Jan 14, 2021
Joe Biden Speech Transcript on COVID-19 Economic Recovery Plan
On January 14, Joe Biden announced a $1.9 trillion package that includes larger checks for Americans, a vaccination plan, and more to boost the economy. Read the full transcript of his speech here.
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Joe Biden: (00:03)
Good evening, my fellow Americans. It’s been 343 days since the virus that has ravaged our nation tragically claimed its first life. On February the 6th in 2020 Patricia Dowd took her last breath at home under the California sun in Santa Clara. She was 57 years old, a beloved wife, mother, daughter, sister. She never knew she had the virus, at the time when most folks never heard about the virus, but just like that she was gone. And almost exactly one year later, nearly 400,000, 400,000 of our fellow Americans have met the same cruel fate. Countless families and friends left behind with unrelenting grief and guilt, anger and frustration. And the emptiness felt by the loss of life is compounded by the loss of our way of life.
Joe Biden: (01:10)
During this pandemic, millions of Americans, through no fault of their own, have lost the dignity and respect that comes with a job and a paycheck. Millions of Americans never thought they’d be out of work. Many of them never even envisioned the idea, are facing eviction, waiting for hours in their cars to feed their families, as they drive up to a food bank. Millions have kept their jobs, but have seen their hours and paychecks reduced barely hanging on as well. That’s happening today in the United States of America. Just as we are in the midst of a dark winter of this pandemic, as cases, hospitalizations and deaths spike at record levels, there is real pain overwhelming the real economy. One where people rely on paychecks, not their investments to pay for their bills and their meals and their children’s needs.
Joe Biden: (02:19)
You won’t see this pain if your scorecard is how things are going on wall street, but you will see it very clearly if you examine what the twin crises of a pandemic and this sinking economy have laid bare. The growing divide between those few people at the very top who are doing quite well in this economy and the rest of America. Just since this pandemic began, the wealth of the top 1% of the nation has grown roughly $1.5 trillion since end of last year, four times the amount for the entire bottom 50% of American wage-earners. Some 18 million Americans are still relying on unemployment insurance. Some 400,000 small businesses have permanently closed their doors. And it’s not hard to see that we’re in the middle of the once in several generations economic crisis with a once in several generations public health crisis. The crisis of deep human suffering is in plain sight and there’s no time to waste. We have to act and we have to act now.
Joe Biden: (03:45)
This is what economists are telling us. More importantly, it’s what the values we hold dear in our hearts, as Americans are telling us. Our growing chorus of top economists agree that in this moment of crisis, with interest rates at historic lows, we can not afford inaction. It’s not just that smart fiscal investments, including deficit spending, are more urgent than ever, it’s that the return on these investments in jobs, racial equity, will prevent long-term economic damage and the benefits will far surpass the cost. A growing number of top economists have shown, even our debt situation will be more stable, not less stable if we seize this moment with vision and purpose.
Joe Biden: (04:41)
And so tonight I’d like to talk to you about our way forward. A two-step plan of rescue and recovery, a two-step plan to build a bridge to the other side of the crisis we face to a better, stronger, more secure America. Tonight, I’ll lay out my first step, the American rescue plan that will tackle the pandemic and get direct financial assistance and relief to Americans who need it the most. Next month, in my first appearance before a joint session of Congress, I will lay out my Build Back Better recovery plan. It’ll make historic investments in infrastructure, that Build Back Better plan. Infrastructure, manufacturing, innovation, research, and development, and clean energy, investments in a caregiving economy and skills and training needed by our workers to be able to compete and win in the global economy of the coming years.
Joe Biden: (05:43)
Moody’s, an independent Wall Street firm, said my approach will create more than 18 million good paying jobs. Our rescue and recovery plan is a path forward, with both seriousness of purpose and a clear plan with transparency and accountability with a call for unity that is equally necessary. And unity is not some pie in the sky dream, it’s a practical step to getting the things we have to get done as a country get done together. As I said when it passed in December, the bi-partisan COVID-19 relief package was a very important first step. I’m grateful for the Democrats, Republican and Independent members of Congress who came together to get it done. But I said at the time, it’s just a down payment. We need more action, more bipartisanship, and we need to move quickly, we need to move fast.
