Remarks by President Biden at the National Governors Association’s Winter Meeting
4:35 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Thank you, Andrew. I appreciate it a lot. I appreciate your friendship.
Let me start by saying: Guaranteed, if we’re able to, we’ll not only have you next — next year, at this time, for the governors’ conference, but we’ll have whatever food you want. We can go around to each one of you. We just order individually.
But all kidding aside, I’m anxious to see — I wish you could all be here because it’s much better if we’re all — we all do better when we’re able to look at each other in the eye and know what we’re talking about. But thank you.
Some of you have been here in the meantime, but I hope to have the governors’ conference here next year, God willing.
You know, I’ve been talking to several of you quite a lot — a bit lately. And as you know, we have approved disaster declarations in Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. In Texas, FEMA was already on the ground providing support for COVID-19 vaccination efforts. So they were able to move quickly to supply generators, food, blankets, and, most importantly, water.
And, Governor Abbott, I don’t want to ruin your reputation, but I look forward to coming down tomorrow, to Houston, to be with you. And I want you and the residents to know that we’re here to provide the federal assistance you need to support your state, your local, and tribal response efforts.
And it’s clear that even when the immediate crisis passes, there’s going to be more work to be done to help constituents recover. And my administration will be there every step of the way with you because when people in this country need help, they’re not Democrats or Republicans; they’re all Americans. And people who need work, they’re the people getting sick from COVID, and people facing eviction, people going hungry, people struggling with the opioid crisis, and people who need broadband. They’re not Democrats or Republicans; they’re our fellow Americans.
And I think the whole spirit of this governors’ conference and our administration is changing the attitude a little bit about how we deal with one another — at least I hope so.
As governors, you know this: You know that you have one job, and that’s to deliver. You’re on the frontlines — to overuse that phrase, but it’s hard to overuse it. And as the saying goes, “You’re the laboratories of democracy.” Your challenges can provide — prove to be lessons for everybody. Your successes can prove to be a model for everybody.
The storms that hit the south were a painful reminder that so many of our challenges don’t stop at our border of our states. They don’t make distinctions based on how the state is made up.
Today, I want to focus on two of those challenges that cross borders: COVID and the economy. You know better than I do: As you know, the ability to deal with one will determine our ability to address the other.
On Monday, our nation passed a grim, grim milestone: COVID-19 has now taken over 500,000 of our fellow Americans. That’s more than died in World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War combined. And most governors, that’s more than the population of your largest cities in your state or your territories — gone. Gone.
And as a country, we have to remember those we lost but particularly those we left behind. But as we remember, we also have to act to end the politics of misinformation that has divided families, communities, and the country, and that has cost too many lives already. We have to fight this together, as one, to state the obvious.
I know you all know this. As a friend of mine, you say you not only understand me, but you over-stand me. We’re the United States of America, and this cruel winter is not over. And if we come together, we can usher a more hopeful spring. We can usher it in. And that’s what we’re working to do together.
As you know, I came into office, and I set a goal which was mocked for — by some; none of you, but by some. I set a goal of saying we’re going to do 100 million shots — get 100 million shots in people’s arms in my first 100 days as President. I directed Jeff Zients, my COVID Response Coordinator, to lead my administration and work with vaccine manufacturers to buy more vaccines and speed up delivery.
We used, as some of you have suggested, the Defense Production Act to speed up supply chains for key equipment like fill pumps and filters, which have helped increase vaccine production.
We’ve increased vaccine allocations as — as Andrew said — as the Governor said — to your states by almost 70 percent since coming into office, whatever number days ago it’s been — 37 or something like that. We secured enough vaccine to supply 300 million Americans — 300 million — to take care of all their needs, in terms of vaccination, by the end of July.
And we’re all — and we’ve all seen in the news that Johnson & Johnson vaccine is — if the FDA approved the use of this new vaccine, we would plan to roll out as quickly as Johnson & Johnson can make the vaccine.
Of course, it’s not just getting the vaccines; it’s getting the vaccines in arms. And this is another place where your work and our partnership is making a big difference. I’ve signed an order to allow retired doctors and nurses to give shots. We’ve deployed — as you referenced indirectly, at least, Andrew — we’ve deployed over 1,500 federal personnel as vaccinators, and we’re funding 1,200 of your Guardsmen and women to serve as vaccinators as well. And we’re paying for your Guard for that purpose.
We’ll work with you to create more places where Americans can get vaccinated, supporting communities in high-volume vaccine centers and across your states.
The result is that we have doubled the daily vaccination rate from where it was when we took office, and we’ve completed 50 million shots in 37 days. And we’re now — we’ve now given more shots than any nation in the entire world. Nearly 60 percent of people over the age of 75 have now received at least one shot. It was 14 percent six weeks ago. Close to 50 percent — because of your help — of the people over 65 have received one shot. It was 8 percent six weeks ago.
