Category Archives: Joe Biden

Biden Signs Executive Orders to Tackle Climate Change, Create Jobs: ‘Climate change will be at the center of our national security and foreign policy’

Solar array on a farm in Finger Lakes, New York (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

‘It’s about jobs — good-paying union jobs.  It’s about workers building our economy back better than before.  It’s a whole-of-government approach to put climate change at the center of our domestic, national security, and foreign policy.  It’s advancing conservation; revitalizing communities and cities and on the farmlands; and securing environmental justice.’

President Joe Biden equated Climate Day with Jobs Day at the White House because he knows that confronting this existential crisis is also about jobs that will build a sustainable future. Think about it: workers populated Pennsylvania and West Virginia when technology was invented to turn coal into fuel; workers flooded Texas and Oklahoma when oil was discovered. Now we need new sources of energy to replace these archaic, destructive technologies and will redeploy those workers, re-purpose those sites and develop new industries. Long Island will lead a new off-shore wind industry, other places – including farmers and ranchers – will turn their land into a new source of wealth with solar panels and windmills.

Today, President Biden signed executive actions to treat the need to tackle climate change as the national security threat it is, while at the same time countering the Republican claim of a zero-sum game that climate action will cost jobs rather than create millions of jobs. And after Republican presidents and administrations did all they could to erase “climate change” from mission statements, agencies and policies, Biden signed an executive order restoring scientific integrity.

Here are President Biden’s remarks, highlighted: –Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Today is “Climate Day” at the White House which means that today is “Jobs Day” at the White House.  We’re talking about American innovation, American products, American labor.  And we’re talking about the health of our families and cleaner water, cleaner air, and cleaner communities.  We’re talking about national security and America leading the world in a clean energy future.

It’s a future of enormous hope and opportunity.  It’s about coming to the moment to deal with this maximum threat that we — that’s now facing us — climate change — with a greater sense of urgency.  In my view, we’ve already waited too long to deal with this climate crisis and we can’t wait any longer.  We see it with our own eyes, we feel it, we know it in our bones, and it’s time to act. 

And I might note, parenthetically: If you notice, the attitude of the American people toward greater impetus on focusing on climate change and doing something about it has increased across the board — Democrat, Republican, independent. 

That’s why I’m signing today an executive order to supercharge our administration ambitious plan to confront the existential threat of climate change.  And it is an existential threat. 

Last year, wildfires burned more than 5,000 acres in the West — as no one knows better than the Vice President, a former Senator from California — an area roughly the size of the entire state of New Jersey.  More intense and powerful hurricanes and tropical storms pummeled states across the Gulf Coast and along the East Coast — I can testify to that, from Delaware.  Historic floods, severe droughts have ravaged the Midwest.  More Americans see and feel the devastation in big cities, small towns, coastlines, and in farmlands, in red states and blue states.  And the Defense Department reported that climate change is a direct threat to more than two thirds of the military’s operational critical installations.  Two thirds.  And so this could — we could — this could well be on the conservative side. 

Record heat caussd by climate change contributed to record wildfires in California (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

And many climate and health calamities are colliding all at once.  It’s not just the pandemic that keeps people inside; it’s poor air quality.  Multiple studies have shown that air pollution is associated with an increased risk of death from COVID-19.  And just like we need a unified national response to COVID-19, we desperately need a unified national response to the climate crisis because there is a climate crisis. 

We must lead global response because neither challenge can be met, as Secretary Kerry has pointed out many times, by the United States alone.  We know what to do, we’ve just got to do it. 

When we think of climate change, we think of it — this is a case where conscious and convenience cross paths, where dealing with this existential threat to the planet and increasing our economic growth and prosperity are one in the same.  When I think of climate change, I think of — and the answers to it — I think of jobs. 

A key plank of our Build Back Better Recovery Plan is building a modern, resilient climate infrastructure and clean energy future that will create millions of good-paying union jobs — not 7, 8, 10, 12 dollars an hour, but prevailing wage and benefits. 

You know, we can put millions of Americans to work modernizing our water systems, transportation, our energy infrastructure to withstand the impacts of extreme climate.  We’ve already reached a point where we’re going to have to live with what it is now.  That’s going to require a lot of work all by itself, without it getting any worse. 