Joe Biden: (06:50)
Our rescue plan starts aggressively in order to speed up our national COVID-19 response. The vaccines offer so much hope and we’re grateful to the scientists and researchers and everyone who participated in the clinical trials. We’re also grateful for the rigorous review and testing that has led to millions of people around the world already being vaccinated safely. But the vaccine rollout in the United States has been a dismal failure thus far. Tomorrow I will lay out our vaccination plan to correct course and meet our goal of 100 million shots at the end of my first 100 days as president. This would be one of the most challenging operational efforts we have ever undertaken as a nation. We’ll have to move heaven and earth to get more people vaccinated, to create more places for them to get vaccinated, to mobilize more medical teams, to get shots in people’s arms, to increase vaccine supply and to get it out the door as fast as possible.
Joe Biden: (07:57)
We’ll also do everything we can to keep our educators and students safe, to safely reopen the majority of our K through eight schools by the end of the first 100 days. We can do this if we give the school districts, the schools themselves, the communities, the states, the clear guidance they need as well as the resources they need, that they can’t afford right now because of the economic dilemma they’re in. That means more testing and transportation, additional cleaning and sanitizing services in those schools, protective equipment and ventilation systems in those schools.
Joe Biden: (08:39)
We need to make sure that workers who have COVID-19 symptoms are quarantined and those who need to take care of their family members with COVID-19 symptoms should be able to stay home from work and still get paid. This will reduce the spread the virus and make sure workers get the support they need to maintain their families. But we need about 400 billion in funding from Congress to make all of what I just said happen. It’s a great deal, but I’m convinced we are ready to get this done. The very health of our nation is at stake.
Joe Biden: (09:19)
Our rescue plan also includes immediate relief to Americans, hardest hit, and most in need. We will finish the job of getting a total of $2,000 in cash relief to people who need it the most. The $600 already appropriated is simply not enough. You just have to choose between paying rent and putting food on the table. Even for those who have kept their jobs, these checks are really important. You see, if you’re an American worker making $40,000 a year with less than $400 in savings, maybe you’ve lost hours, or maybe you’re doing fewer shifts driving a truck or caring for the kids or the elderly. You’re out there, putting your life from the line to work during this pandemic and worried every week that you’ll get sick, lose your job or worse. $2,000 is going to go a long way to ease that pain.
Joe Biden: (10:17)
It will also provide more peace of mind for struggling families by extending unemployment insurance beyond the end of March for millions of workers. That means that 18 million Americans currently relying on unemployment benefits, while they look for work, can count on these checks continuing to be there. Plus, it will be a $400 per week supplement so people can make ends meet. This gets money quickly into the pockets of millions of Americans who will spend it immediately on food and rent and other basic needs. As the economists tell us, that helps the whole economy grow. It will also tackle the growing hunger crisis in America.
Joe Biden: (11:03)
As I speak, and the Vice President Elect has spoken to this many times, one in seven households in America, more than one in five Black and Latino households in America, report they don’t have enough food to eat. This includes 30 million adults and as many as 12 million children. It’s wrong, it’s tragic, it’s unnecessary, it’s unacceptable. So we’re going to extend emergency nutritional assistance for 43 million children and their families enrolled in the SNAP program through the rest of this year. We’ll help hard hit restaurants prepare meals for the hungry, provide food for the families who need it. We will invest $3 billion in sure mothers and their young children have the nutrition they need. This will not only meet our moral obligation we have to one another, but it’ll also spur economic growth, get restaurants and workers back on the job.
