January 20 signaled a day of light, change and a start for rebuilding America and our fragile democracy. American designers proudly re-surged on the inaugural stage, President Biden delivered a message of unity and hope, and poet Amanda Gorman reminded us that “while democracy can be periodically delayed it can never be permanently defeated.”

We’ve included our analysis below on the Biden-Harris administration’s initial actions relevant to the fashion industry. This year, we’re calling on everyone to speak up and be a part of policy and political discussions. There’s still much work to do, and we must all be proactive so that we never have a repeat of the past four years. As Senator Elizabeth Warren has stated, “If you don’t have a seat at the table, you’re probably on the menu.”

Stay safe and wear a mask!
—Kenya and Erik

Covid-19, the Economy and Made in America
Overview: President Biden released a $1.9 trillion stimulus plan that would give $1400 checks to individuals that meet certain income thresholds, increase federal unemployment payments to $400 per week, and provide funding for schools, states and local governments. However, President Biden’s plan has already received opposition from Senate Republicans.

President Biden also issued executive orders requiring mask-wearing when traveling on planes, buses, and trains, in federal buildings and on federal lands. This includes buildings providing government services, national parks and monuments. On Monday, January 25, President Biden signed an executive order to promote and prioritize American manufacturing through federal contracts and grants —creating a “Made in America” Director at the Office of Management and Budget to oversee the new government initiative. The “Buy American” executive order also requires agencies to work with small manufacturers and connect new businesses to contracting opportunities.

Analysis: The mask-mandate, as determined by scientists and public health experts, is critical to prevent the spread of Covid-19. It’s also a way to support small, independent designers and fashion tech companies that have pivoted to making masks during the pandemic, including on-demand marketplace Nineteenth Amendment. President Biden’s “Made in America” executive order will also assist fashion companies interested in contracting opportunities with the federal government—including fashion tech startups and brands committed to domestic manufacturing.

Negotiations on the next stimulus package and economic assistance for fashion designers and entrepreneurs will likely take more time. Though the Democrats hold a one-person majority in the Senate (including VP Kamala Harris), the Senate cloture rule requires 60 votes in order to avoid a filibuster. President Biden’s cabinet-level picks for agencies for the Treasury Department and Small Business Administration (SBA) must also get confirmed and appoint key staff before they can start to seriously address economic recovery. Janet Yellen was confirmed as the first female Treasury Secretary on Monday, January 25. The Senate, however, has yet to move forward on the nominee for SBA—responsible for executing the Paycheck Protection Program and other relief for small businesses.

Racial and Gender Equity
Overview: President Biden signed an executive order to advance racial equity and support underserved communities, led by White House Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice. President Biden also signed executive orders to reverse the 2018 transgender military ban and to combat discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation, reinforcing the 2020 landmark Supreme Court decision Bostock v. Clayton County.

Analysis: Journalist and historian Isabel Wilkerson recently reminded us that “a new presidency alone can’t fix America’s 400-year-old race-based hierarchy.” However, the Biden-Harris administration and bold legislation from Congress can move the Nation in a positive direction.

All federal agencies and commissions must work to address systemic racism and other inequities—including the Department of Justice, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Former Obama official and academic Gary Gensler is expected to chair the SEC, when confirmed by the Senate. As SEC Chair, Gensler can build a more diverse and inclusive team within the Commission, encouraging corporate entities to do the same. More long-term policies to address racial equity would require an act of Congress—including legislation to create a new civil rights law, equity in corporate boardrooms, and justice for all.

Climate Change and Sustainability
Overview: President Biden rejoined the United States to the Paris Climate Agreement on his first day in office. President Biden also issued an executive order that established a working group to address greenhouse gases and directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to propose new regulations on methane standards. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry emphasized to European leaders that the U.S. is coming back “with humility” to the global climate stage.

Analysis: Climate touches every part of fashion’s supply chain—from farming and manufacturing to retail, technology and shipping. President Biden’s executive order and recommitment to the Paris Climate Agreement is a solid start to addressing environmental policy on the global stage. The administration’s policies and government players will also help set the tone for federal climate policy and environmental justice—including Special Presidential Climate Envoy John Kerry and Michael Regan as the first African American male to lead EPA.

President Biden will only be able to act within existing statutory authority, leaving Congress to pass any significant environmental legislation affecting the fashion industry. This would include new laws to address plastics pollution, anti-waste, infrastructure, and investments to build a circular economy. As fashion brands and other retailers continue to promote sustainability, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) must also revise the federal government’s regulations governing Environmental Marketing Claims  (“Green Guides”). The Green Guides haven’t been updated since 2012, before fashion and other sectors made “sustainability” a PR trend.

Overview: The Biden-Harris administration reinstated the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program through the Attorney General and the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. The President’s Chief of Staff also sent a memo to all agency heads to freeze Trump-era proposed regulations and those with pending effective dates, halting the previous administration’s anti-immigrant policies.

Analysis: The Biden-Harris administration’s plans to freeze pending regulations permit the incoming Department of Homeland Security secretary to review and reverse the Trump administration’s proposed rule to end the International Entrepreneur Rule (IER)—also known as the “startup visa rule.” FIA submitted comments to the Trump-led Department of Homeland Security opposing the removal of the IER. When the previous administration attempted to quietly remove the IER during a federal holiday weekend, FIA founder Kenya Wiley penned an immigration op-ed for CNN. Preserving DACA and the regulatory freeze are positive steps for immigration policy, but they are still temporary solutions. The Biden-Harris administration must work with Congress to pass comprehensive immigration legislation—for the future of fashion and the entire creative economy.

Detailed analysis on the Biden-Harris administration’s policies and legislation available for FIA clients. Contact FIA for additional information.

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