Jan 22, 2021
Joe Biden Speech on COVID-19 Economic Relief Transcript January 22
President Joe Biden gave remarks on his administration’s response to the impact of COVID-19 on the economy on January 22. Read the transcript of his speech here.
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President Joe Biden: (02:33)
Good afternoon, folks. Vice President Harris and I just received a briefing from our economic team and we remain in a once in a century public health crisis that’s led to the most unequal job and economic crisis in modern history. And the crisis is only deepening. It’s not getting better. It’s deepening. Yesterday, we learned that 900,000 more Americans filed for unemployment, 900,000. They join millions of Americans who through no fault of their own, have lost the dignity and respect that comes with a job and a paycheck.
President Joe Biden: (03:12)
So many of them never thought they’d ever be out of work in the first place, just like my dad did when he was used to lie awake at night when I was a kid staring at the ceiling unable to sleep, because he worried about whether or not he’s about to lose his health care. Or whether we were going to have the money to pay the mortgage, because of the economic circumstance he was in. And now a lot of these folks are facing eviction or waiting hours in their cars, literally hours in their cars waiting to be able to feed their children as they drive up to a food bank.
President Joe Biden: (03:48)
This is the United States of America and they’re waiting to feed their kids. Folks who are able to still keep their job, many have seen their paychecks reduced and they’re barely hanging on and wondering what’s next. Sometimes the anxiety about what’s going to happen next is more consequential than what actually happened, but this is happening today in America. And this cannot be who we are as a country. These are not the values of our nation. We cannot, will not let people go hungry. We cannot let people be evicted because of nothing they did themselves.
President Joe Biden: (04:26)
I cannot watch people lose their jobs and we have to act. We have to act now. It’s not just to meet them moral obligation to treat our fellow Americans with the dignity respect they deserve. This is an economic imperative, a growing economic and consensus that we must act decisively and boldly to grow the economy for all Americans, not just for tomorrow, but in the future. There’s a growing course of top economists that agree. That in this moment of crisis with interest rates as low as they are, historic lows, it is smart fiscal investment, including deficit spending, and they’re more urgent than ever.
President Joe Biden: (05:11)
And that return on these investments in jobs and racial equity is going to prevent long-term economic damage and benefits that are going to far surpass their costs. If we don’t act, the rest of the world is not standing still in terms of their competitive advantage or the competitive possibilities relative to us. That our debt situation will be more stable and not less stable according to these economists. And that such investments in our people is going to strengthen our economic competitiveness as a nation and help us out-compete our competitors in the global economy, because we’re going to grow the economy with these investments.
President Joe Biden: (05:48)
While the COVID-19 package that passed in December was the first step. As I said, at the time, it’s just a down payment. We need more action and we need to move fast. Last week, I laid out a two-step plan of rescue and recovery to get through the crisis and to a better and stronger and more secure America. The first step of our American Rescue Plan is a plan to tackle the pandemic and get direct financial relief to Americans who need it the most.
President Joe Biden: (06:21)
In just a few days, it’s just been a few days since I outlined this plan and it’s received bipartisan support from the majority of American mayors and governors. Businesses and labor organizations have together welcomed it as an urgent action that’s needed. Even Wall Street firms have underscored its importance. In fact, an analysis by Moody’s estimates that if we pass our American Rescue Plan, the economy would create 7.5 million jobs just in this year alone.
President Joe Biden: (06:54)
That would be on the way to the more than 18 million, I think it was 18,600,000 jobs that they believe would be created over the four year period with our Build Back Better recovery plan. And with our American Rescue Plan, our economy would return to full employment a full year faster than without the plan, even President Trump’s. President Trump’s now, not some liberal organization. President Trump’s top former economic advisor, Kevin Hassett said, quote, “He absolutely is in favor of this rescue plan.”
President Joe Biden: (07:28)
This almost doesn’t have a partisan piece to it. We’re seeing the support because this plan takes a step that we so urgently need. More than just a step number of steps. It funds big parts of the COVID-19 national strategy that I released yesterday, we released yesterday. Our national strategy puts us on a war footing to aggressively speed up our COVID-19 response, especially on vaccines and testing and reopening our schools.
