Fact-checking 7 statistical claims from Biden’s (quite factual) economic speech

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Washington (CNN) President Joe Biden recited a flurry of figures in a Friday speech in which he urged Congress to pass the $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package he calls the American Rescue Plan.

We fact-checked many of the statistical claims Biden made in the speech – and found Biden was highly factual, though there are some nuances worth noting. Here’s an assessment of seven of the claims we looked into:

Job losses in education

Biden noted that his plan includes funding for local governments to keep critical public employees on the job; his predecessor Donald Trump and other Republicans resisted this kind of direct aid to state and local governments. Biden said: “Over the last year, more than 600,000 educators have lost their jobs in the cities and towns.”

Facts First: This figure is roughly accurate, but it relies on a broad definition of “educators.”

Biden’s claim is based on official federal data about people employed in “local government education.” That data does indeed show a loss of more than 600,000 jobs – 681,400 jobs, specifically – between January 2020 and December 2020. (The data for the month of December is preliminary and might be adjusted later.) It’s worth noting, though, that these numbers count everyone who is employed by local educational institutions – including such people as cafeteria workers, custodial workers, and students who are on the payroll for various reasons – so “educators” shouldn’t be interpreted to mean teachers specifically.


Biden said, “All told, the American Rescue Plan would lift 12 million Americans out of poverty and cut child poverty in half. That’s 5 million children lifted out of poverty. Our plan would reduce poverty in the Black community by one third and reduce poverty in the Hispanic community by almost 40 percent.”

Facts First: These figures are, obviously, predictions rather than guarantees; Biden got them from a " : These figures are, obviously, predictions rather than guarantees; Biden got them from a " preliminary analysis " by scholars at Columbia University’s Center on Poverty and Social Policy, which looked at the impact of certain components of his plan. Like other economic modeling, this analysis relied on various assumptions about the future that may not come true. But other experts say the Columbia figures Biden cited make sense.

Among other assumptions, the scholars assumed an average of 6% unemployment for 2021. That’s plausible – the December rate was 6.7%; the Federal Reserve expects a decline to 5.0% in 2021. “These estimates are totally reasonable,” Michael Strain, director of economic policy studies at the conservative American Enterprise Institute think tank, said of the numbers Biden cited. Strain added: “The Biden plan has several provisions that would substantially increase the incomes of low-income households. You would expect this to have a significant impact on child poverty rates, and the estimates produced in this report are very reasonable.”

Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, director of the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University, said “their assumptions seem reasonable and they are known for doing careful analysis.”

You can click here for a summary of what is in Biden’s plan. It includes additional direct payments, increased unemployment benefits, billions in rental assistance and food assistance, billions for child care, an increase to the child tax credit, and an increase in the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $15 per hour.

Pre-existing conditions

Biden touted an executive order that seeks to ensure people can still receive unemployment benefits if they turn down a job offer because they think the job will put them or their families at risk from Covid-19. He said, “Right now, approximately 40 percent of households in America have at least one member with a pre-existing condition.”

Facts First: This figure is approximately accurate, according to research data. “In fact, that’s probably an understatement,” said Cynthia Cox, vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, which studies health care issues.

A Gallup poll in November found that 48% of respondents said they or a family member living with them had a pre-existing condition, Gallup told CNN. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimated in 2019 that 45% of non-elderly families had at least one non-elderly adult member with a pre-existing condition. If you include people age 65 and older in the analysis, Cox noted, the figure would be even higher.

Covid-19 deaths

Speaking about the US coronavirus crisis, Biden said, “We’re 400,000 dead, expected to reach well over 600,000.”

Facts First: Different experts have different expectations, but Biden’s “well over 600,000” figure is, unfortunately, very plausible.

There were more than 413,000 US coronavirus deaths as of the day Biden spoke, according to Johns Hopkins University data. A model from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation now projects a total of 569,000 deaths by May 1, and there will almost certainly be additional deaths after that date. Marc Lipsitch, epidemiology professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said Biden’s statement is “a reasonable projection.”

