Mar 5, 2021
Joe Biden Speech at American Rescue Plan Roundtable Transcript March 5
President Joe Biden joined a roundtable event on March 5, 2021 to discuss the American Rescue Plan and COVID relief. Read the transcript of his speech remarks here.
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… service to others. And with that, I will turn it over to the President of the United States.
President Joe Biden: (00:07)
Thanks for being here, everybody. This is important and I appreciate you being willing to come and tell your stories. I wanted this to be a conversation about what the impact of the $1,400 at our plan has for every American out there. And to make sure that I understand what you think is important about it, if you think it’s important. And I also want to know, people you’re about to meet, millions of people who are going to help with this, I think, with this check, that’s going to make a big difference in terms of their lives. People in the country are hurting right now with less than two weeks from enhanced unemployment checks being cut out and 7 million kids don’t have enough food, 13 million people are behind in their rent. The American Rescue Plan, I believe, and according to the polling data, the vast majority of Americans believe, is essential to giving them some help and to turn it around.
President Joe Biden: (01:14)
I think it’s going to provide immediate relief for millions of people that are going to be able to use it in a very constructive way and also grow the economy in the process. But it’s essential getting kids back to school safely. It is also getting a lifeline to small businesses. Many of whom, 400,000, have gone under, affecting entire communities. And it is clearly, clearly necessary, a lifeline for getting the upper hand against COVID-19 and getting it under control.
President Joe Biden: (01:48)
That isn’t some academic discussion. It’s about you. It’s about people like you and families I grew up with all over America and you’ve all lived lives of service. You not only have taken care of yourself and your families, but you have lived lives of service to help other people as well. And so again, this isn’t an academic discussion. You deserve our thanks and our support, and I’m going to hand it back to Cedric so we can hear from you all while the press is still in here.
Well, thank you, Mr. President. Today, we’re joined by three outstanding Americans that exemplified what America stands for and especially your values, which is service to others. First we have Ms. Alma Williams. Ms. Williams is a para-transit driver. She transports disabled Americans every day. She has four wonderful children and her youngest is in the process of applying to college. The other two are in college and one is on her way. So Ms. Williams is close to being a empty-nester.
Then we have George Kerr who served in the United States Navy for almost eight years, served on two Air Force carriers and he volunteers, but also is starting a nonprofit small business to help people with substance use issues and health and harm affects. And he has, which you mentioned earlier, the unfortunate experience of having a house that burned down. And I know that that experience very well. He’s just a remarkable individual.
And then we have Ms. [Lita Vanagus 00:13:07], who volunteers at a DC community health center and spends her time counseling and helping Americans get through this very rough time. She has seen the effects firsthand of the challenges and the pain and the suffering that American citizens are going through, which is particularly important that you say, through no fault of their own. And with that, Mr. President, I’m going to turn it back over to… Now, well turn it over to Ms. Williams so that she can tell us about what she thinks about the American Rescue Plan.
Alma Williams: (04:26)
Actually a wonderful plan. As well as being a para-transit operator, I’m also a union rep for the ATU.
President Joe Biden: (04:37)
Alma Williams: (04:38)
Yes, sir. And just hearing the things that my coworkers go through, it’s devastating. We’re fighting to work a maximum of less than 40 hours a week. I got traded to a colleague of mine. We had a time where we paid our bills on the first of the month and now we’re struggling to pay them on the 15th.
President Joe Biden: (05:07)
You’re still employed?
Alma Williams: (05:10)
Yeah. It’s just a hard time financially, mentally, emotionally, across the board for children, adults. I thank you for the plan. I think it will help a wide range of people, not just the working class, but all retirees, elementary school, grade school. I have nieces and nephews who are very young and just the transition of going to school every day and not being home all day, stuck behind the computer, it’s draining for them too, and they don’t understand it.
President Joe Biden: (05:52)
I have a lot of questions, but I’m going to wait until we hear, while the press is here, to hear from all three people.
Alma Williams: (05:56)
President Joe Biden: (05:57)
I’d like to talk more about this, if I can.
Thank you, Mr. President. With that, we’ll turn it over to you, Mr. Kerr.