Joe Biden: (12:09)
And as we work to keep people from going hungry, we’ll also work to keep a roof over their heads, to stem the growing housing crisis and evictions that are looming. Approximately 14 million Americans have fallen behind on rent, many at risk of eviction. If we don’t act now, there’ll be a wave of evictions and foreclosures in the coming months as the pandemic rages on. This would overwhelm emergency shelters, increase COVID-19 infections as people have nowhere to go and can’t socially distance. Next week, we’ll take action to extend nationwide restrictions on evictions and foreclosures. This will provide more than 25 million Americans greater stability instead of living on the edge every single month. And I’m asking Congress to do its part by funding rental assistance for 14 million hard hit families and tenants. It will also be a bridge to economic recovery for countless mom and pop landlords.
Joe Biden: (13:19)
These crises are straining the budgets of states and cities and tribal communities that are forced to consider layoff and service restrictions of the most needed workers. It means that people putting their lives at risk are the very people now at risk of losing their jobs, police officers, firefighters, all first responders, nurses, educators. You know, over the last year alone, over 600,000 educators have lost their jobs in our cities and towns. Our rescue plan will provide emergency funding to keep these essential workers on the job and maintain essential services. It will ensure that vaccines are administered and schools can reopen.
Joe Biden: (14:08)
Vice President Elect Harris and I had been speaking with county officials, mayors, governors of both parties on a regular basis. We’re ready to work with them to help them get the relief they need. Our rescue plan will also help small businesses that are the engines of our economic growth, our economy as a whole, the glue that holds communities together as well. But they’re hurting badly and you realize they account for nearly half of the entire total us workforce. Our rescue plan will provide flexible grants to help those hardest hit small businesses survive the pandemic and the low cost capital that will help entrepreneurs of all backgrounds create and maintain jobs, plus provide the essential goods and services that communities depend upon.
Joe Biden: (15:03)
Last week, I laid out how we will make sure that our emergency small business relief is distributed swiftly and equitably, unlike the first time around. We’re going to focus on small businesses on Main Street, we’ll focus on minority owned small businesses, women owned small businesses and finally having equal access to the resources they need to reopen and to rebuild. And we will be responsible with taxpayers’ dollars, ensuring accountability that reduces waste and fraud and abuse like we did in the Recovery Act that I administered in our administration. Direct cash payments, extended unemployment insurance, rent relief, food assistance, keeping essential frontline workers on the job, aid to small businesses. These are the key elements to the American Rescue Plan that would lift 12 million Americans out of poverty and cut child poverty in half. That’s 5 million children lifted out of poverty if we move. Our plan will reduce poverty in the Black community by 1/3, to reduce poverty in the Hispanic community by almost 40%.
Joe Biden: (16:15)
And it includes much more like an increase in the minimum wage to at least $15 an hour. People tell me that’s going to be hard to pass, Florida just passed it. As divided as that state is, they just passed it. The rest of the country is ready to move as well should be a national minimum wage of $15 an hour. No one working 40 hours a week should live below the poverty line. That’s what it means. If you work for less than $15 an hour and work 40 hours a week, you’re living in poverty. It includes access to affordable childcare that will enable parents, particularly women to get back to work.
Joe Biden: (16:52)
I look forward to working with members of Congress in both parties, to move quickly to get the American Rescue Plan to the American people. Then we can move with equal urgency and bipartisanship to my Build Back Better recovery plan that I will call for next month to generate even more economic growth.
Joe Biden: (17:13)
American manufacturing was the arsenal of democracy in World War II. It will be so again. Imagine a future made in America, all made in America and all by Americans. We’ll use taxpayers’ dollars to rebuild America. We’ll buy American products, supporting millions of American manufacturing jobs, enhancing our competitive strength in an increasingly competitive world. Imagine historic investments in research and development to sharpen America’s innovative edge in markets where global leadership is up for grabs, markets like the battery technology, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, clean energy. Imagine confronting the climate crisis with American jobs and ingenuity leading the world. It’s time to stop talking about infrastructure and to finally start building an infrastructure so we can be more competitive.