President Joe Biden: (07:58)
I found it fascinating yesterday, the press asked the question is a 100 million enough? Week before they were saying, “Biden, you’re crazy. You can’t do 100 million in 100 days.” Well, we’re going to God-willing not only do 100 million, we’re going to do more than that, but we have to do this. We have to move. The American Rescue Plan also includes economic relief for most Americans who are in need. We’re going to finish the job of getting a total of $2,000 in direct payments to folks. $600, which was already passed is simply not enough. If you still have to choose between paying your rent, putting food on the table, we’ll extend unemployment insurance benefits for millions of workers beyond the deadline that’s now set.
President Joe Biden: (08:42)
It means that 16 million Americans who are currently relying on unemployment benefits while they look for work can count on these checks continuing to be there in the middle of this crisis. The American Rescue Plan also addresses the growing housing crisis in America. Approximately 14 million Americans, 14 million have fallen behind on rent and many risk eviction. If we fail to act, there’ll be a wave of evictions and foreclosures in the coming months as this pandemic rages on. Because there’s nothing we can do to change the trajectory of the pandemic in the next several months.
President Joe Biden: (09:23)
So look, this should overwhelm emergency shelters, increase COVID-19 infections as people have nowhere to go and can’t socially distance. The American Rescue Plan asked Congress to provide rental assistance for millions of hard hit families and tenants. This will also be a bridged economic recovery for countless mom and pop landlords who can’t afford not to have the rent, but they can’t wait. So on Inauguration Day, I directed my administration to extend nationwide restrictions on evictions and foreclosures. These crises are straining the budgets of states and cities and tribal communities that are forced to consider layoffs and service reductions among essential workers, police officers, firefighters, first responders, nurses are all at the risk of losing their jobs.
President Joe Biden: (10:20)
Over the last year, more than 600,000 educators have lost their jobs in cities and towns. The American Rescue Plan will provide emergency funding to keep these essential workers on the job and maintain essential services. Look, it will also help small businesses that are the engines of our economic growth. When you say small business, most people think the major corporate entities are the ones who hire everybody. These small businesses are the glue that hold and they’re important, but these small businesses that glue and hold these communities together. They are hurting badly and they account for nearly half of the entire us workforce, nearly half.
President Joe Biden: (11:05)
Our rescue plan will provide flexible grants to help the hardest hit small businesses to survive the pandemic. And low cost capital to help entrepreneurs of all backgrounds create and maintain jobs, plus provide essential goods and services that communities so desperately depend on. Look, our recovery plan also calls for an increase in the minimum wage at 15, at least $15 an hour. No one in America should work 40 hours a week making below the poverty line. $15 gets people above the poverty line. We have so many millions of people working 40 hours a week working and some with two jobs, and they’re still below the poverty line.
President Joe Biden: (11:52)
Our plan access to affordable childcare. That’s going to enable parents, particularly women to get back to work. Millions are not working now because they don’t have that care. All told, the American Rescue Plan would lift 12 million Americans out of poverty and cut child poverty in half. That’s five million children lifted out of poverty. Our plan will reduce poverty in the black community by one third and reduce poverty and Hispanic community by almost 40%.
President Joe Biden: (12:23)
I look forward to working with members of Congress of both parties to move quickly to get this American Rescue Plan to the American people. And then we can move with equal urgency and bipartisanship to the second step of our economic plan to Build Back Better, the recovery plan. It’s a plan that’s going to make historic investments in infrastructure, manufacturing, innovation, research and development, and clean energy and so much more that’s going to create millions more jobs. Good paying jobs, not minimum wage jobs. It will only work with members of both parties in the Congress. There are steps that we can and must take right now.
President Joe Biden: (13:05)
For example, on Inauguration Day, I directed my administration to pause student loan repayments for interest for the interest payments for Americans with federal student loans until at least September. So they’re not going to have to pay till September. They still pay the bill as it stands now, but they will not accrue interest and they don’t have to pay, begin to pay until September. And we may have to look beyond that I might add. Today, I’m signing an executive order that directs the whole of government, a whole of government effort to help millions of Americans who were badly hurting.
President Joe Biden: (13:45)
Requires all federal agencies to do what they can do to provide relief to families, small businesses and communities. And in the days ahead, I expect agencies to act. Let me touch on two ways these actions can help change Americans’ lives. 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. That includes nearly 30 million adults and as many as 12 million children.
President Joe Biden: (14:22)
And again, they’re in this situation through no fault of their own. It’s unconscionable. The American Rescue Plan provides additional emergency food and nutrition assistance for tens of millions of children and families to address this crisis. But families literally can’t wait another day. As a result of the executive order I’m going to shortly sign, the Department of Agriculture will consider taking immediate steps to make it easier for the hardest hit families to enroll and claim more generous benefits in the critical food and nutrition assistance area.
