlock funding include:

  • Supporting nature-based solutions in hazard mitigation: FEMA’s Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) grant program already prioritizes nature-based solutions in its project scoring criteria. Last month, FEMA announced a new effort that will reduce the burden of applying for BRIC funding for disadvantaged communities, and that may make it easier for projects with nature-based solutions to access funding. This effort reduced the discount rate from 7% to 3% for these communities on some projects in FY 2022.
  • Combining solar energy and nature-based solutions: The Department of Energy Solar Energy Technology Office (SETO) is investing in combined development of ground mounted solar systems and pollinator habitat. In fiscal year 2022, SETO selected projects worth $14 million for Deploying Solar with Wildlife and Ecosystem Services Benefits, developing innovative strategies that maximize benefits and minimize impacts to wildlife and ecosystems from solar energy infrastructure.
     
  1. Lead with Federal Facilities and Assets

The roadmap recommends that federal agencies expand their use of nature-based solutions in the design, retrofitting, and management of federal facilities and embed these solutions in management of natural assets through improved planning, co-management, and co-stewardship. Given the scale of federal assets, expanding deployment of nature-based solutions would have direct climate and conservation benefits and send a strong signal to others. Administration actions include:

  • Guide on nature-based solutions for military installations: The Department of Defense is developing a guide on nature-based solutions for Military Installation natural resources management planning. The guide will provide military installation planners and managers with current and actionable information on the appropriate use of nature-based solutions; the current state of science and observed performance reliability; and other considerations regarding design, cost and benefits, implementation, and operations and maintenance. Preliminary guidance will be published in March 2023, with the full technical guide expected by March 2024.
  • Nature-based solutions for energy, the economy and national security: In October, 2022, the Department of Energy launched Sustainable Climate-Ready Sites (SCRS), a site performance rating system. The program challenges DOE sites to apply innovative nature-based solutions as they manage 2.4 million acres of land and carry out their missions. SCRS performance criteria include environmental justice and cultural resource protection, emphasizing collaboration and engagement with communities and Tribal nations. Annual leadership awards will be given to personnel at participating sites that achieve top SCRS category scores.
     
  1. Train the Nature-Based Solutions Workforce

We need a diverse, equitable workforce skilled in building nature-based solutions. To reach this goal, the roadmap recommends that agencies expand educational and workforce training offerings related to nature-based solutions to support good jobs in federal agencies and the private sector. These needs apply across a wide range of skills including engineering, law, finance, ecology, accounting, economics, community planning and maintenance for nature-based solutions. Administration actions include:

  • Growing awareness of how nature-based solutions benefit households: The Department of the Treasury’s Financial Literacy Education Commission (FLEC) is producing a series of reports entitled How Climate Challenges American Household Finances. One report in the series will address housing, and FLEC will include ways that nature-based solutions can provide benefits to households through housing and landscaping options. The report will be released in 2023.
     
  1. Prioritize Research, Innovation, Knowledge, and Adaptive Learning

As the world changes, we must continually innovate and fill gaps in our understanding. The roadmap recommends that federal agencies advance research and innovation in all sectors to fully reveal the scale of the opportunity that nature-based solutions provide, and incentivize continual learning about how and where nature-based solutions work best. Administration actions include:

  • Synthesizing what we know about nature-based solutions effectiveness: Nature-based solutions have been evaluated in different ways by different experts and sectors, making it difficult to see the big picture of what we now about where and how these solutions provide benefits. Today, the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) is announcing a study to synthesize this multi-disciplinary evidence base, and evaluate the effectiveness of nature-based solutions for climate mitigation, adaptation and other benefits. An initial database of evaluations will be made public in 2023 and the analysis will be available by 2024.
  • National summit on measuring nature-based solutions: The USACE will host a National Summit on Measuring What Matters at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in Washington D.C. on November 30, 2022. At the public Summit, the USACE Engineering with Nature Program will share the results of a two-year project focused on approaches for advancing comprehensive benefit evaluation for nature-based solutions and other projects. 

 
BUILDING ON THE BIPARTISAN INFRASTRUCTURE LAW AND INFLATION REDUCTION ACT
 
The roadmap and aligned actions build on major investments made through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act. These laws made unprecedented investments in nature-based solutions, placing forests, agricultural lands and coastal wetlands front and center in the climate fight. For example, $20 billion is directed to farmers, ranchers, and private forest owners working to increase carbon storage and reduce emissions. Another $5 billion is for forest management actions that can reduce wildfire risk, store carbon, and cool communities. These laws also weave nature into infrastructure investments. Over $8.7 billion will build climate resilience into transportation systems from the ground up. Another $8.6 billion will restore and conserve coastal habitats, investments that will buffer communities from storms and boost local economies. Several agencies are  acting to leverage recent laws and appropriations towards nature-based solutions, including:

  • Increasing carbon stored in wetlands and grasslands: The Inflation Reduction Act provides additional funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) conservation programs, including the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). In FY23, this funding will be targeted to improve climate and environmental outcomes. The programs will prioritize conservation and restoration of carbon rich wetlands and conservation of grasslands that are at risk of losing carbon and habitat through conversion to more intensive agriculture.
     
  • Promote resilient housing: The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), through the new Green Resilient Retrofit Program, is administering $837.5 million in grant funds and $4 billion in loan authority provided through the Inflation Reduction Act. This program provides grants that include nature-based solutions to improve energy efficiency, water efficiency, and climate resilience. HUD will ensure the program promotes nature-based solutions as effective investments to improve a properties’ climate resilience. HUD will encourage owners to implement the nature-based solution recommendations, where appropriate and feasible. Additional technical assistance will be offered with this program to aid communities in exploring nature-based solutions.
     
  • Protecting watersheds and communities with nature-based solutions: The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law includes more than $23 billion in supplemental funds to EPA’s Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds and nearly $1.9 billion to EPA’s place-base Geographic, National Estuary and Gulf Hypoxia programs. In its March 2022 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law SRF Implementation Memo, EPA emphasized the importance and eligibility of nature-based infrastructure, and encouraged states and communities to make full use of the SRF Green Project Reserve, which supports nature-based solutions and other environmentally innovative activities. EPA’s implementation of its National Estuary, Geographic, and Gulf Hypoxia programs also prioritizes use of nature-based solutions, where applicable, to restore coastal and riparian ecosystems and protect the communities that depend on them.
     
  • Coordinating access to funds that reduce floods and benefit wildlife: The White House Infrastructure Implementation Task Force is advancing an effort to simplify access to new Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funds that aim to reduce the risk of flooding, improve habitat connectivity for fish and wildlife, and improve public safety. The Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of Transportation, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are coordinating to facilitate access to these opportunities and ensure efficient use of federal funds.
     
  • Advancing Coastal Resilience with Natural Infrastructure Projects: Through its Climate Ready Coasts Initiative, the Department of Commerce’s NOAA is helping coastal communities by investing in high-impact natural infrastructure projects that build economic and environmental resilience, create jobs, store carbon and restore habitat. The $1.5 billion in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funds will be supplemented by future Inflation Reduction Act funding opportunities.

 
DRIVING GLOBAL ACTION
 
President Biden is committed to unlocking the full potential of nature-based solutions for achieving climate goals and combatting nature loss, especially for communities that are disproportionately impacted by climate change and environmental injustices. By announcing this roadmap and actions at the UNFCCC COP27, we recognize the need for global action to confront these triple crises and look forward to announcing additional actions during the upcoming Convention on Biological Diversity COP15. We invite partners, communities, and other nations to join the Biden-Harris Administration in taking aggressive action to advance nature-based solutions as powerful tools that the world needs now.