Aug 4, 2020
Trump Giving $35 Million in Aid to Sex Trafficking Survivors Transcript
The Trump Administration announced $35 million of Justice Department aid for survivors of sex trafficking on August 4. AG William Barr and Ivanka Trump joined survivors and sex trafficking prevention/intervention organizations to announce the aid. Read the transcript of the event here.
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William Barr: (00:01)
I also thank all the survivors and their advocates here for their courage and determination to end this evil scourge. In late January, a number of us were here for the White House’s summit on human trafficking. We noted that this year marks the 20th anniversary of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, a law that has enabled great progress in this fight. And I promised that the justice department would do everything in our power to stop human trafficking and to help survivors. And today, I’m pleased to announce an important step in keeping that promise. The Justice Department is awarding more than 35 million dollars in grants to support housing for victims of human trafficking, the largest ever federal investment of this kind. These funds will help 73 organizations in 34 states to fill an urgent need of trafficking victims.
William Barr: (01:05)
When survivors are liberated from the nightmare of trafficking, they often face a new challenge. They have nowhere to live. Tragically, the trauma of trafficking can give way to new dangers caused by homelessness and can even result in re-victimization by predators. No one should have to endure that heartbreak. Thanks to the funds awarded today and to the devoted organizations, including many faith based organizations using them, survivors of human trafficking will be able to count on a safe place to stay and a real chance to restart their lives. The funds will support multiple forms of short term housing assistance, including helping survivors make rent payments, covering utility bills, or security deposits, or paying moving expenses.
William Barr: (02:05)
The three inspiring organizations represented here today will use their grants to help more than a hundred people. And the total number helped across the nation will be in the thousands. These grants, the first ever federal program dedicated exclusively to providing housing for survivors of human trafficking, are part of approximately 100 million dollars in total grants that the department anticipates awarding this year to combat human trafficking. Aside from financial support, the department will continue to use the full force of our laws and our law enforcement resources to investigate, prosecute, and punish the people behind this cruel and criminal scourge. I thank all of you for your commitment to this righteous cause. And I look forward to hearing from you today. Thank you.
Ivanka Trump: (03:04)
Well, thank you, Mr. Attorney General. And we all appreciate how passionately you’ve championed this cause and been a true warrior for the survivors of human trafficking and for vulnerable populations across the country. Just last week, I was with your co-chair of the Missing and Murdered Cold Case Task Force for missing and murdered Native American and Alaska natives, as we opened the first of seven offices in Minnesota. Today, the second of the seven is being opened in Grand Rapids, South Dakota. So, thank you for you work and advocacy on behalf of those individuals as well.
Ivanka Trump: (03:54)
The president stated very early in the administration, it was only weeks after he had come to the White House, that he would put the full force and weight of this government behind ending human trafficking, arguably the greatest of human rights violations. Since then, the president has signed nine pieces of legislation into law to do exactly that. Funds have also been allocated and really show that this government is prioritizing and putting funds where it matters, in the hands of those on the front lines. So, just in this past year, in addition to the grants that we’ll be talking about today, 70 million was added for enhanced prosecutions and 123 million for supporting the state and local governments as they further this work. All of this was over and above what Congress had appropriated in the year prior.
Ivanka Trump: (04:57)
DOJ housing assistance grants are absolutely critical. And the attorney general outlined some of the ways in which these grants will be used by the great organizations that convened around this table, in addition to 73 from numerous states across the country, a total of 35 million dollars in grants, and that really being just the beginning. But six to 24 months of housing support, including rent, utilities, critically counseling services, vocational education, and job training services, so many of the wraparound support items necessary to ensure that victims, survivors can take their place back into society and resume their lives in the most supported fashion possible.
Ivanka Trump: (05:53)
The Human Trafficking Hotline has articulated the fact that housing assistance is the number one need, the number one service requested in all of these human trafficking related crisis cases. So, this is targeting a specific need that has been highlighted for the Department of Justice. I think COVID made the need all the more urgent. In many cases, victims find themselves sheltering in place with their traffickers without another option. So, like with so many other things, COVID has really underscored urgency and made safe, secure, stable housing for these victims more relevant and important than ever.