And this is so important because people over 65, as you know better than anyone, account for 80 percent — 80 percent of all the COVID deaths.
Additionally, about 75 percent of the people who live in long-term care facilities have gotten their first dose. And those cases are at their lowest level since reporting began in May.
At the same time, we’re also delivering more than 25 million masks — ordered this last week — 25 million masks to over 60,000 food pantries, soup kitchens, community health centers all across America, helping protect some of our nation’s most vulnerable people.
And all — and these are all necessary steps to helping the economy rebuild. Necessary steps, not only — but not only steps; it’s enough to build back to where we were before. We need to build back better. And we — I think we — all of us know how to do that.
We remember what happened in the states back in 2008: Hundreds of thousands of jobs disappeared every month in that Great Recession. And we passed the Recovery Act. We provided state and local fiscal aid. We sent funding to your school districts to help save over 300,000 education jobs. We provided middle-class tax relief. We invested in the future, rebuilding roads and bridges; making the biggest clean energy investment in history and the single biggest investment in infrastructure since Eisenhower’s interstate highway program. And we created, in the process — you all created in the process over thousands — hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs.
Now, economists tell us that saved us from a depression. Well, that’s the approach I think we need to take today. But there’s one big difference: We need to be more ambitious right now. The greatest risk from all the major economists, from Wall Street to overseas to — to the major think tanks, is that we don’t do enough of what is needed; it’s when we do too little.
You know, in every one of your states and territories, red and blue, millions of Americans are hurting badly. We see it in ways that we’ve never expected in America. Four hundred thousand small businesses gone in an instant. Gone. People who thought they had secure jobs out of work, due to no fault of their own. The difference here is people are hurting through no fault of their own. Lines miles long in your states. People who never ever, ever, ever thought they’d ever have to worry about going hungry, waiting for someone to put a box of groceries in their trunk.
Women’s participation in the workforce — you all know this — is driven to its lowest level in more than three decades. So many women are facing the devastating choice between a paycheck, and care and education of their child. Our cities and towns have shed 1.3 million jobs since just last March: educators, nurses, cops, firefighters, other essential workers.
The economic toll of this pandemic continues to tear through our country as brutally as the virus itself. And so we need to
comfort [confront] the economic — you know, we just have to step up. The economic toll we have to address with the same aggressiveness and seriousness of purpose as we do the virus. And that’s what the American Rescue Plan does.
Instead of chasing COVID-19, it allows us to get ahead of it with more testing, supplies, vaccinations. It gets our kids back to school safely — many of you are already doing that — so students can catch up on learning they’ve lost, and parents can finally catch a break.
The American Rescue Plan finishes the job of getting a total of two hundred thou- — or $20,000 to — direct payments to people. Getting direct relief to people is a lifeline for them and it bumps our economy into higher gear.
And there’s more to the American Rescue Plan, and much more it will do: provide flexible aid to your cities and states to help essential workers stay in the job and essential services keep going. It provides rent relief, food, and nutrition, and assistance to millions of children and families facing hunger.
And the American Rescue Plan also expands access to affordable childcare that’s going to enable parents, particularly mothers, to get back to work. It provides assistance to mom-and-pop small businesses that are the engines of our economic growth and the glue of our communities. And it covers the cost of paid leave for businesses whose workers are sickened by COVID-19. And it fills an important gap in our nation’s safety net that helps reduce the spread of the virus.
I could go on. I’m probably already going on too long. But, you know, you know a lot of it already because the plan was created to include many of the things you have individually and collectively asked me for in recent conversations.
The bottom line is: The American Rescue Plan meets the moment. An analysis by — an analysis by Moody’s estimates that it will help the economy create 7 million more jobs this year alone. And it would be on the way to another 18 million jobs, Moody’s estimates, would be created over the next four years with our Build Back Better recovery plan.
Look, what we do now will determine whether we build from a position of strength or whether we lose years of sluggish and unequal recovery.
And the only way to contain this pandemic and help the American people as quickly as possible is passing the plan as quickly as possible.
The vast majority the American people from both parties support it, according to the data. I’m grateful to many of you, Democrats and Republicans, who have expressed support as well.
We are not the type of nation that can or will stand by and watch our people suffer needlessly through no fault of their own. It goes against our conscience. It goes against sound economics. It’s not who we are. We’re people who know that there’s nothing we’ve ever failed to do when we’ve set our mind to doing it.
So let’s get this done.
I’ve gotten over 400 mayors contacted me to get this plan passed. A lot of you have moved to do that. Send millions of Americans — wherever they live, whoever they voted for — a strong message that help and hope are on the way. We can do this.
And I hope that Jill and I, as I said, can welcome you all to the White House next year’s — for next year’s meeting.
And may God bless you all, and may God protect our troops. We got a lot to do, guys, but we can do it.
4:52 P.M. EST