Remarks by Vice President Harris at “Follow Up, Follow Through” Virtual Event
South Court Auditorium
2:25 P.M. EST
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: Thank you, Vincent, and hi, everyone. Hi, I’m sorry to keep you. I was just with the President in the Oval Office. I don’t know if you got a chance to see it. But it’s a good day, he just signed a bill into law — the American Rescue Plan — and it’s a good day.
And that’s why I wanted to see you guys today, and to see you again. It was very important to me to get back with each of you. You are the people who inspired the American Rescue Plan. You guys are the people.
And so, when we knew that the bill might be signed today, we wanted to make sure that I could let you know that we listened to you guys. We listened to you, and we heard your stories. And your stories represent an American story about how folks have been doing and not doing. And, you know, as the President said and promised, “Help us on the way.” And now I’m happy to say, I do believe help is here.
And over the past few months, you guys — you took your time to spend time with me, to visit with me, to have long conversations that were, for you, really about sharing pain and sharing, you know, your personal experience. And you’ve really been very generous in the way that you have given us that kind of feedback and those stories that have really shaped the American Rescue Plan. And so I want to thank you for that.
And I think you’re going to see that the American Rescue Plan is going to be responsive to a lot of what we talked about, and it’s going to bring help to American families and to the folks that you all serve. Because each of you really does represent so many folks, in terms of not only your story about how you have experienced it, but the people that — in every way that you touch.
You know, for example, Nadiyah Johnson — I think you all have met each other. I visited with you, I know you remember, in a union hall in Milwaukee. I’ll never forget that afternoon. We were there, you and a handful of small business owners, and we were there having a very honest, interactive conversation on the ground, in the community where you work, to talk about the challenges that you face. And that — that was feedback. And that was before COVID really hit. So I’ve been carrying your story with me for a long time.
Danielle Romanetti, I visited your small business in Virginia. Boy — and, by the way, did I learn how many people crochet and knit that I never knew crochet and knit. (Laughs.) But heard about the challenges of — that you are facing as a small-business owner in a small-business community, where the majority of the small businesses are women-owned. And where you also allowed me to talk with your team, including about the challenges facing working moms, balancing working in a small business and trying to make sure that their kids are, you know, getting online to attend their classes.
Ron Busby, together, with the Black Chambers, you brought all of the chambers from around the country together, and we talked about the need for targeted relief for black-owned small businesses, many of whom — and that was emphasized in our — in our meeting, many of whom have under 20 employees. And so there is a component of how we have been rolling out relief that is paying attention to just that point and making sure that our smallest businesses are not last in line, but in fact first in line to get the benefit that those — they so direly need.
And I’m proud. I’m proud to report that the American Rescue Plan includes, therefore, billions of dollars to provide growth capital to small businesses — and in hard-hit areas, as a focus — including black-owned, Latino-owned, women-owned small businesses.
Marc Perrone, you and I have been working together for years. And the conversations we have had for years about the dignity of the workers who stock grocery shelves and the workers who pack and process our food — you and I have had so many conversations about that. And then, in particular, during COVID, when you, as always, are fighting for the dignity and for the rights of those as we now and America now understands — “essential workers.”
And recently, of course, we’ve talked about how these workers have been struggling to stay on the job safely and to stay on the job, period.
And as you noted, Marc, in your statement about the bill, it includes housing assistance and SNAP food aid for the hardest-hit families. And it also includes protections for union members — union members who were going to lose their pensions. And it lowers health insurance premiums for working people.
So I heard you guys. We heard you.
Mayor McKinley Price, when we talked, you mentioned the budget constraints facing local governments right now. And the American Rescue Plan, of course, heard that, heard from so many mayors all over the country — bipartisan.
And so, in the American Rescue Plan, we provide targeted support for as many as 19,000 cities and towns and villages. We are paying attention to our native leaders and around the tribal communities. And we’re making sure that the American Rescue Plan helps these communities — and, Mayor, to your point, helps these communities keep firefighters and teachers on the job.
Kristin, you and I were part of a convening of women, leaders — leaders — I mean, they’re women, yes, but they’re leaders, and national leaders — where we talked about working mothers and all women workers, and how to help the more than 2 million women who have been forced out of the workforce.
And I want to particularly thank you for what you’ve been doing — and what we talked about last time I saw you — around the advocacy and your phenomenal advocacy. You are a force. And thank you for that, because you helped get the word out to remind all those women, many of whom are mothers, to remind them that they’re not alone and to remind them of their power and the power of their voice.
And so, you know, the American Rescue Plan — as a result of everything we heard from all of you and so many others, we’re going to get $1,400 checks into the pockets of people who need them most, and a $3,000 tax credit per child for parents. It includes $40 billion for childcare. And it’s going to help 11 million Americans from losing unemployment benefits.