Ivanka Trump: (06:46)
Today is a celebration of the great work everyone around this table has been doing to help the voices, to support those who have endured tremendous hardship, and to hear from survivors who help put a face to this terrible opportunity to emerge from this terrible circumstance and to move forward… thank you. And move forward with their lives.
Ivanka Trump: (07:17)
So, before we turn it over to the incredible grantees, many of which I have had the great fortune of either listening in person or one of the examples being Wellspring Living in Atlanta Georgia, I had the great opportunity to go there and see the great work that they’re doing. But, before we hear from the grantees, I’d like to turn it over to the active director of our Domestic Policy Council, Brooke Rollins, to say a few more words. And thank you again for being here.
Brooke Rollins: (07:44)
Ivanka Trump, thank you so much. Attorney General Barr, thank you. My name is Brook Rollins. I have the incredible blessing of working alongside Ivanka, and General Barr, and most importantly, this president, every single day as we work to lift all Americans to a real shot at the American dream. This president from day one talked about he was coming to Washington, most unlikely and unexpected president, having never run for office as a private businessman from New York City, to fight for all Americans, but especially the forgotten men and women of this country, forgotten no more.
Brooke Rollins: (08:23)
And, as we move forward, I think there is no doubt, all of you ladies sitting around the table, and General Barr, but all of you ladies sitting around the table, we’re standing on your shoulders. The work that you have done and continue to do in your homes, back in your states, in your cities, you’re the real heroes here. And it’s just such an inspiring place to be at this White House where we can work alongside you, work alongside Ivanka with her leadership, General Bar, and again, this president to really focus on those Americans who need our help the most.
Brooke Rollins: (09:05)
When I look at the numbers, I’m astonished. 25 million people around the world living in modern day slavery, 25,000 in America, the United States of America, most of those women and children. Since shelter in place, the calls to the hotlines have gone up 40%. This is a crisis, but it is a crisis that is solvable because of all of you who are here with us today. So, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I know, on behalf of this president and our vice president and our entire administration, this issue doesn’t drive the headlines. Other issues do. But I’m not sure there is a more important one than this, as we continue to fight for this country, but especially for people who can’t fight for themselves and just need a leg up.
Brooke Rollins: (09:50)
So, I am so proud and so grateful to my colleague, Heather Fisher, who will say just a couple of words. I believe this is right, but we’re the first White House to have a full time person working on human trafficking, Republican-
Brooke Rollins: (10:03)
… full time person working on human trafficking, Republican or Democrat. So kudos to our boss, the president, kudos to Heather for giving up another career to come in and join us to fight, again, as General Barr said this righteous cause and ultimately to help thousands upon thousands and around the world, millions of women and children and men who are caught in this terrible issue. So with that, Heather, please go ahead. Thank you all.
Thank you so much, Brooke, for the kind of introduction. I’m so grateful for your leadership. Thank you for welcoming me here to The White House and the domestic policy council. I’m grateful for the leadership of the president, AG Barr, senior adviser, Trump. Human trafficking a form of modern slavery is amongst the most pressing human rights violations of our time. And I’m so grateful to you all for prioritizing efforts to address this monumental problem. This week marks my eighth week at The White House as special adviser for human trafficking. And I’m truly privileged to be chosen by this president and his administration and folks you see here in this room to be the first to assume this role within The White House. This year we celebrate 20 years of putting freedom first through the signing of the Palermo protocol and the passage of the trafficking victims protection act of 2000.
Together we have accomplished so much in the anti-trafficking field, but we have much more to do. My [inaudible 00:11:28] the domestic policy council is to work across the various white house offices and the federal inner agency to continue driving for the actions laid out in the president’s executive order on combating human trafficking and online child exploitation in the United States. The president signed this executive order on January 30th of 2020. And housing for survivors of human trafficking is outlined as a priority area in this executive order. In 2018, I participate in nationwide justice sector initiative designed to increase human trafficking investigations and prosecutions. We talked to stakeholders from across the United States, in rural, suburban and urban areas all consistently identified housing for victims and survivors as a top need and gap. Stable and safe housing for survivors of human trafficking is a crucial component to overall stability for individuals who are aggressively reclaiming their lives after a trafficking experience. Often the lack of adequate housing puts survivors of human trafficking at risk of re-exploitation. The efforts of the department of justice to fund housing for survivors of human trafficking addresses a significant gap in services. Today, as Ivanka said, we celebrate with the department of justice, survivor leaders and NGOs as DOJ announces the grantee recipients. During my tenure combating human trafficking, I’ve witnessed firsthand amazing accomplishments that survivors go on to achieve when they are provided with the appropriate services and housing they so deserve. From survivor leaders to victim service providers, law enforcement, community leaders, healthcare providers, educators, faith based organizations, and government officials, we all have an important part to play in combating human trafficking. This is truly an all hands on deck and strategic effort and strategic collaboration is key. Thank you. Now I’d like to transition to our NGO providers and survivor leaders that you see here around the table for some of their remarks. And first I’d like to ask Tenisha Gant Watson from the Jordan Community Resource Center in greater Cleveland area to share about their work to provide transitional housing to women in their community.