When we think of renewable energy, we see American manufacturing, American workers racing to lead the global market.  We see farmers making American agriculture first in the world to achieve net-zero emissions and gaining new sources of income in the process.

And I want to parenthetically thank the Secretary of Agriculture for helping to put together that program during the campaign. 

We see small business and master electricians designing, installing, and innovating energy-conserving technologies and building homes and buildings.  And we’re going to reduce electric consumption and save hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in energy costs in the process.

And when the previous administration reversed the Obama-Biden vehicle standard and picked Big Oil companies over American workers, the Biden-Harris administration will not only bring those standards back, we’ll set new, ambitious ones that our workers are ready to meet.

We see these workers building new buildings, installing 500,000 new electric vehicle charging stations across the country as we modernize our highway systems to adapt to the changes that have already taken place.  We see American consumers switching to electric vehicles through rebates and incentives, and the residents of our cities and towns breathing cleaner air, and fewer kids living with asthma and dying from it.

And not only that, the federal government owns and maintains an enormous fleet of vehicles, as you all know.  With today’s executive order, combined with the Buy American executive order I signed on Monday, we’re going to harness the purchasing power of the federal government to buy clean, zero-emission vehicles that are made and sourced by union workers right here in America.

With everything I just mentioned, this will mean one million new jobs in the American automobile industry.  One million.  And we’ll do another thing: We’ll take steps towards my goal of achieving 100 percent carbon-pollution-free electric sector by 2035Transforming the American electric sector to produce power without carbon pollution will be a tremendous spur to job creation and economic competitiveness in the 21st century, not to mention the benefits to our health and to our environment. 

Already, 84 percent of all new electric capacity planned to come onto the electric grid this is year is clean energy.  Clean energy.  Why?  Because it’s affordable; because it’s clean; because, in many cases, it’s cheaper.  And it’s the way we’re keeping up — they’re keeping up.  We’re going to need scientists, the national labs, land-grant universities, historical black colleges and universities to innovate the technologies needed to generate, store, and transmit clean electric — clean electricity across distances, and battery technology, and a whole range of other things.

We need engineers to design them and workers to manufacture them.  We need iron workers and welders to install them.  Technologies they invent, design, and build will ultimately become cheaper than any other kind of energy, helping us dramatically expand our economy and create more jobs with a cleaner, cleaner environment.  And we’ll become the world’s largest exporter of those technologies, creating even more jobs. 

You know, we are also — we’re going to build 1.5 million new energy-efficient homes and public housing units that are going to benefit communities three times over: one, by alleviating the affordable housing crisis; two, by increasing energy efficiency; and, three, by reducing the racial wealth gap linked to home ownership.

We’re also going to create more than a quarter million jobs to do things like plug the millions of abandoned oil and gas wells that pose an ongoing threat to the health and safety of our communities.  They’re abandoned wells that are open now, and we’re going to put people to work.  They’re not going to lose jobs in these areas; they’re going to create jobs.  They’re going to get prevailing wage to cap those over a million wells.  These aren’t pie-in-the-sky dreams.  These are concrete, actionable solutions, and we know how to do this.

The Obama-Biden administration rescued the auto industry and helped them retool.  We need solar energy cost-competitive with traditional energy, weatherizing more — we made them cost-competitive, weatherizing more than a million homes.

The Recovery Act of our administration — the Democratic administration –made record clean energy investments: $90 billion.  The President asked me to make sure how that money was spent, on everything from smart grid systems to clean energy manufacturing.

Now, the Biden-Harris administration is going to do it again and go beyond.  The executive order I’ll be signing establishes a White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy.  And it’ll be led by one of America’s most distinguished climate leaders, former EPA Director Gina McCarthy.  As the head of the new office and my National Climate Advisor, Gina will chair a National Climate Task Force, made up of many members of our Cabinet, to deliver a whole-of-government approach to the climate crisis.

This is not time for small measures; we need to be bold.  So, let me be clear: That includes helping revitalize the economies of coal, oil, and gas, and power plant communities.  We have to start by creating new, good-paying jobs, capping those abandoned wells, reclaiming mines, turning old brownfield sites into new hubs of economic growth, creating new, good-paying jobs in those communities where those workers live because they helped build this country.

Shuttered steel mill, Bethlehem, PA, built to be near coal (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

We’re never going to forget the men and women who dug the coal and built the nation.  We’re going to do right by them and make sure they have opportunities to keep building the nation and their own communities and getting paid well for it.

