12:34 P.M. CDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Hello, hello, hello, hello.  (Applause.)  And it is good afternoon.  (Laughter.)  Please, have a seat.  It’s so good to be with — I see so many friends here.  So good to be back in Louisiana.  Thank you all.  Thank you.

And, Josi, thank you for that introduction.  She and I were speaking backstage.  I have to tell you, I just love it when we see and have our young leaders participate, because they are what it’s all about.  And I see many of our young leaders in the room today.  So this is a good day, and I do know that our future is bright when I see this incredible talent.

So, let me say this: This is an issue that Josi actually highlighted in terms of the importance of this.  The Governor and I and we were all doing a tour of the library here and talking about the significance of the passage of time.  Right?  The significance of the passage of time. 

So, when you think about it, there is great significance to the passage of time in terms of what we need to do to lay these wires, what we need to do to create these jobs.  And there is such great significance to the passage of time when we think about a day in the life of our children and what that means to the future of our nation, depending on whether or not they have the resources they need to achieve their God-given talent.

So, today, I’m so happy to be with all of you.  We are joined by the Deputy Secretary of our Department of Commerce, Don Graves; Congressman Troy Carter — both of whom traveled with me here, aboard Air Force Two.  I want to congratulate and thank them for their hard and good work.

We are also joined, of course, by the Governor.  Where are you, Governor?  He’s here.  He’s here.  (Laughter.)  I know — there you are.  Of course you are.  (Laughs.)  Isn’t that so like you?  Just in the room always, but not requiring much in terms of acknowledgement.  But I will tell you, Louisiana, you are very fortunate to have Governor Edwards in the role of leadership.  (Applause.)  I will tell you that.  I will tell you that.

He and I were talking, and the Governor, along with the mayors, met me at the tarmac when I arrived.  And I was sharing with him not only best wishes from President Joe Biden, but even after the election and before we were sworn in, we would do Zoom calls and then we started doing them throughout the beginning of our administration, and continuing to this day, but with governors from various states around the country.

And Governor Edwards was always front and center as a leader among leaders, talking about the needs of the people of Louisiana but also being a national voice around the needs of folks, be they in rural or urban communities, be they facing the challenges of the climate crisis or the challenge that we have in terms of making sure that everyone has an ability to live a quality of life — that means ability to afford the cost of living.

So, Governor, it’s great to be with you this afternoon.  And thank you.  You’ve been a great president — a great partner to the President and me as we move forward. (Laughter.)  A great president of your state.  (Laughter.)  And always fighting for the people of this district.

And I also want to thank the Louisiana congressional delegation for warming [welcoming] us to the state. I was with Senator Bill Cassidy last week.  I know he’s unable to be here today, but I’ll tell you, we were together at the White House — (applause) — when I swore in another native Louisianan, Shalanda Young.  (Applause.) 

And so, Ms. Young is now the Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, and a member of the President’s Cabinet.  And I want to thank, in Louisiana — I want to thank Senator Cassidy for his help to secure Director Young’s confirmation and his help to pass the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. (Applause.)

And today, I am proud to focus on how much we have all accomplished when we work together. 

So, President Biden and I — well, we’ve been working day in and day out to build an economy that works for working people, an economy in which every person has what they need to get ahead and to thrive.

High-speed broadband Internet is critical to that effort.  In the 21st century, high-speed Internet is a necessity.  Full stop.  It is a necessity.

And so much of our world, if we think about it, has moved online.  Throughout the pandemic, people depended on high-speed Internet like never before.  Business owners used the Internet to sell their goods.  Parents used the Internet to buy their groceries.  Seniors used the Internet to see their doctor.  Young people to attend virtual classes.  All without ever leaving home.

So, for so many of us — for so many of us, the Internet has been and continues to be essential for us to perform our everyday needs.  It is an integrated part of our daily lives.

And yet, by one estimate, more than 42 million people
in our country do not have high-speed Internet.  Far too many of our fellow Americans simply cannot afford the cost of a high-speed Internet plan.  And too many others do not even have access to such a plan.

Consider: Most of the households in our nation that have high-speed Internet receive it through fiber-optic cables.  However, there are millions of homes around our nation, most of which are in rural areas, that are not connected by fiber-optic cables.  That means those households have to rely on satellite Internet or dial-up plans, which are often slower, less reliable, and more expensive.  Or it means they have to go without access to the Internet altogether. 

And this community, which is why I am here, is all too familiar with these challenges, though this is a community that is filled with extraordinary leaders. Thirty [Thirty-seven] percent of the households here in St. Landry Parish do not have high-speed Internet.