Ivanka Trump: (13:52)
Greetings everyone. I feel honored and privileged today to serve and advocate for women who have been trafficked, exploited and muted. I myself being trafficked as a young adult understand the trauma and shame that’s associated with how you are viewed and sometimes not supported due to false perceptions of who and what you are. Many people ask me where the name Jordan comes from. In this context, Jordan symbolizes the river of people had to cross over to get to Canaan, which represented prosperity and freedom. What’s even more interesting is that the stronger ones had to prepare the way for the others before they can possess their own inheritance. Jordan CRC provides a holistic service as a means for transformation with love. I accept this grant on behalf of women who are in need of housing, treatment and spiritual support to recover, stabilize and heal, not just for themselves, but also for their children.
Ivanka Trump: (14:52)
We are creating a social enterprise that will not only provide shelter, but jobs and opportunities for advancement. I am grateful and honored to participate in this round table with Adviser Trump, Attorney General Barr and others who are here to represent their cause. May you be inspired by one another to affect change by remembering the others who may not know that they have a voice too. I tell the ladies I speak to today, passion will provide a platform and with God all things are possible to those who believe. Thank you for this opportunity and the other opportunities to come.
Thank you, Tenisha, for 16 years of sustained efforts in this area. We’re so grateful for your leadership.
Ivanka Trump: (15:37)
Next we’ll turn to Cece Cyrus who had an opportunity to visit with earlier, also from the Jordan Community Resource Center. Cece, if you wouldn’t mind providing a few remarks as well, thank you.
Cece Cyrus: (15:48)
I’m really thankful for being here. I’m very excited. I’m not only here for myself, but I’m also here to represent many voices and many faces. I am a victim of human trafficking. I was dehumanized, depraved, tortured, beaten, stalked, threatened by knife point if I did not do what they commanded me to do. I was given drugs and became addicted. The fear and shame of my addiction kept me separated from my family and children. I was in a cycle of hopelessness, living on the street, homeless and addicted and loss of hope of regaining my life back. I was admitted into human trafficking court, this is where my life began to show hope.
Cece Cyrus: (16:54)
I asked to go to the Jordan House for recovery. I was amazed that I received so much more. I received love and compassion and a safe, stable environment where I could build myself from my foundation to an example of what Jordan had to offer. I became a senior peer to guide and love the other ones coming up after me. I have a peer support certificate. I am studying to be a mentor for the court system. I have associates degree in human services. I am grateful for this opportunity. Thank you very much.
Thank you, Cece for your hard work and supporting other women in the Cleveland area. We’re so grateful to you for sharing your time here today. We also welcome Celia Thomas, CEO from Alternatives For Girls in Detroit, Michigan. Celia, we look forward to hearing more from you about your program to provide stable housing, counseling, educational opportunities, job readiness, and life skills training to homeless women ages 15 to 22 and their children. I turn it over to you.
Celia Thomas: (18:16)
Thank you, Heather. Alternatives For Girls was founded 33 years ago. We’re committed to helping homeless girls and women avoid violence and exploitation. We’re helping them to explore and access resources, supports and opportunities to grow strong and to make positive choices for their lives. We do this through three areas of service, outreach, shelter and prevention. In 2019, Alternatives For Girls served almost 6,000 girls and women through our street-based outreach and the other services. We participate with law enforcement in human trafficking stings and then provide services to girls and women who are liberated in those things. We provide domestic violence interventions, safety, counseling, and a range of services to runaways and homeless youth, as well as working with high risk girls in the school age levels to help them to stay in school, to provide leadership and support to their peers and to aim for college and careers that will stay ahead of the times.
