In the coming months, President Joe Biden and the 117th Congress will tackle a number of environmental, health, public safety, and fiscal and economic issues—nearly all of them complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic. To help solve specific, systemic problems in a nonpartisan fashion, Pew has compiled a series of briefings and recommendations based on our research, technical assistance, and advocacy work across America.
The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed shortcomings in the nation’s public health system and worsened existing health care issues. Addressing these challenges will require greater access to safe, quality, cost-effective health care, especially for communities already disproportionately burdened by poor health outcomes. At the same time, we must address the threat of antibiotic resistance, expand access to treatment for opioid and other substance use disorders, effectively use electronic records to address public health data problems, and modernize regulation of a range of health care products under FDA oversight.
Healthy lands, rivers, and ocean provide communities with clean water and air, food, and other essential needs, showing how the vitality of ecosystems and economies is intertwined. But habitat loss and landscape fragmentation, among other threats, are degrading the supply and quality of these critical resources even as demand for them grows. By implementing new and safeguarding existing conservation policies, the president and Congress can ensure these American places remain healthy and productive—protecting wildlife and the natural resources that help our citizens thrive.
More than a million student loans go into default each year, carrying serious consequences for borrowers, including damage to credit scores and ineligibility for other aid programs. Americans also spend more than $30 billion annually to borrow small amounts of money from payday and other small-dollar lenders with terms that require unaffordable payments or are unreasonably expensive. The president and Congress can help ensure an affordable consumer financial marketplace by supporting reforms to the student loan repayment system that target at-risk borrowers, and developing policies that require affordable payments, reasonable time to repay, and fair prices, saving millions of Americans billions of dollars annually.
Costly and poorly performing criminal and juvenile justice policies and practices create substantial burdens for governments and residents. Decades of research show a range of strategies for reforming these policies and practices, thus reduce reoffending, shrinking corrections systems, and saving taxpayer dollars. The president and Congress can support fiscally sound, evidence-based state and federal justice policies and practices that ensure public safety, provide accountability, and reduce correctional populations and costs.