State Dining Room

12:22 P.M. EST

     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you for your patience.  We had a very good but long meeting with the chairpersons of the House of Representatives in the Oval, and it went a little longer, but it went very well.  Thank you all for being here.

I’m accompanied by the Vice President and the Secretary of Treasury, Janet Yellen, and I want to talk today about our plan. 

And the January jobs numbers came out today.  And while we are grateful for everyone who found work and is earning a paycheck, it is very clear our economy is still in trouble.  We added just 6,000 private sector jobs in the country last month.  Overall, we added 49,000 jobs.  And this at a time when we have more than 10 million people out of work, 4 million people have been out of work for six months or longer, and 2.5 million women have been driven from the workforce.  Fifteen million Americans are behind in their rental payments.  Twenty-four million adults and twelve million children literally don’t have enough food to eat.

These aren’t Democrats or Republicans — they’re Americans.  And they’re suffering.  And they’re suffering not because of anything they did.  Through no fault of their own, they’re suffering.  A once-in-a-century virus has decimated our economy, and it’s still wreaking havoc on our economy today.  And so much of it is still about the virus.  We’re still in the teeth of this pandemic.  In fact, January was the single deadliest month of the whole pandemic.  We lost nearly 100,000 lives.

I know some in Congress think we’ve already done enough to deal with the crisis in the country.  Others think that things are getting better and we can afford to sit back and either do a little or do nothing at all.  That’s not what I see.  I see enormous pain this country.  A lot of folks out of work.  A lot of folks going hungry, staring at the ceiling at night wondering, “What am I going to do tomorrow?”  A lot of folks trying to figure out how to keep their jobs and take care of their children.  A lot of folks reaching the breaking point. 

Suicides are up.  Mental health needs are increasing.  Violence against women and children is increasing.  A lot of folks are losing hope.  And I believe the American people are looking right now to their government for help, to do our job, to not to let them down.  So I’m going to act, and I’m going to act fast.

I’d like to be — I’d like to be doing it with the support of Republicans.  I’ve met with Republicans.  There’s some really fine people who want to get something done, but they’re just not willing to go as far as I think we have to go. 

I’ve told both Republicans and Democrats that’s my preference: to work together.  But if I have to choose between getting help right now to Americans who are hurting so badly and getting bogged down in a lengthy negotiation or compromising on a bill that’s — that’s up to the crisis, that’s an easy choice.  I’m going to help the American people who are hurting now. 

That’s why I’m so grateful to the House and Senate for moving so fast on the American Rescue Plan.  Here’s what’s in that plan:

First, it puts $160 billion into our national COVID-19 strategy, which includes more money for manufacturing, distribution, and setting up of vaccination sites — everything that’s needed to get vaccines into people’s arms.  There is simply nothing more important than us getting the resources we need to vaccinate the people in this country as soon, as quickly as possible.  So, job number one of the American Rescue Plan is vaccines.  Vaccines.

The second, the American Rescue Plan is going to keep the commitment of $2,000: $600 has already gone out; $1,400 checks to people who need it.  This is money directly in people’s pockets.  They need it.  We need to target that money.  So, folks making $300,000 don’t get any windfall.  But if you’re a two — if you’re a two — if you’re a family that’s a two-wage earner, each of the parents — one making 30 grand and one making 40 or 50 — maybe that’s a little more than — well, yeah, they need the money, and they’re going to get it.

And here’s what I won’t do: I’m not cutting the size of the checks.  They’re going to be $1,400.  Period.  That’s what the American people were promised.

And very quickly, here’s the rest of my plan:

It has money for food and nutrition so that folks don’t go hungry.  I think our Republican friends are going to support that.  It extends unemployment insurance, which is going to run out on March 13th of this year, to the end of September of this year, because there is still going to be — we’re still going to have high unemployment. 

It helps small businesses, thousands of whom have had to go out of business. 

It has money to help folks pay their health insurance.

It has rental assistance to keep people in their homes, rather than being thrown out in the street.

It’s got money to help us open our schools safely.

It has money for childcare, for paid leave. 

It gets needed resources to state and local governments to prevent layoffs of essential personnel — firefighters, nurses, folks that are schoolteachers, sanitation workers.

It raises the minimum wage. 