Celia Thomas: (19:33)
Michigan has a population of over 9 million people and almost 7% of them live in the city of Detroit. 52% of Detroiters are women and 25% of them are youth under the age of 18. Last year, just under 2,000 Detroiters were counted as experiencing homelessness and across Michigan, a total of 364 cases of-
Celia Thomas: (20:03)
[inaudible 00:20:00] Michigan, a total of 364 cases of human trafficking were reported, but we know that that’s an underreported count. We absolutely know that. We also know that metropolitan Detroit is an epicenter across Michigan and in the Midwest for human trafficking, especially sex trafficking.
Celia Thomas: (20:24)
We recognize that there are intersections between homelessness and human trafficking. Our experience demonstrates that affordable housing along with a range of other supports are key components for strengthening the numbers of girls and women overcoming not just the trauma of sex trafficking, but also the full range of challenges that we face in our Detroit communities.
Celia Thomas: (20:51)
We are grateful to you, sir, Attorney General Barr, and to adviser Trump for your work in this area. We’re tremendously grateful for this award from the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Victims of Crime. And this funding will allow AFG to house many girls and women who have experienced human trafficking and provide powerful supports that will help them get on the path to healing, thriving, and becoming peer leaders themself, and contributing members to our community. We will use this funding well, and it will have a tremendous impact on vulnerable girls and women in Detroit who need us. Thank you.
Thank you so much, [Cecelia 00:00:21:38]. We really appreciate all of your efforts in Detroit and for focusing on so many areas of this work, not just housing. We appreciate it.
Next, I’d like to ask Hilda Fernandez, CEO of Camillus House, to share about her work in Miami, an area I’ve worked a number of years, and if you wouldn’t mind giving a few comments, we’d appreciate it.
Hilda Fernandez: (21:58)
Absolutely, and I want to echo the gratitude to be invited around the table and have an opportunity to share with [Jordan House 00:22:05], Alternatives for Girls, and certainly the courageous survivors around the table about the experience of serving a very, very impacted community of people.
Hilda Fernandez: (22:13)
We have been offering housing and services in Miami Dade County for 60 years. We provide on a daily basis to 1100 men, women, and children, residential services, from emergency housing, transitional treatment programs, all the way to permanent housing.
Hilda Fernandez: (22:28)
Among the special populations we serve include veterans, unaccompanied homeless youth, youth aging out of foster care, the mentally ill, and in particular, the survivors of human trafficking.
Hilda Fernandez: (22:40)
Florida ranks third in the nation in human trafficking cases. In Miami Dade County, where we live, is the biggest trafficking hub in Florida. Probably not surprisingly, because we are a tourism base, and tourism drives a lot of human trafficking for sexual exploitation. And in particular, because we have a lot of great events, like the super bowl, that also brings a lot of movement into our community.
Hilda Fernandez: (23:04)
The Camillus House Phoenix Project, Project Phoenix, offers a 16 bed residential treatment program for adult victims of human trafficking. We know that adult victims of human trafficking are more often than not minor children who were humanly trafficked, and eventually grew, became adults, and continue to be trafficked, tragically continue an incredibly horrible circumstance. Our clients, many of them come self-reserve, but the most frequent referral clients that we serve come from law enforcement. They come from Homeland Security. They come from the state attorney’s office, from local law enforcement agencies, and other state agencies. We provide a resource for law enforcement to provide safe shelter to many survivors who are also going to be victim witnesses, trying to stop the cycle by taking the courageous act of actually testifying against their traffickers, a very scary situation for many of the women we serve. Extremely frightening.
Hilda Fernandez: (24:06)
In fact, it was through law enforcement that we had one of our ladies, one of our wonderful, fantastic survivors AJ came to us, 32 years old referred to us by the state attorney’s office, had a childhood, unfortunately, too common amongst some survivors. She was in and out of foster care. She was suffering from major depression, cocaine addiction, as a result of being exploited in several states since the age 18. She reported being repeatedly physically abused by her trafficker. Through intensive group and individual counseling, medication management, supportive services, today she is clean, graduated from a culinary arts program we provide on our campus, and is currently a manager in training at a local pokey restaurant. We’re excited about that. And importantly, after 17 months of supportive services through our rapid rehousing program, she was placed in permanent housing in the community.