The minimum wage and poverty

Touting his proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour from the current $7.25 per hour, Biden said, “No one in America should work 40 hours a week making below the poverty line. Fifteen dollars gets people above the poverty line.”

Facts First: It’s true that some people who are currently below the poverty line would move above the poverty line if the federal minimum wage were raised to $15 per hour: the Congressional Budget Office estimated in 2019 that a $15 minimum wage “would move, on net, roughly 1.3 million people out of poverty.” Others offer different estimates; Ben Zipperer, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute, a progressive think tank, said, “We believe the CBO estimate to be too pessimistic.” He said it is “more plausible” that between 1.9 million and 4.0 million people would be lifted out of poverty.

The CBO said families below the poverty line under current law would see a 5.2% average increase in income because of the increased minimum wage, while families above the poverty line under current law would see an average 0.1% reduction in income (in part because of a reduction in business income). The CBO added: “In an average week in 2025, the $15 option would boost the wages of 17 million workers who would otherwise earn less than $15 per hour. Another 10 million workers otherwise earning slightly more than $15 per hour might see their wages rise as well. But 1.3 million other workers would become jobless, according to CBO’s median estimate.”

Though the overall economic impact of a federal minimum wage increase is complicated to assess, it’s easy to understand the basics of how it would improve the outlook for some workers. The weighted average 2019 poverty threshold for a family of four was $26,172. At the current $7.25 per hour federal minimum wage, someone would be more than $11,000 below that poverty threshold even if they worked 40 hours a week for 52 weeks a year. Making $15 per hour, that person would exceed the threshold if they worked 44 weeks a year.

“So as a labor standard – yes, a $15 minimum wage could be accurately described as getting most families over the poverty line if they are working full-time year round,” said Jeannette Wicks-Lim, associate research professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Wicks-Lim noted that there are nuances here. Some people have part-time work hours, part-year employment or bigger families; the cost of living varies widely by location, but the official poverty line doesn’t adjust for this fact; exceeding the poverty line may mean only someone has “escaped severe deprivation,” she said, not that “they are able to sustain a decent living standard.”


Biden said, “We need to tackle the growing hunger crisis in America. One in seven households in America – one in seven – more than one in five Black and Latino households in America report they do not have enough food to eat.”

Facts First: These figures were correct in December, according to : These figures were correct in December, according to data from the latest Census Bureau survey on Americans’ food situations (which the bureau cautions is an “experimental” survey).

Between December 9 and December 21, 14% of adults, 24% of Black adults and 21% of Latino adults reported that they often or sometimes did not have enough to eat in the last seven days.

Biden’s plan includes a variety of measures intended to address hunger, including an extension, through September, of a 15% increase in food stamp benefits that Trump signed into law in December. The extension is currently scheduled to expire at the end of June.


Biden said, “Approximately 14 million Americans – 14 million – have fallen behind on rent, and many risk eviction.”

Facts First: Fourteen million is a plausible figure that extrapolates a little from Census Bureau findings for December.

The bureau’s experimental survey for December 9 to December 21 found that 10.1 million renters lived in households that were not caught up on rent. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a progressive think tank, came up with the 14 million figure by adjusting the Census Bureau data to account for the fact that many renters did not respond to the survey.

CNN reported in December that investment bank and advisory firm Stout had found that more than 14 million American households were at risk of eviction at the time. The Census Bureau survey found that 5.2 million people said it was either very likely or somewhat likely they would have to leave their home due to eviction in the next two months.

Biden’s rescue package would provide $25 billion in rental assistance for low- and moderate-income households who have lost jobs during the pandemic (in addition to the $25 billion Trump approved in December). Another $5 billion is directed toward helping struggling households pay utility bills. And an additional $5 billion is for states and localities to assist people at risk of experiencing homelessness.

Fact check: Satirical flyer promotes Capitol siege as Stanford law group event

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The claim: The insurrection at the U.S. Capitol was an event hosted by the Stanford Federalist Society

A Jan. 25 Facebook claim stated that the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol building took place during a meeting of the Stanford Federalist Society headlined by Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

The post features an event flyer for “The Originalist Case for Inciting Insurrection,” scheduled on Jan. 6 from 12:45-2 p.m. According to the flyer, Hawley was invited to argue how “the ends justify the means,” while Paxton would explain why “calling on a violent mob to storm the Capitol” is an appropriate response to Congress’ refusal to overturn the results of a free and fair election.

