It’s official. Joe Biden is now President-elect and Kamala Harris is the first woman, first Black and first Asian-American Vice President-elect of the United States. There was a massive movement this year to raise awareness around the power of the vote—from communities of color to corporate leaders calling for unity, national healing and change. Designers across America created merch encouraging everyone to voice their vote, and since the election they’ve called for the next President to take action on policy issues critical to the future of fashion and humanity. 

As a former Senate counsel with nearly two decades working in Washington politics, I urge everyone to stay hopeful, but also caution that we must manage our expectations. President-elect Biden must work with a divided Congress and America. Republicans won tight races in the House and Senate; and according to The New York Times election results (as of this afternoon), 50.7 percent of the electorate voted for Biden and 47.6 percent voted for Trump.

It will take months, if not years for the next President to undo many of the executive branch policies currently in place. The President may issue executive orders and propose legislative initiatives, but only Congress can pass legislation for the President’s signature.

Even in executive branch agencies, as we’ve seen with the Trump administration’s rollback of environmental regulations and restrictions on immigration, many actions can be tangled in the courts. In theory, it would be ideal for President-elect Biden to immediately undo the current administration’s prior actions that have negatively impacted our personal and professional lives. In reality, it will take time, persistence and continued pressure from all of us, including our fashion, tech and retail community.

We’ll continue to navigate these challenging, yet exciting times together. I invite you to read our analysis below on key policy issues for fashion and what we may see and should push for in 2021.

Stay safe and wear a mask!

—Kenya

Covid-19 

Overview: As the House-passed Covid-19 relief bill remains stalled in the Senate, the Biden-Harris transition team is moving forward to develop a national plan to address Covid-19 and economic recovery. On Monday, November 9, President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris met with their newly created coronavirus task force, with plans to increase testing, address personal protective equipment (PPE) problems and provide evidence-based guidance for schools and small businesses. The Biden-Harris transition team has also announced plans to provide aid to state, local and tribal governments, extend Covid crisis unemployment insurance and “provide a comeback package for Main Street businesses and entrepreneurs.”

Analysis: The Biden transition plan will help to provide a national message related to Covid-19, and by using the Defense Production Act, the next administration will be able to ramp up production of PPE. However, any significant economic relief will require legislation by Congress.

Racial Justice

Overview: We’ll always remember 2020 as the year of America’s “racial reckoning.” After the killing of George Floyd and the cries for racial justice and equality, companies and academic institutions made commitments to do better, only to get investigated (and some sued) by the Trump administration. The Biden-Harris administration has vowed to make racial equity a priority— with plans to spur opportunities for small business, achieve equity in higher education and ensure fair compensation for talent of color.

Analysis: A call for racial justice and unity is exactly what America and the world needs right now. The Biden-Harris administration’s plan on racial equity will require additional government funding (depending on the structure of the program) and implementation by numerous federal agencies, including the Departments of Justice, Labor and Education, and the U.S. Small Business Administration. The Biden administration must also ensure that any racial equity programs are able to survive legal challenges claiming violation of existing equal opportunity and anti-discrimination laws, similar to the Trump administration’s lawsuit alleging that Yale University discriminated against “Asian and White applicants.” In addition to the Biden administration, lawmakers in the House and Senate must ensure that they have a diverse and inclusive workforce—particularly at the senior/chief counsel and committee levels. These will be the congressional staffers crafting and negotiating legislation on Covid-19, climate change and economic recovery—impacting BIPOC communities across the United States.

Climate Policy and Sustainability

Overview: In 2019, the Green New Deal resolution sparked a movement for climate change policy in the United States, and while it would not create a new law, it helped push momentum for the Democratic presidential candidates to develop climate proposals. The Biden-Harris transition team has made climate change one of its top priorities; and in June 2020, the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis released its report with policy recommendations for the next Congress. House Natural Resources Committee Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) also introduced his Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act (perhaps a mini “Blue New Deal”) in October with plans to reintroduce and advance it in 2021.

Analysis: The current U.S. climate proposals do not specifically address fashion and textile waste, unlike in Europe, though there’s some discussion on certain parts of the industry’s supply chain—including infrastructure and investments in sustainable farming, manufacturing and a circular economy framework. There are certain actions that Biden may take as President (such as issuing executive orders and rejoining the U.S. to the Paris climate agreement), but any climate bill must pass the House and the Senate. This is an opportunity for President-elect Biden to work on small, bipartisan pieces for climate change legislation that have a better chance of making it to his Oval Office desk for signature, as opposed to larger, comprehensive bills (like the Affordable Care Act or the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010).

Data Privacy and Security

Overview: Given the acceleration of technological trends and Covid-19, fashion companies looking to survive in 2021 and beyond must also know fashion tech — forcing brands and retailers to be aware of and understand current and future privacy laws and government policies. House and Senate members have introduced numerous privacy bills this Congress, with no real compromise in sight by the end of the year. In September, we reported that the Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing to revisit the need for federal data privacy legislation—discussing separate bills introduced by Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-WA). 

Analysis: We expect to see a push for bipartisan federal privacy legislation in 2021, as lawmakers and leading civil rights and privacy groups call for digital privacy protections. The current proposals include similar provisions and affirm the need for a federal privacy law in the U.S., though there’s still disagreement around federal preemption of state privacy laws and a private right of individuals to sue. President-elect Biden is also on the record for supporting the right to privacy. 

Detailed personalized legislative, regulatory and congressional hearing summaries are available for FIA clients. Contact FIA for more.

Image Description: Biden supporters celebrate in Black Lives Matter Plaza near the White House on Saturday. Photo Credit: Erik Moe

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