Hilda Fernandez: (24:59)
Like AJ, there are numerous similar stories amongst survivors that we have served. DC was trafficked for over two years with a minimum quota to make $500 a night, or else. Her trafficker repeatedly also physically abused her. By the time she arrived at Phoenix House through a referral from Homeland Security, in addition to her opioid addiction, like many survivors, she suffered from PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder.
Hilda Fernandez: (25:26)
After seven months with us, getting clean, obtaining her GED, getting a job, she was also able to move into her own apartment. In fact, we’re very proud to say that 70% of the survivors won’t go through the Phoenix Project. Since they’ve opened, we opened our doors in 2015, have moved into stable housing.
Hilda Fernandez: (25:47)
Phoenix is a program designed to meet the needs of those survivors. It’s sometimes as simple as just letting them sleep, believe it or not. More often, it’s helping them overcome the trauma they experienced. Our survivors come to us suffering from PTSD, major depression, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse. They have no place to go, and many times, and very sadly, going home is not an option.
Hilda Fernandez: (26:13)
I can tell you more about the evidence based models that we use, the therapeutic activities that we offer, everything from yoga to Zumba. But at the end of the day, the simple act of providing these survivors a safe shelter is the most important thing we can do, especially for those that are victim witnesses who need a safe place to stay while they wait to go to court and face their trafficker.
Hilda Fernandez: (26:38)
We are immensely grateful for the support of the Department of Justice. It will allow us to provide these much needed services to countless more survivors. We appreciate the opportunity to join this round table with A.G. Barr, adviser Trump, to hear about the other programs like Jordan House and Alternatives for Girls, and certainly to hear the courageous stories of our survivors. And we thank you very much from Miami. The survivors, we will be helping in the future, thanks to your assistance.
Thank you, Hilda, and I especially want to thank you for your collaboration with the U.S. attorney’s office and Homeland Security investigations, especially in charge offices. It’s really making a difference, the work that the task force is doing there. You’re doing more than just giving a bed, which we appreciate, but you are working hand in hand with law enforcement to make sure that traffickers are brought to justice, and we appreciate that. Thank you.
Next, I’d like to introduce my dear colleague, Tanya Gould, so grateful that you could be here today. Tonya is a member of the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking and the founder of Identifiable Me. We welcome your comments as well today [inaudible 00:27:38].
Tanya Gould: (27:45)
Thank you so much [inaudible 00:27:44]. Thank you [inaudible 00:27:47]. Okay.
Tanya Gould: (27:49)
Well, good afternoon. Thank you to the White House, adviser Trump, and the U.S. Department of Justice Attorney General Barr, for inviting me to speak, and hosting this round table for your attention to the important issues of housing assistance for survivors of human trafficking.
Tanya Gould: (28:12)
I want to take a moment to express my gratitude to this administration for continuing to support the United States Advisory Council on Human Trafficking. As you know, the council is composed of human trafficking survivors who advise the federal government on ways to improve anti-trafficking programs and policies. We, as a council are grateful for the partnerships forged with federal agencies, and to put it simply, the meaningful and actionable conversations we have been able to have with those agencies that make up the President’s interagency task force to monitor and combat trafficking in persons.
Tanya Gould: (28:52)
This is my second term on the council, and the two years this administration has listened to us, asked great questions, and put into practice what we have made recommendations to do. Thank you again, to the White House, and to this administration for hearing, for honoring, and for empowering survivor voices.
Tanya Gould: (29:17)
Throughout my lived experience, my voice held no value. I wasn’t protected as a young person should be. My hopes, my aspirations, my personal vision for my future was of no concern to my trafficker. Personally, this experience to be heard and to feel valued has helped me advance on my own path of wholeness, and I am forever grateful. Your ongoing support for this council provides a model to the world on how to be victim centered. We talk about often what it means to be victim centered, trauma informed, and survivor led.
