Aboard Air Force One
En Route Allentown, Pennsylvania

11:45 A.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’ve never done this on the small plane before, so bear with me.  Hey, everybody.  Good to see everyone.  Welcome to our flight to Lehigh, Pennsyl — Valley, today in Pennsylvania.

As you all know, today we announced a proposed Buy American rule.  The President believes that when we spend American taxpayer dollars, it should support American workers and business.

In Lehigh Valley today, he will talk about the importance of this Buy American policy to support and grow more American companies and put more American workers in good-paying union jobs, strengthen American manufacturing, and secure critical supply chains while confronting the climate crisis. 

During his trip, the President will visit the Lehigh Valley Operations manufacturing facility for Mack Trucks.  There are more than 1,500 Mack trucks in the federal fleet, used by both military and civilian agencies.  And the President will receive a briefing on the Mack Trucks’ electrical dump truck.

Every Mack truck built for the North American market gets its start at the companies cab and vehicle assembly plant in the lower Macu- — Macungie township — I know I messed that up; apologies to Pennsylvania and that township. 

The ability to build and sell these new trucks would be helped by the President’s proposed investment in Buy American production incentives for domestic electric vehicle manufacturing.

Today, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, CFBP [CFPB], is launching a new rental assistant finder for Americans who may be behind on their rent.  You can go to ConsumerFinance.gov/RentHelp and input location information to find local rental assistance programs in the area and apply for assistance.

Thanks to the American Rescue Plan, billions of dollars in federal rental assistance is available to renters who are behind on housing costs and for landlords who have struggled during the pandemic.

Private-sector companies from PayPal and Square, Lyft, and GoFundMe, to nonprofits including United Way, the National Low Income Housing Coalition, and Bread for the World will join with the Biden-Harris administration to raise awareness for this new and important tool, as well as the resources available to assist tenants and landlords.

And as we announced last week, in June, over $1.5 billion was distributed to renters and landlords more than previous — the previous five months.

And with that, Josh, do you want to kick us off?

Q    Sure.  Two subject areas.  First, we know that the administration is considering a vaccine mandate for federal employees.  Can you give us any guidance in terms of how you’re defining federal employees?  Does that include military, contractors?  Would visitors to federal agencies also fall under that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, Josh, let me first say that, you know, our goal as a federal employer is to keep our employees safe and to also save lives.  That is the number-one goal that we have here.

While no decision has been finalized, I will say that the attestation of vaccination for federal employees is one option under strong consideration.  So, attestation — what we mean by that is confirming — which means confirming vaccination status or abiding by stringent COVID-19 protocols, like mandatory mask wearing, even in communities not with high or subsequent substantial spread, and regular testing.

We’ve also said requirements for vaccination may be under consideration for certain entities within the government.  I don’t have any updates to preview on that front today.

Q    Are you concerned that imposing a mask mandate could exacerbate divisions in the United States that have already been so present in terms of vaccination rates?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, let me just — like I said, they’re — right now we are — have many options that we’re looking under consideration.

But let me just step back, because I think — I want to take this opportunity, with the CDC mask guidance that was given — again, not a mandate, as you know, but a guidance. 

You know, yesterday the CDC did exactly what it was — it’s supposed to do.  And I’m sure you all saw — are tracking what the public health experts have said — said this as — said as much.  The message is simple: If you are in an area where Delta is surging, you should mask up indoors. 

The CDC has to adapt to the virus.  And unfortunately, because not enough Americans have stepped up to get vaccinated, they had to provide new guidance to help save lives, especially for those immunocompromised and children, children who — especially those children who are 11 and under who do not have — are not able to get vaccinated at this time.  So, this is critical.

Again, we want to make sure we’re saving lives.  The CDC guidance was done nonpartisan.  It was done as they are looking through guidance, and to really meet the moment. 

We’re dealing with a virus, as you all know, that’s unprecedented.  There’s no playbook for this virus.  And again, we need to make sure that we’re saving lives.  And we are going to continue to do everything that we can to make sure people are getting vaccinated.

Q    Karine, why would the White House be confident that people in these red zones now will listen to this new mask guidance if they’ve shrugged off the vaccination message from the White House, if they’ve shrugged off mask guidance before?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, let me —

Q    Why are you so confident now? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, Karen, let me first say that the CDC is a — is a body that is highly respected.  It is a body that people look towards.  And you’re right — you know, we — we are — we are going to make sure that we go community by community.  I’m sure the CDC is going to have a communication — you know, kind of apparatus of communication with local governments on how to best do this. 

But this was — this needed to happen.  Right?  They are following the science.  We have said this all along.  The science is the North Star.  We have to listen to public health experts.  And, right now, again, we’re trying to make sure that we’re saving lives.

But, again, we need to make sure that people who are not vaccinated get vaccinated. 

Q    Karine —

MS. HAYES:  We have to stop because we have to land.  They’re making us sit down because we have to land.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, okay.  Sorry, guys.

11:52 A.M. EDT

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