Joe Biden: (18:18)
Millions of good paying jobs that put Americans to work, rebuilding our roads, our bridges, our ports, to make them more climate resilient, to make them faster, cheaper, cleaner to transport American made goods across our country and around the world. That’s how we compete. And imagine millions of jobs in the caregiving economy to ease the financial burden of caring for young children and aging loved ones. Let’s make sure our caregivers, mostly women, women of color, immigrants have the same pay and dignity that they deserve so we can do these bold practical things now. Now.
Joe Biden: (19:04)
I know what I just described does not come cheaply, but failure to do so will cost us dearly. The consensus among leading economists is we simply can not afford not to do what I’m proposing. Independent, respected institutions from around the world, from the Federal Reserve to the International Monetary Fund have underscored the urgency. Even Wall Street firms have reinforced the logic. If we invest now boldly, smartly and with unwavering focus on American workers and families, we will strengthen our economy, reduce inequity and put our nation’s longterm finances on the most sustainable course. And where we’re making permanent investments, recurring investments.
Joe Biden: (19:54)
As I said on the campaign trail, we will pay for them by making sure that everyone pays their fair share, not punishing anybody. You can do it without punishing a single person by closing tax loopholes for companies that ship jobs overseas or that allow American companies, 90 of them in the top Fortune 500, to pay zero in federal income taxes. Asking everyone to pay their pair of fair share at the top, so we can make permanent investments to rescue and rebuild America. It’s the right thing for our economy. It’s the fair thing. It’s the decent thing to do.
Joe Biden: (20:31)
We not only have an economic imperative to act now, I believe we have a moral obligation. In this pandemic in America, we can not let people go hungry. We can not let people get evicted. We can not watch nurses, educators, and others lose their jobs, we so badly need them. We must act now and act decisively. My fellow Americans, the decisions we make in the next few weeks and months are going to determine whether we thrive in a way that benefits all Americans or that we stay stuck in a place where those at the top do great, while economic growth for most everyone else is just a spectator sport and where American prospects, dim, not brighten. These investments will determine whether we reassert American leadership and out-compete our competitors in a global economy. We’re better equipped to do this in any nation in the world or that we watch them catch up and pass us by. Together, I know which path we’ll choose. And that includes all Americans, so we can own the 21st century.
Joe Biden: (21:52)
But even with all these bold steps, it’s going to take time to get where we need to be. There will be stumbles, but I will always be honest with you about both the progress we’re making and what setbacks we meet and there will. And here’s the deal, the more people we vaccinate, the faster we do it, the sooner we can save lives and put this pandemic behind us and get back to our lives and our loved ones and the sooner we can rescue and rebuild the American economy, the biggest and most profitable engine in the world. I know it’s been a nearly a year. It’s tested us beyond measure. For all of you who have lost someone, my heart goes out to you. I know that feeling, looking at an empty chair across the table.
Joe Biden: (22:45)
All of you who’ve fallen on hard times, I know you can never get back what you lost, but as your president, I know that every day matters and every person matters. And the very first, to the nearly 400,000 lost American souls and counting, to the millions of you just looking for a fighting chance in this economy, I promise you, we will not forget you. We understand what you’re going through. We will never ever give up and we will come back. We’ll come back together. We didn’t get into all this overnight. We won’t get out of it overnight. And we can’t do it as a separated and divided nation. The only way we can do it is to come together, to come together as fellow Americans, as neighbors, as the United States of America. And when we do, there’s nothing beyond our capacity, I’ve said this many times. When America acts as one, there’s never been a single thing we’ve been unable to do no matter how consequential the issue has been.
Joe Biden: (24:00)
Out of all the peril of this moment, I want you to know, I give my word, I see the promise as well. We’ve seen clearly what we face now and I remain so optimistic about America, as optimistic as I’ve ever been. We have everything we need, but the will must be demonstrated. So come Wednesday, we begin a new chapter, the vice president elect and I will do our best to meet all the expectations you have for the country and the expectations we have for it. I’m confident. I am truly confident together, together we can get this done and come out better off than when we went into this crisis. God bless you all and may God protect our troops.