The flyer informed Stanford students that “riot information” would be emailed to attendees that morning, an apparent precursor to the siege on the Capitol.

“Come thru! Chik fil a will be served,” the post caption states.

USA TODAY reached out to the poster for comment.

More: Fact check: Satirical post claims Biden has labeled Libertarians as terrorists

Flyer is an email hoax

The Stanford Federalist Society is a libertarian and conservative student group at Stanford Law School. The group promotes “the principles that the state exists to preserve freedom, that the separation of powers is central to our constitutional order” and the interpretation of law within the province of the judiciary, according to its website.

The society hosts various panels with conservative law professors and circuit court judges as guest speakers.

Stephanie Ashe, director of media relations for Stanford Law School, told USA TODAY in an email that the event flyer is not real.

“This was a satirical email in the form of a fictitious event announcement sent by a student to the student-run listserv on January 6,” she wrote. It is unknown whether the Facebook poster is a member of the student-run listserv.

Story continues

More: Sen. Josh Hawley has a new publisher after losing book deal in Capitol riot backlash

Hawley is a lawyer and Stanford University graduate, according to his website.

Hawley was one of six Republican senators to object to the election outcome, a controversial move that ultimately failed to overturn President Joe Biden as the decisive winner over former President Donald Trump, according to USA TODAY.

On the morning of the U.S. Capitol siege, he appeared to show solidarity with Trump supporters by greeting them with a raised fist before joining the session, USA TODAY reported.

More: Fact check: False claim of facial recognition of antifa members during U.S. Capitol riot

Paxton is one of three state attorneys general who did not sign letters condemning the insurrection, according to the Texas Tribune. He also claimed liberal activists from anti-facist protest group antifa infiltrated the pro-Trump mob. USA TODAY has debunked a claim that antifa posed as Trump supporters during the attack on the Capitol.

Our ruling: Satire

We rate this claim SATIRE, based on our research. An event flyer advertising a conservative student group event with guest speakers Sen. Josh Hawley and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is satirical and was sent to members of a student-run Stanford University listserv, according to the director of media relations for Stanford Law School.

Our fact-check sources:

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Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Flyer calling U.S. Capitol riot a Stanford event is satire

FACT SHEET: President Biden Takes Executive Actions to Tackle the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, Create Jobs, and Restore Scientific Integrity Across Federal Government

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Biden-Harris Administration Commits on Climate Change – Creating Jobs, Building Infrastructure, and Delivering Environmental Justice

Today, President Biden will take executive action to tackle the climate crisis at home and abroad while creating good-paying union jobs and equitable clean energy future, building modern and sustainable infrastructure, restoring scientific integrity and evidence-based policymaking across the federal government, and re-establishing the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

These Executive Orders follow through on President Biden’s promise to take aggressive action to tackle climate change and build on the executive actions that the President took on his first day in office, including rejoining the Paris Agreement and immediate review of harmful rollbacks of standards that protect our air, water, and communities.

President Biden set ambitious goals that will ensure America and the world can meet the urgent demands of the climate crisis, while empowering American workers and businesses to lead a clean energy revolution that achieves a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035 and puts the United States on an irreversible path to a net-zero economy by 2050. Today’s actions advance those goals and ensure that we are tapping into the talent, grit, and innovation of American workers, revitalizing the U.S. energy sector, conserving our natural resources and leveraging them to help drive our nation toward a clean energy future, creating well-paying jobs with the opportunity to join a union, and delivering justice for communities who have been subjected to environmental harm.

President Biden will also sign an important Presidential Memorandum on scientific integrity to send a clear message that the Biden-Harris Administration will protect scientists from political interference and ensure they can think, research, and speak freely to provide valuable information and insights to the American people. Additionally, and in line with the scientific-integrity memorandum’s charge to reestablish scientific advisory committees, President Biden will sign an Executive Order re-establishing the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.