While the whole-of-government approach is necessary, though, it’s not sufficient.  We’re going to work with mayors and governors and tribal leaders and business leaders who are stepping up, and the young people organizing and leading the way.  My message to those young people is: You have the full capacity and power of the federal government.  Your government is going to work with you. 

Now, today’s executive order also directs the Secretary of the Interior to stop issuing new oil and gas leases on public lands and offshore waters, wherever possible.  We’re going to review and reset the oil and gas leasing program…We’re going to start to properly manage lands and waterways in ways that allow us to protect, preserve them — the full value that they provide for us for future generations. 

Let me be clear, and I know this always comes up: We’re not going to ban fracking.  We’ll protect jobs and grow jobs, including through stronger standards, like controls from methane leaks and union workers in — willing to install the changes. 

Unlike previous administrations, I don’t think the federal government should give handouts to big oil to the tune of $40 billion in fossil fuel subsidies.  And I’m going to be going to the Congress asking them to eliminate those subsidies.

Wind turbines in California (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

We’re going to take money and invest it in clean energy jobs in Americamillions of jobs in wind, solar, and carbon capture.  In fact, today’s actions are going to help us increase renewable energy production from offshore wind and meet our obligation to be good stewards of our public lands. 

It establishes a new, modern-day Civilian Climate Corps — that I called for when I was campaigning — to heal our public lands and make us less vulnerable to wildfires and floods.

Look, this executive order I’m signing today also makes it official that climate change will be at the center of our national security and foreign policy. 

As Secretary Kerry — as our Special Presidential Envoy for Climate — with him, the world knows how serious I am about one of America’s — by appointing one of America’s most distinguished statesmen and one of my closest friends, speaking for America on one of the most pressing threats of our time.  John was instrumental in negotiating the Paris Climate Agreement that we started to — that we rejoined — this administration rejoined on day one, as I promised.

And today’s executive order will help strengthen that commitment by working with other nations to support the most vulnerable to the impact of climate change and to increase our collective resilience.  That includes a summit of world leaders that I’ll convene to address this climate crisis on Earth Day, this year.

In order to establish a new effort to integrate the security implications of climate change as part of our national security and risk assessment and analysis will also be included.

With this executive order, environmental justice will be at the center of all we do addressing the disproportionate health and environmental and economic impacts on communities of color — so-called “fenceline communities” — especially those communities — brown, black, Native American, poor whites.  It’s the hard-hit areas like Cancer Alley in Louisiana, or the Route 9 corridor in the state of Delaware. 

That’s why we’re going to work to make sure that they receive 40 percent of the benefits of key federal investments in clean energy, clean water, and wastewater infrastructureLifting up these communities makes us all stronger as a nation and increases the health of everybody.

Finally, as with our fight against COVID-19, we will listen to the science and protect the integrity of our federal response to the climate crisis.

Earlier this month, I nominated Dr. Eric Lander, a brilliant scientist who is here today, to be the Director of the Office of Science and Technology.  I also nominated another brilliant scientist, Dr. Frances Arnold and Dr. Maria Zuber, to co-chair the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology — so-called “PCAST” — that President Eisenhower started six weeks after the launch of Sputnik.

It’s a team of America’s top scientists charged with asking the most American of questions: “What next?  What’s the next big breakthrough?”  And then helping us make the impossible possible. 

Today, I’m signing a presidential memorandum making it clear that we will protect our world-class scientists from political interference and ensure they can think, research, and speak freely and directly to me, the Vice President, and the American people.

To summarize, this executive order — it’s about jobs — good-paying union jobs.  It’s about workers building our economy back better than before.  It’s a whole-of-government approach to put climate change at the center of our domestic, national security, and foreign policy.  It’s advancing conservation; revitalizing communities and cities and in the fa– on the farmlands; and securing environmental justice.

Our plans are ambitious, but we are America.  We’re bold.  We are unwavering in the pursuit of jobs and innovation, science and discovery.  We can do this, we must do this, and we will do this.

