Biden Signs Executive Orders Advancing Key Diversity and COVID-19 Relief Priorities

Photo Credit: Tim Bieler

On January 20, President Joe Biden signed an array of executive orders and agency directives seeking to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion and extend key sources of relief from the economic impact of COVID-19. The following is a summary of the orders which directly impact PA programs, faculty, and students:

Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government

In mid-September, the Trump administration issued Executive Order 13950 – a directive which sought to restrict the ability of federal agencies, contractors, and grantees to conduct comprehensive diversity and inclusion trainings inclusive of subjects such as implicit bias. On September 30, PAEA endorsed a statement issued by the AAMC in opposition to Executive Order 13950. Following this action by the Biden administration, Executive Order 13950 has been revoked. Further, this order directs agencies to examine potential barriers underserved communities and individuals may face in accessing federal programs as well as solutions to better target federal resources to promote equity.

Directive on Extending the Current Suspension on Federal Student Loan Payments and Interest Accrual

In response to the economic impact of COVID-19, the Trump administration and Congress suspended payments and interest accrual on federally held student loans beginning in the spring of 2020. At President Biden’s direction, the Department of Education will extend this suspension, originally set to expire on January 31, through at least the end of September to provide further relief to borrowers.

Memorandum on Preserving and Fortifying Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals

In September 2017, the Trump administration announced its intention to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which provides protection from deportation for certain undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, including many health professions students. Following a series of legal challenges to the Trump administration’s rescission of the program, PAEA joined an amicus brief with 32 other health professions education organizations in 2019 expressing concern for the detrimental impact eliminating DACA protections would have on the health workforce pipeline. The Supreme Court overturned the Trump administration’s action on technical grounds in a June 2020 decision.

Reversing Trump administration policy to continue efforts to dismantle DACA, President Biden’s memorandum directs the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Attorney General, to take all appropriate actions to preserve and fortify DACA.

Executive Order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation

In June 2020, the Trump administration finalized a proposed rule amending its interpretation of Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which seeks to protect patients from discrimination in health care settings based upon definitions in existing civil rights law. In the final rule, the administration interpreted sex-based discrimination to exclude discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

This executive order directs federal agencies to review all existing regulations promulgated under statutes prohibiting sex-based discrimination and to consider whether to revise, suspend, or rescind prior actions that interpret sex-based discrimination as exclusive of discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

Members with questions on the Biden administration’s recent executive actions are invited to contact Tyler Smith at