Today’s Executive Order takes bold steps to combat the climate crisis both at home and throughout the world. In signing this Executive Order, President Biden has directed his Administration to:

Center the Climate Crisis in U.S. Foreign Policy and National Security Considerations

The order clearly establishes climate considerations as an essential element of U.S. foreign policy and national security.

The order affirms that, in implementing – and building on – the Paris Agreement’s objectives, the United States will exercise its leadership to promote a significant increase in global ambition. It makes clear that both significant short-term global emission reductions and net zero global emissions by mid-century – or before – are required to avoid setting the world on a dangerous, potentially catastrophic, climate trajectory.

The order reaffirms that the President will host a Leaders’ Climate Summit on Earth Day, April 22, 2021; that the United States will reconvene the Major Economies Forum; that, to underscore the administration’s commitment to elevating climate in U.S. foreign policy, the President has created a new position, the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, which will have a seat on the National Security Council, and that it will be a U.S. priority to press for enhanced climate ambition and integration of climate considerations across a wide range of international fora.

The order also kicks off the process of developing the United States’ “nationally determined contribution” – our emission reduction target – under the Paris Agreement, as well as a climate finance plan.

Among numerous other steps aimed at prioritizing climate in U.S. foreign policy and national security, the order directs the Director of National Intelligence to prepare a National Intelligence Estimate on the security implications of climate change, the State Department to prepare a transmittal package to the Senate for the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, and all agencies to develop strategies for integrating climate considerations into their international work.

Take a Whole-of-Government Approach to the Climate Crisis

The order formally establishes the White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy – led by the first-ever National Climate Advisor and Deputy National Climate Advisor – creating a central office in the White House that is charged with coordinating and implementing the President’s domestic climate agenda.

The order establishes the National Climate Task Force, assembling leaders from across 21 federal agencies and departments to enable a whole-of-government approach to combatting the climate crisis.

Leverage the Federal Government’s Footprint and Buying Power to Lead by Example

Consistent with the goals of the President’s Build Back Better jobs and economic recovery plan, of which his clean energy jobs plan is a central pillar, the order directs the federal agencies to procure carbon pollution-free electricity and clean, zero-emission vehicles to create good-paying, union jobs and stimulate clean energy industries.

In addition, the order requires those purchases be Made in America, following President Biden’s Buy American executive order. The order also directs agencies to apply and strictly enforce the prevailing wage and benefit guidelines of the Davis Bacon and other acts and encourage Project Labor Agreements. These actions reaffirm that agencies should work to ensure that any jobs created with funds to address the climate crisis are good jobs with a choice to join a union.

The order directs each federal agency to develop a plan to increase the resilience of its facilities and operations to the impacts of climate change and directs relevant agencies to report on ways to expand and improve climate forecast capabilities – helping facilitate public access to climate related information and assisting governments, communities, and businesses in preparing for and adapting to the impacts of climate change.

The order directs the Secretary of the Interior to pause on entering into new oil and natural gas leases on public lands or offshore waters to the extent possible, launch a rigorous review of all existing leasing and permitting practices related to fossil fuel development on public lands and waters, and identify steps that can be taken to double renewable energy production from offshore wind by 2030. The order does not restrict energy activities on lands that the United States holds in trust for Tribes. The Secretary of the Interior will continue to consult with Tribes regarding the development and management of renewable and conventional energy resources, in conformance with the U.S. government’s trust responsibilities.

The order directs federal agencies to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies as consistent with applicable law and identify new opportunities to spur innovation, commercialization, and deployment of clean energy technologies and infrastructure.

Rebuild Our Infrastructure for a Sustainable Economy

The order catalyzes the creation of jobs in construction, manufacturing, engineering and the skilled-trades by directing steps to ensure that every federal infrastructure investment reduces climate pollution and that steps are taken to accelerate clean energy and transmission projects under federal siting and permitting processes in an environmentally sustainable manner.

Advance Conservation, Agriculture, and Reforestation

The order commits to the goal of conserving at least 30 percent of our lands and oceans by 2030 and launches a process for stakeholder engagement from agricultural and forest landowners, fishermen, Tribes, States, Territories, local officials, and others to identify strategies that will result in broad participation.