President Joe Biden: (14:57)
This is going to help tens of millions of families, especially those who can’t provide meals for their kids, who are learning remotely at home who are not receiving the regular meal plans that they have at school for breakfast or lunch. We also need to protect the health and safety of the American worker. Right now, approximately 40% of households in America have at least one member with a pre-existing condition. Just imagine, you’re out of work through no fault of your own, you file for unemployment while you’re looking for a job, you find one and you get an offer. But then you find out if there’s a high risk of you’re getting infected with COVID-19 because of your condition and you and your loved ones have even greater risk of death and serious illness because of the pre-existing conditions, so you turn it down.
President Joe Biden: (15:51)
Right now if you did that, you could be denied unemployment insurance because you’re offered a job, you didn’t take it. It’s wrong. No one should have to choose between their livelihoods and their own health, or the health of their loved ones in the middle of a deadly pandemic. Because of the executive order I’m about to sign, I expect the Department of Labor to guarantee the right to refuse employment that will jeopardize your health. And if you do so, you’ll still be able to qualify for the insurance. That’s a judgment the Labor Department will make.
President Joe Biden: (16:23)
Look, they’re just two consequential ways that the action I’m taking today will help people in need. Another way to help approximately two million veterans maintain their financial footing by pausing federal collections on over payments and debts. Another, make sure that federal contractors are receiving taxpayers’ dollars, provide their workers with the pay and benefits they deserve. These are places where federal tax dollars are administered or being made available to build things from ships to staircases. And we let out the federal government lets the contract and we’re going to make sure that they buy American and are made in America.
President Joe Biden: (17:15)
And here’s another. Right now there are up to 8 million people that are eligible for direct payments from the CARES Act and a relief bill passed in December. They’re entitled to those payments, but there’s not an easy way for those folks to access to them. So we’re making it a priority today to fix that problem and get them relief they’re entitled to. Look, I’m going to close and summarize this way. A lot of America’s hurting. The virus is surging. We’re 400,000 dead, expected to reach well over 600,000. Families are going hungry. People are at risk of being evicted. Job losses are mounting again. We need to act. No matter how you look at it, we need to act.
President Joe Biden: (18:02)
If we act now, our economy will be stronger in both the short and long run. That’s what economist left, right and center telling us. Both liberal and conservative will be better and stronger across the board. If we act now, we’ll be better able to compete with the world. If we act now, we’ll be better able to meet our moral obligations to one another as Americans. I don’t believe that people in this country just want to stand by and watch their friends, their neighbors, co-workers, fellow Americans go hungry, lose their homes or lose the sense of dignity and hope and respect. I don’t believe that, especially in the middle of a pandemic that’s so weakened and wrecked so much havoc and cause so much pain on America.
President Joe Biden: (18:52)
That’s not who we are. The bottom line is this. We’re in a national emergency. We need to act like we’re in a national emergency. So we’ve got to move with everything we’ve got and we’ve got to do it together. I don’t believe Democrats or Republicans are going hungry and losing jobs. I believe Americans are going hungry and losing their jobs, and we have the tools to fix it. We have the tools to get through this. We have the tools to get this virus under control and our economy back on track. And we have the tools to help people. So let’s use the tools, all of them, use them now.
President Joe Biden: (19:37)
So I’m going to sign this executive order, but let me conclude again by saying. Folks, this is one of the cases where business, labor Wall Street, Main Street, liberal, conservative, economists know we have to act now not only to help people who are in need now, but to allow us to be in a competitive position worldwide and be the leader of the world economy in the next year or two and three and going forward. So thank you. I’m going to sign this executive order.
President Joe Biden: (20:20)
The first one is the economic relief related to COVID-19 pandemic that I referenced. The second one is protecting the federal workforce. Thank you very much.
Speaker 5: (21:00)
Mr. President, do you support Mitch McConnell’s timeline for a February impeachment trial?
President Joe Biden: (21:05)
I haven’t heard the detail of it, but I do think that having some time to get our administration up and running [inaudible 00:21:12] I want to thank the Senate for passing out our Secretary of Defense. It looks like our Secretary of Treasury. It looks like our Secretary of State’s in place. So the more time we have to get up and running and meet these crises, the better.
Speaker 6: (21:27)
Speaker 6: (21:30)
Speaker 6: (21:31)
Speaker 7: (21:31)
Anything to say on Hank Aaron? Mr. President, any comments on Hank Aaron? What did he say-