George Kerr: (06:04)
Well, once again, thank you for having me. It’s really important that we’re having this conversation. I’m in full support of this piece of important legislation. As you said, I lost my home November 30th, 2019. And then right after that, I got really sick and then COVID happened. Thankfully, I have not contracted COVID, but it’s led to a lot of other issues and having my own LLC, it’s very difficult to find contracts right now because of the environment and people just don’t have the funding to get the support they need. And so, I do a lot of work with different organizations.
George Kerr: (06:55)
One of them is Mary’s House for Older Adults, where we have a reach out and touch someone who talks to seniors, LGBTQ seniors, about isolation and being in contact with them. And so mental health is just a real important, and I’m glad to see there’s a lot of money in there for mental health services, because it’s incredibly important. At the same time, my community, the LGBTQ community, is under attack on a constant basis. The trauma that’s around there needs to be addressed. I’m hoping and praying that you will be able to sign in law the Equality Act.
President Joe Biden: (07:43)
So am I.
George Kerr: (07:45)
And last, but certainly not least is Ms. Lita Vanagus.
Lita Vanagus: (07:52)
Well, first of all, thank you so much. Thank you for allowing Mary Center, on behalf of Mary Center being me here in order to share the story of the many, many families that we have served during this pandemic. For those of you who don’t know Mary Center, we’re a community health center, we’re a federally qualified health center and we serve over 60,000 families in the DC region. We have been in service for 33 years. I been with Mary Center for 19 years. And I guess we’ve seen it all, especially during this pandemic.
Lita Vanagus: (08:26)
The beauty of Mary Center, the way I said is that we have this unique model, Mr. President, that really tackles all the issues of our families. It’s not only medical. We provide social services, behavioral health, educational services. So that’s the way that we have been able to support our families and move them back up to the economic ladder, especially during this time.
Lita Vanagus: (08:49)
It’s interesting, I was checking and I think if not mistaken, a year ago today, is when the first case of COVID came to Maryland, right? And two days later in DC. Since day one, Mary Center has been on the front lines and the response and recovery process, so far, we have done more than 20,000 COVID tests. A lot of them unfortunately have been positive. We serve about from our 60,000 participants, we serve around 70% of them are Latino and minorities have been very impacted. And so we received vaccine back in December. We have vaccinated around 1,200 individuals. But if you put it in perspective, serving 60,000 participants, and let’s say 50% are adults over 18 that can get the vaccine, so we still have almost 30,000 people that still need the vaccine. But we know, Mr. President, that that will multiply in a few weeks because we’re trustful that you’ll deliver on the promise of vaccinating 100 million people soon.
Lita Vanagus: (10:01)
And so, if you asked me what our families have gone through, they have gone through everything. Just by hearing Alma and George’s stories, it just breaks my heart because this is the same situation. They’re losing jobs. That’s the main thing, you know that, and with that, they have unstable housing, food insecurity. They’re traveling long distances to go and visit the food distribution site and that’s every day. Then they do lone lines and next day they have to do the same. So it’s been hard and because they haven’t been able to pay rent, now they’re moving with other people to live together. And so they’re sleeping on couches, on the floor. They’re always have been affected. And because they have lost jobs, a few of them have kept the jobs, but few hours, but they still need to go outside. So when they go, they’re at risk of being infected and then they come back and they have the family.
Lita Vanagus: (11:01)
So it’s this circle of situations that have been impacting all of our families. So with that comes mental health, trauma, anxiety, and our children don’t have laptops. We have been able to distribute about 1000 laptops or more, but if they have one laptop, but they have three children, how can they all be in school on the same day? So they have to choose. Or they don’t have internet connection. So there’s a lot around that and we’ve been trying to support as much as possible.
President Joe Biden: (11:35)
Well, thank you, all of you for what you do. I carry a schedule card every day. On the back of the car, I list on a daily basis, how many people have died from COVID in the United States. As of today 517,224, not over 500,000. 517,224 and we will meet the hundred million shots. We’re up to 82,572,848 shots. We’re going to get this done. But I’m going to ask some questions now. The press are going to leave and I’m going to get more personal with you if I can, asking questions. Okay.