See:  FACT SHEET: BIDEN EXECUTIVE ACTIONS TO TACKLE CLIMATE CRISIS, CREATE JOBS, RESTORE SCIENTIFIC INTEGRITY ACROSS FEDERAL GOVERNMENT

FACT SHEET: Biden Executive Actions to Tackle Climate Crisis, Create Jobs, Restore Scientific Integrity Across Federal Government

Windfarm in California. President Biden sees the transformation from carbon to renewable energy as not just essential for national security, but for economic prosperity and jobs (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Biden-Harris Administration Commits on Climate Change – Creating Jobs, Building Infrastructure, and Delivering Environmental Justice

President Biden took executive action to tackle the climate crisis at home and abroad while creating good-paying union jobs and equitable clean energy future, building modern and sustainable infrastructure, restoring scientific integrity and evidence-based policymaking across the federal government, and re-establishing the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

These Executive Orders follow through on President Biden’s promise to take aggressive action to tackle climate change and build on the executive actions that the President took on his first day in office, including rejoining the Paris Agreement and immediate review of harmful rollbacks of standards that protect our air, water, and communities.

President Biden set ambitious goals that will ensure America and the world can meet the urgent demands of the climate crisis, while empowering American workers and businesses to lead a clean energy revolution that achieves a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035 and puts the United States on an irreversible path to a net-zero economy by 2050. Today’s actions advance those goals and ensure that we are tapping into the talent, grit, and innovation of American workers, revitalizing the U.S. energy sector, conserving our natural resources and leveraging them to help drive our nation toward a clean energy future, creating well-paying jobs with the opportunity to join a union, and delivering justice for communities who have been subjected to environmental harm.

President Biden also signed an important Presidential Memorandum on scientific integrity to send a clear message that the Biden-Harris Administration will protect scientists from political interference and ensure they can think, research, and speak freely to provide valuable information and insights to the American people. Additionally, and in line with the scientific-integrity memorandum’s charge to reestablish scientific advisory committees, President Biden signed an Executive Order re-establishing the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

TACKLING THE CLIMATE CRISIS AT HOME AND ABROAD EXECUTIVE ORDER

Today’s Executive Order takes bold steps to combat the climate crisis both at home and throughout the world. In signing this Executive Order, President Biden has directed his Administration to:

Center the Climate Crisis in U.S. Foreign Policy and National Security Considerations

The order clearly establishes climate considerations as an essential element of U.S. foreign policy and national security. 

The order affirms that, in implementing – and building on – the Paris Agreement’s objectives, the United States will exercise its leadership to promote a significant increase in global ambition. It makes clear that both significant short-term global emission reductions and net zero global emissions by mid-century – or before – are required to avoid setting the world on a dangerous, potentially catastrophic, climate trajectory. 

The order reaffirms that the President will host a Leaders’ Climate Summit on Earth Day, April 22, 2021; that the United States will reconvene the Major Economies Forum; that, to underscore the administration’s commitment to elevating climate in U.S. foreign policy, the President has created a new position, the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, which will have a seat on the National Security Council, and that it will be a U.S. priority to press for enhanced climate ambition and integration of climate considerations across a wide range of international fora.

The order also kicks off the process of developing the United States’ “nationally determined contribution” – our emission reduction target – under the Paris Agreement, as well as a climate finance plan.

Among numerous other steps aimed at prioritizing climate in U.S. foreign policy and national security, the order directs the Director of National Intelligence to prepare a National Intelligence Estimate on the security implications of climate change, the State Department to prepare a transmittal package to the Senate for the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, and all agencies to develop strategies for integrating climate considerations into their international work.

Take a Whole-of-Government Approach to the Climate Crisis

The order formally establishes the White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy – led by the first-ever National Climate Advisor and Deputy National Climate Advisor – creating a central office in the White House that is charged with coordinating and implementing the President’s domestic climate agenda.

The order establishes the National Climate Task Force, assembling leaders from across 21 federal agencies and departments to enable a whole-of-government approach to combatting the climate crisis.

Leverage the Federal Government’s Footprint and Buying Power to Lead by Example

Consistent with the goals of the President’s Build Back Better jobs and economic recovery plan, of which his clean energy jobs plan is a central pillar, the order directs the federal agencies to procure carbon pollution-free electricity and clean, zero-emission vehicles to create good-paying, union jobs and stimulate clean energy industries.