The order also calls for the establishment of a Civilian Climate Corps Initiative to put a new generation of Americans to work conserving and restoring public lands and waters, increasing reforestation, increasing carbon sequestration in the agricultural sector, protecting biodiversity, improving access to recreation, and addressing the changing climate.

The order directs the Secretary of Agriculture to collect input from farmers, ranchers, and other stakeholders on how to use federal programs to encourage adoption of climate-smart agricultural practices that produce verifiable carbon reductions and sequestrations and create new sources of income and jobs for rural Americans.

Revitalize Energy Communities

The order establishes an Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization, to be co-chaired by the National Climate Advisor and the Director of the National Economic Council, and directs federal agencies to coordinate investments and other efforts to assist coal, oil and natural gas, and power plant communities.

The order tasks the new Interagency Working Group to advance projects that reduce emissions of toxic substances and greenhouse gases from existing and abandoned infrastructure and that prevent environmental damage that harms communities and poses a risk to public health and safety – such as projects to reduce methane emissions, oil and brine leaks, and other environmental harms from tens of thousands of former mining and well sites.

In addition, the new Interagency Working Group is also directed to explore efforts to turn properties idled in these communities, like brownfields, into new hubs for the growth of our economy.

Secure Environmental Justice and Spur Economic Opportunity

The order formalizes President Biden’s commitment to make environmental justice a part of the mission of every agency by directing federal agencies to develop programs, policies, and activities to address the disproportionate health, environmental, economic, and climate impacts on disadvantaged communities.

The order establishes a White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council and a White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council to prioritize environmental justice and ensure a whole-of-government approach to addressing current and historical environmental injustices, including strengthening environmental justice monitoring and enforcement through new or strengthened offices at the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Justice, and Department of Health and Human Services. The new bodies are also tasked with advising on ways to update Executive Order 12898 of February 11, 1994.

The order creates a government-wide Justice40 Initiative with the goal of delivering 40 percent of the overall benefits of relevant federal investments to disadvantaged communities and tracks performance toward that goal through the establishment of an Environmental Justice Scorecard.

The order initiates the development of a Climate and Environmental Justice Screening Tool, building off EPA’s EJSCREEN, to identify disadvantaged communities, support the Justice40 Initiative, and inform equitable decision making across the federal government


The Presidential Memorandum on Scientific Integrity and Evidence-Based Policymaking directs agencies to make evidence-based decisions guided by the best available science and data. Scientific and technological information, data, and evidence are central to the development and iterative improvement of sound policies, and to the delivery of effective and equitable programs. Improper political interference in the scientific process, with the work of scientists, and in the communication of scientific facts undermines the welfare of the nation, contributes to systemic inequities and injustices, and violates the public trust.

The memorandum charges the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) with the responsibility for ensuring scientific integrity across federal agencies. The OSTP Director is directed to review the effectiveness of agency scientific-integrity policies and assess agency scientific-integrity policies and practices going forward.

In addition, agencies that oversee, direct, or fund research are tasked with designating a senior agency employee as Chief Science Officer to ensure agency research programs are scientifically and technologically well founded and conducted with integrity. Because science, facts, and evidence are vital to addressing policy and programmatic issues across the Federal Government, all agencies – not just those that fund, conduct, or oversee scientific research –must designate a senior career employee as the agency’s Scientific Integrity Official to oversee implementation and iterative improvement of scientific-integrity policies and processes.


Leaders across the Biden-Harris Administration, including the President himself and his senior advisors in the Executive Office of the President, will seek input, advice, and the best-available science, data, and scientific and technological information from scientists, engineers, and other experts in science, technology, and innovation.

To that end, and in alignment with the scientific-integrity memorandum’s charge to reestablish scientific and technological advisory committees, this order re-establishes the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). The PCAST– co-chaired by the President’s Science Advisor – will advise the President on policy that affects science, technology, and innovation. The Council will also advise the President on scientific and technical information that is needed to inform public policy relating to the economy, worker empowerment, education, energy, environment, public health, national and homeland security, racial equity, and other topics.