In short, it’s going to help women workers. It will help all working families. And as Dr. Samir Balile knows — I was with him at the pharmacy in Southeast, in D.C. — it will help us get more shots in arms. Because when I visited with you, Doctor, we talked about the importance of making sure that vaccines are distributed quickly and equitably. And so, I visited with you in a neighborhood that has been around for a long time — predominantly African American — and we talked about the fact that the pharmacy in the community is where people — they trust it to go for medical help and assistance. They knew you; they know your name.
And it was therefore important that we got the vaccines into the communities — community health centers, community pharmacies — so that people could go to the place they were familiar and that they trusted.
And so now, with the American Rescue Plan, we’re able to set up and staff more community vaccination sites and tackle the supplies shortages. And you all may have heard the President talk about the fact that, by the end of May, we expect to have enough vaccines to cover everybody in the country. But the challenge will still be to make sure we get those shots in arms.
But I — I’ll also tell you — and, again, I was just with the President in the Oval Office — one of the things that we’re very proud of, and I think we collectively are: The vast majority of Americans, whoever they voted for in that last election, support the American Rescue Plan. And because of your support and because of your advocacy and because of your stories and your leadership, it is now the law of the land.
And I’ll tell you, another piece of it that we are particularly excited about is: In addition to everything I mentioned, it will lift almost half of America’s children who are in poverty out of poverty. Think about that: Almost half of the children in our country who are living in poverty — because of your advocacy, your leadership — your advocacy in terms of community and friends and neighbors — half of American’s children almost will be lifted out of poverty. That’s good stuff.
So all that to say thank you. Thank you all.
When I first visited with each of you, and during our subsequent conversations, I told you we’re going to stay in touch. And I intend to continue to stay in touch, by the way. But I just wanted, on this important day, to thank you for your leadership and for your partnership. And just, thank you.
And you all probably have met, I hope, Rohini Kosoglu and Mike Pyle. And they are here — they are leaders. They are brilliant and they can answer any questions. I know you guys are in the middle of a meeting that I have now just popped into. But — but don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions about what’s in the bill or how it’s going to play out.
And now let me ask you, yet another time, share with me what’s on your mind? How are you guys doing? How’s everybody doing?
(Virtual discussion begins.)
(Virtual discussion concludes.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Nadiyah. Yes, I mean there’s so much to talk about in terms of — right — the potential that we have here to also leapfrog into a place that we know we can be. Right?
I — you know, some people talk about getting back to normal, but part of the reality of this — of this pandemic is it has highlighted the fissures and fractures and failures of the system — be that the failure to have paid sick leave; the failure to have — you know, to deal with what we need to do to support working people; the failure of affordable childcare; and — and the failure of adequate childcare, in terms of having enough childcare. Right? Not to mention supporting childcare workers.
It has — it has highlighted the problems in a way that more people, I think, are aware of what wasn’t working. And so part of how we think about the American Rescue Plan and just this moment is, “Let’s not go back to normal. Let’s do better than normal.” Right? I mean, the President says all the time, “Let’s build back better.” Let’s do better. Let’s — let’s leapfrog into where we know we can be. And in the midst of helping people and rescuing folks, let’s also fix some of these — these failures. And — and we’re very excited about that.
And, obviously, the work that you’re doing around making sure we bring technology to communities — you know so much, just like Danielle was saying, of this has highlighted — has highlighted that we need to help our small businesses with tech infrastructure. We need to — right? These are the things that we need to do to help people actually be able to be competitive and to be strong as we go forward.
So, thank you for your leadership. It was great to meet with that whole group. It was right before COVID broke out. And I look forward to staying in touch. So, thank you.
MR. EVANS: Thank you all for joining us. Madam Vice President, I joke with everybody that we’re all family now. They won’t be able to get away from us for the next four years. (Laughter.) So, I’ll let you close with any parting thoughts.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I’m looking — you know, you know how it is with these virtual meetings. There is the camera, but here you guys are. (Laughter.)
So now I’m going to look at you and say: What a group of just incredible leaders. You all are national leaders. I have come to know each of you over the course of this process — some I knew before, and I know even better now. And these have been difficult, difficult days that have really challenged us to have hope and to have a sense of optimism.
But I know it is that optimism and hope that has driven the fight, and driven the belief in what is possible. And — so this is but a piece of that – the American Rescue Plan. It’s a very important piece of it. And so, let’s — let’s recognize, though, that what it will do, and then let us know that, going forward, there’s still a lot more work to do.
And it is — it is — absolutely, it’s about supporting working folks and appreciating the dignity of work; supporting working families — understanding the challenges that parents face to raise children; the challenges that educators face to educate our children; the challenge to small businesses; the essential workers who should not be treated like sacrificial workers, but should be treated with the dignity and respect they deserve because they’re keeping it all working and moving.
So, let’s celebrate each other and — and all the folks that that you all, as leaders, represent. We’re all in it together.
And, again, I’ll just end where I started, which is to say thank you — to thank you. Thank you. Thank you for having the courage and the commitment and the conviction you do. Thank you, on behalf of the President and myself.
Okay. And I’ll see you soon.
END 2:58 P.M. EST