In addition, the order requires those purchases be Made in America, following President Biden’s Buy American executive order. The order also directs agencies to apply and strictly enforce the prevailing wage and benefit guidelines of the Davis Bacon and other acts and encourage Project Labor Agreements. These actions reaffirm that agencies should work to ensure that any jobs created with funds to address the climate crisis are good jobs with a choice to join a union.

The order directs each federal agency to develop a plan to increase the resilience of its facilities and operations to the impacts of climate change and directs relevant agencies to report on ways to expand and improve climate forecast capabilities – helping facilitate public access to climate related information and assisting governments, communities, and businesses in preparing for and adapting to the impacts of climate change.

The order directs the Secretary of the Interior to pause on entering into new oil and natural gas leases on public lands or offshore waters to the extent possible, launch a rigorous review of all existing leasing and permitting practices related to fossil fuel development on public lands and waters, and identify steps that can be taken to double renewable energy production from offshore wind by 2030. The order does not restrict energy activities on lands that the United States holds in trust for Tribes. The Secretary of the Interior will continue to consult with Tribes regarding the development and management of renewable and conventional energy resources, in conformance with the U.S. government’s trust responsibilities.

The order directs federal agencies to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies as consistent with applicable law and identify new opportunities to spur innovation, commercialization, and deployment of clean energy technologies and infrastructure. 

Rebuild Our Infrastructure for a Sustainable Economy

The order catalyzes the creation of jobs in construction, manufacturing, engineering and the skilled-trades by directing steps to ensure that every federal infrastructure investment reduces climate pollution and that steps are taken to accelerate clean energy and transmission projects under federal siting and permitting processes in an environmentally sustainable manner.

Advance Conservation, Agriculture, and Reforestation

The order commits to the goal of conserving at least 30 percent of our lands and oceans by 2030 and launches a process for stakeholder engagement from agricultural and forest landowners, fishermen, Tribes, States, Territories, local officials, and others to identify strategies that will result in broad participation. 

The order also calls for the establishment of a Civilian Climate Corps Initiative to put a new generation of Americans to work conserving and restoring public lands and waters, increasing reforestation, increasing carbon sequestration in the agricultural sector, protecting biodiversity, improving access to recreation, and addressing the changing climate.

The order directs the Secretary of Agriculture to collect input from farmers, ranchers, and other stakeholders on how to use federal programs to encourage adoption of climate-smart agricultural practices that produce verifiable carbon reductions and sequestrations and create new sources of income and jobs for rural Americans.

Revitalize Energy Communities

The order establishes an Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization, to be co-chaired by the National Climate Advisor and the Director of the National Economic Council, and directs federal agencies to coordinate investments and other efforts to assist coal, oil and natural gas, and power plant communities. 

The order tasks the new Interagency Working Group to advance projects that reduce emissions of toxic substances and greenhouse gases from existing and abandoned infrastructure and that prevent environmental damage that harms communities and poses a risk to public health and safety – such as projects to reduce methane emissions, oil and brine leaks, and other environmental harms from tens of thousands of former mining and well sites.

In addition, the new Interagency Working Group is also directed to explore efforts to turn properties idled in these communities, like brownfields, into new hubs for the growth of our economy.

Secure Environmental Justice and Spur Economic Opportunity

The order formalizes President Biden’s commitment to make environmental justice a part of the mission of every agency by directing federal agencies to develop programs, policies, and activities to address the disproportionate health, environmental, economic, and climate impacts on disadvantaged communities.

The order establishes a White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council and a White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council to prioritize environmental justice and ensure a whole-of-government approach to addressing current and historical environmental injustices, including strengthening environmental justice monitoring and enforcement through new or strengthened offices at the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Justice, and Department of Health and Human Services.  The new bodies are also tasked with advising on ways to update Executive Order 12898 of February 11, 1994.

The order creates a government-wide Justice40 Initiative with the goal of delivering 40 percent of the overall benefits of relevant federal investments to disadvantaged communities and tracks performance toward that goal through the establishment of an Environmental Justice Scorecard.

The order initiates the development of a Climate and Environmental Justice Screening Tool, building off EPA’s EJSCREEN, to identify disadvantaged communities, support the Justice40 Initiative, and inform equitable decision making across the federal government

SCIENTIFIC INTEGRITY PRESIDENTIAL MEMORANDUM

The Presidential Memorandum on Scientific Integrity and Evidence-Based Policymaking directs agencies to make evidence-based decisions guided by the best available science and data. Scientific and technological information, data, and evidence are central to the development and iterative improvement of sound policies, and to the delivery of effective and equitable programs. Improper political interference in the scientific process, with the work of scientists, and in the communication of scientific facts undermines the welfare of the nation, contributes to systemic inequities and injustices, and violates the public trust.