Around our country then, including here, that means students are sitting in fast food restaurant parking lots,
doing their homework over public Wi-Fi, because that is the only place they can receive access. 

It means seniors are seeing doctors and medical professionals during their telemedicine visits in local public libraries.  Now just imagine what that means — that you’re sitting there talking with your medical health professional, surrounded by people, and what that might do to impede your ability to share your concerns in a way that you feel safe.  Or if you know that’s the only way you can get access, how that might deter you even trying to connect.  

And it means that so many people are shut off from economic opportunity. Just think about how having access to high-speed Internet enables workers to take on remote work jobs.  It allows companies to find talent wherever it might be.  It opens up new markets to small businesses and allows entrepreneurs to collaborate and to create.

As I said, in the 21st century, high-speed Internet is a necessity.  And, so, our administration is taking action.

Last month, our administration announced we are distributing $277 million in grants to connect 13 communities from across our nation with high-speed Internet.  Communities in Maine, in Kentucky, Washington, Georgia, Texas, and here in Louisiana. 

In this community, we will invest nearly $30 million to connect more than 22,000 households to the fiber-optic network.  (Applause.)

And our Commerce Department, led by Secretary Raimondo and represented here through the leadership of Deputy Secretary Graves, has done an outstanding job distributing this money to the places that need it the most. 

And this is just a down payment.  Every household in America should be able to access and afford — I separate those two points, “access and afford,” because you need both.  You need to lay down the fiber, but you also need to be able to pay for it and afford it.  So these both are priorities for our administration.

And that is why, through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we invested $65 billion to expand and modernize our nation’s broadband infrastructure.

We will lay thousands of miles of fiber-optic cable and will help millions of households lower their monthly Internet bill.

Thanks to this law, one in four American households is eligible to receive a discount on their monthly Internet bill of $30 per month or $75 per month for those living on Tribal lands.

So far, with this discount, we have helped lower the cost of living for more than 10 million households, and more are signing up every day.

And that is just part of the good being done by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

And, again, I want to thank the governor for his early conversations with us about what states like Louisiana need.

For example: Tomorrow, I know Louisiana may experience another severe and substantial storm.  In recent years, so many communities around our nation have been damaged by storms and floods.  Well, our administration is committed to helping all communities to prepare for, to respond to, and to recover from extreme weather.

So, as part of that commitment, today we are announcing $60 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will be made available to help communities build flood resilience, and $40 million of that funding will be spent right here in Louisiana.  (Applause.) 

And — and we’re cle- — I see your enthusiasm about it because you’re living here and you know — right? — resilience — this is about helping homeowners.  This is about helping residents.  It’s about knowing something is going to come and let’s build up in a way that we can mitigate, so we can minimize, so we can lessen the harm that we know happens every time if we don’t build up that resilience.

But, you know, we want to build up the resilience, but then the states need the support to do that.

And think about it: It’s not only about the resilience for the families and the individuals, it’s about the jobs that we’re going to create to do that work.

So, the investments in high-speed Internet that we celebrate today, along with what we will continue to do to expand our work around things like climate resilience with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, will have a transformative impact on communities across our country. 

On the issue of Internet: Think about it — when we connect families and workers, students and small-business owners, patients and health professionals, including mental health professionals, with high-speed Internet, we connect folks to opportunity.

We connect folks with the ability to improve their lives, to fight back against feelings and actual reality of being isolated and, instead, to allow people to be connected with each other and with the services that they need.

And think about the opportunity, then.  It includes all of that, which is about community and communication and connection, but also the opportunity to work and learn remotely, to see a doctor online, to buy groceries through an app, to deposit a check without having to visit the bank — in short, the opportunity to live healthier, happier, and more prosperous lives.

This is what so much of our administration’s work comes down to: fighting to make sure every person — no matter where they start, no matter how much money they have in their bank account — that they have the opportunity to succeed, to achieve their God-given potential, in particular when it comes to our children.

So, we are fighting to make sure that this opportunity extends to all people in our country, regardless of where they live.

You know, there’s so much of what we have achieved together, on many levels, but with this Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, that is based on our collective ability to see what is possible; to see what can be, unburdened by what has been; to reject the notion that the way things have always been has to be the way things will continue to be.  That’s the work we are doing together.

And as I said to the governor and the congressmen, we can’t do this work at the national level out of Washington, D.C. — the President and I, we can’t do this work were it not for you here, in the community, in local government and state government, creating the foundation so that we can come in and say, “Governor, here’s a check.”  (Laughter.)  “Spend it wisely,” which I know is what you will do.

So, it’s good to be with everyone this afternoon. And thank you, thank you for the warm welcome back.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

END                12:50 P.M. CDT

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