It’s big, and it’s bold.  And it’s a real answer to the crisis we’re in. 

And it’s one more thing.  And I want to say it very clearly on this — be very clear on this point: It’s better economics. It not only addresses the immediate crisis we’re in, it’s better for the long-term economic health of our nation and our competitiveness. 

My plan creates more jobs, it creates more economic growth, and does more to make us competitive with the rest of the world than any other plan.  Don’t take my word for it.  Just look at what leading economists across the nation have said — and the world, and across the ocean have said. 

Wall Street investment firm, Moody’s, says if we pass the American Rescue Plan, it will lead to 4 million more jobs than otherwise would be created.  The nonpartisan Brookings Institution has looked at the Rescue — American Rescue Plan and said the GDP of — will reach pre-pandemic projections by 2021, meaning we’ll have recovered by the end of 2021.  And much sooner, by the way, than if we do nothing.

Look, just this week, the Congressional Budget Office projected that if we don’t take action, it would take until the year 2025 to return to full employment. 

There’s also a growing chorus of top economists — right, center, and left — that say we should be less focused on the deficit and more focused on the investments we make, and can make now, in jobs, keeping families out of poverty, and preventing long-term economic damage to our nation.

The simple truth is, if we make these investments now, with interest rates at historic lows, we’ll generate more growth, higher incomes, a stronger economy, and our nation’s finances will be in a stronger position as well.  And the payoff won’t just be in jobs but in our global competitiveness as well — because we’ll be regaining our economic strength faster.

So, the way I see it: The biggest risk is not going too big, if we go — it’s if we go too small.  We’ve been here before.  When this nation hit the Great Recession that Barack and I inherited in 2009, I was asked to lead the effort on the economic Recovery Act to get it passed.  It was a big recovery package, roughly $800 billion.  I did everything I could to get it passed, including getting three Republicans to change their votes and vote for it. 

But it wasn’t enough.  It wasn’t quite big enough.  It stemmed the crisis, but the recovery could have been faster and even bigger.  Today, we need an answer that meets the challenge of this crisis, not one that falls short.  And that’s the issue facing the country right now. 

What Republicans have proposed is either to do nothing or not enough.  All of a sudden, many of them have rediscovered fiscal restraint and the concern for the deficits.  But don’t kid yourself — this approach will come with a cost: more pain for more people, for longer than it has to be.

Secretary Yellen talks about the scarring effect that comes with prolonged economic pain.  We see that scarring effect in economic data.  But more important, we can see it in the lives of people living with long-term unemployment, living in hunger, at wits’ end over how to keep their jobs and take care of their kids.

And then she talks about the need to alleviate long-term suffering in the economy.  We can do that.  We don’t have to wait until 2025 to get back to full employment, which will be the case if we don’t do this.

Again, independent analysis from places like

Moody’s, on Wall Street, the Brookings Institution — the American Rescue Plan could achieve that by the beginning — full employment by the beginning of next year.

So, to me, this is — this is what this moment comes down to.  Are we going to pass a big enough package to vaccinate people, to get people back to work, to alleviate the suffering in this country this year?  That’s what I want to do.  Or are we going to say to millions of Americans who are out of work — many of whom have been out of work for six months or longer, who have been scarred by this economic and public health crisis — “Don’t worry, hang on.  Things are going to get better.  We’re going to go smaller, so it’s just going to take us a lot longer”?  Like, until 2025.  That’s the Republican answer right now.

I can’t in good conscience do that.  Too many people in the nation have already suffered for too long through this pandemic and economic crisis.  And telling them we don’t have the money to alleviate their suffering, to get to full employment sooner, to vaccinate America after $8 trillion in deficit spending over the past four years — much of it having gone to the wealthiest people in the country — is neither true nor necessary.

We do have the resources to get to full employment sooner.  We do have the tools to reduce a lot of suffering in this country.  We just have to choose to use them.

So it’s time to act.  We can reduce suffering in this country.  We can put people back to work.  We can control — gain control of this virus.  That’s what the American Rescue Plan does.  And that’s what I’m determined to do, and that’s what I hope we’re going to be able to do in the near term.

So may God bless you all.  May God protect our troops.  And I truly believe real help is on the way.  Thank you all so very much.  Thank you.

                        END                12:34 P.M. EST

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