Tanya Gould: (30:02)
Trauma-informed and survivor-led. Thank you. So about housing. I want to take you just for a quick moment into my shoes. I actually was here in DC when a buyer kidnapped me and I was able to get away from him. And when I got away from him, I had no support. I had no one to turn to. I was on my own and a law enforcement officer actually picked me up and paid my way home. And I was on the bus and I remember passing this white house in a very rural area and I’m on the bus and I would look out to my right, and there’s just all this green grass and trees and this white house that was abandoned. And I remember thinking, I wish there was a place I could just go to just rest, learn about myself and start over again.
Tanya Gould: (30:59)
And at that thought, I said, “I promise that if I get out of this situation, I will do something about it.” So sitting here today and being a part of this is definitely a 360. Thank you so much.
Thank you so much, Shauna and Tanya.
Tanya Gould: (31:16)
Oh, do I have to stop?
Tanya Gould: (31:18)
Okay. Housing, as you can imagine, is an enormous need for survivors of all colors, genders and ages. I’m sorry, did you have something else that you wanted to seem to me? Okay. Immediately following our trafficking experience, we need a safe moment to be in a place where no one needs anything from us, because so much has been taken. In the days, weeks and months following, we need homes and assistance that provide holistic approaches to care, approaches to take into consideration not only immediate and longterm housing needs, but also mental health and dependency needs as well.
Tanya Gould: (31:53)
We need homes that do not just focus on jobs and quick turnarounds, but truly give us the safe space and time to learn, to heal, to rebuild and to understand our self worth, our value and purposes in life. We need homes and supports with trained staff in trauma and survivor informed practices to help reverse what the traffickers and buyers did to us. In the Council’s 2020 report, we called upon federal agencies to prioritize the housing needs of not only survivors, but also their families as a part of a two generation approach for survivors who have experienced trafficking and have children that they are raising. We also called upon federal agencies to increase services and assistance to underserved and under-reporting populations such as those who identify as LGBTQ communities and also our black and brown communities.
Tanya Gould: (32:46)
These survivors face additional hurdles and have even more limited access to services and housing assistance. Housing assistance and services are not targeted enough or individualized to them and their specific needs. There are often misconceptions about housing and access to services as well as stigma associated with using them. And the truth is that many survivors feel unseen, unheard, and misunderstood. We hide. We hide from those who harmed us and we also hide from those who are meant to help us. We call upon federal agencies to understand and address these complexities, to promote trauma informed practices and housing assistance initiatives, and commit resources to ensure housing accessibility to all survivors of trafficking.
Tanya Gould: (33:43)
Thank you again for including the Council to this round table. Thank you for your continued support of the Council and for listening to our recommendations on housing assistance for survivors. Thank you. And thank you.
Thank you so much for your courageous leadership. And we’re so pleased to be able to partner with you and the other council members as we continue to drive forward our administration’s priorities on human trafficking. So with that, I will turn it back over to AG Barr for some concluding remarks and then Advisor Trump to close this out.
William Barr: (34:17)
Yes. I’d just like to thank all of you for participating in this session this afternoon. I’m very grateful for your leadership in tackling this critical issue. It’s leaders like you, who do so much for victims that frankly inspire us. They inspire us at the Justice Department to redouble our efforts and move forward shoulder to shoulder, with partners like you. So once again, thank you for coming and telling us about your organization, the importance of this issue, the importance of this grant money and of providing housing for victims and survivors. And we look forward to continuing this fight together.
Ivanka Trump: (35:09)
Thank you, Mr. Attorney General, and thank you to the whole team at the Justice Department for the tremendous work being done on this front. Tanesha had mentioned that victims are trafficked, they’re exploited, but they’re also muted. This president said he would be the voice for the voiceless and the work that’s being done by so many, including incredible survivors and so thank you so much, Tanya, for sharing a bit about your story. It gives a voice to many and you represent a beacon of hope for so many as well. So this is a great day in that these grants will undoubtedly, when we hear the stories of the organizations and how many people they’ve assisted in such meaningful and tangible ways, these funds will undoubtedly be used very well to uplift many across this nation. And this really is the beginning because this president, the Department of Justice, the White House, the whole administration is fully committed to ending trafficking and modern day slavery once and for all.
Ivanka Trump: (36:24)
So thank you for lending your important voice and perspective to this discussion. And we look forward to being with you all again in the future as we take steps forward. So thank you. Thank you so much. And thank you, Heather, my great colleague, who’s doing an amazing job for us at the DPC. Thank you. Thank you all.