The memorandum charges the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) with the responsibility for ensuring scientific integrity across federal agencies. The OSTP Director is directed to review the effectiveness of agency scientific-integrity policies and assess agency scientific-integrity policies and practices going forward.

In addition, agencies that oversee, direct, or fund research are tasked with designating a senior agency employee as Chief Science Officer to ensure agency research programs are scientifically and technologically well founded and conducted with integrity. Because science, facts, and evidence are vital to addressing policy and programmatic issues across the Federal Government, all agencies – not just those that fund, conduct, or oversee scientific research –must designate a senior career employee as the agency’s Scientific Integrity Official to oversee implementation and iterative improvement of scientific-integrity policies and processes.

EXECUTIVE ORDER ESTABLISHING THE PRESIDENT’S COUNCIL OF ADVISORS ON SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

Leaders across the Biden-Harris Administration, including the President himself and his senior advisors in the Executive Office of the President, will seek input, advice, and the best-available science, data, and scientific and technological information from scientists, engineers, and other experts in science, technology, and innovation.

To that end, and in alignment with the scientific-integrity memorandum’s charge to reestablish scientific and technological advisory committees, this order re-establishes the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). The PCAST– co-chaired by the President’s Science Advisor – will advise the President on policy that affects science, technology, and innovation. The Council will also advise the President on scientific and technical information that is needed to inform public policy relating to the economy, worker empowerment, education, energy, environment, public health, national and homeland security, racial equity, and other topics.

Biden Announces New Steps to Increase Vaccine Supply of Vaccine

In just his seventh day in office, President Joe Biden announced new steps to dramatically increase vaccine supply and enable states to book appointments with greater assurance of knowing how many doses they will have three weeks in advance. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
 

In just his seventh day in office, President Joe Biden announced new steps to dramatically increase vaccine supply and enable states to book appointments with greater assurance of knowing how many doses they will have three weeks in advance.

He announced the purchase of 200 million more doses, which with the doses already purchased from Pfizer and Moderna, would be enough to vaccinate 300 million Americans by summer. But he cautioned that it will take months before the nation achieves herd immunity, the situation will get worse before it gets better, with as many as 100,000 more deaths from COVID-19 by next month.

He emphasized that wearing a mask is still the best way for the foreseeable future to protect lives – as many as 50,000 could be saved by April. Wearing a mask is not just patriotic, he said, but will be mandated in federal property and in interstate transportation, such as airports and depots, and on airplanes, trains, and buses.

Here is more from the Biden administration:

Just over a year since the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in the United States, the nation has hit another grim milestone in the pandemic, reaching 25 million infections and counting. The pace in which this virus has spread throughout the U.S. is staggering and with new variants emerging, the spread is not slowing any time soon. That’s why it is critical that we vaccinate as many people as possible, as quickly as possible.
 
President Biden has a comprehensive National Action Strategy to put the pandemic behind us and he and the COVID-19 response team are aggressively implementing it.  Today, the President is announcing bold steps that will help meet the goal of administering 100 million shots in 100 days and ramp up vaccine supply as fast as possible. As a result of these actions, the federal government will have enough vaccine supply for the entire U.S. population by the end of the summer.
 
The President is taking the following actions today:
 
An Increase in Weekly Vaccine Supply to States, Tribes and Territories: The Biden-Harris Administration will increase overall, weekly vaccine supply to states, Tribes and territories from 8.6 million doses to a minimum of 10 million doses. This increase of 1.4 million doses per week will allow millions more Americans to get vaccinated sooner than previously anticipated. The Administration is committing to maintaining this as the minimum supply level for the next three weeks.
 
Increased transparency for States, Tribes, and Territories to Help Their Vaccination Efforts: The Biden-Harris Administration is taking action to provide states, Tribes and territories with a reliable three-week supply look-ahead. The Department of Health and Human Services will provide allocation estimates for the upcoming three weeks as opposed to the one week look-ahead that they previously received. This increased transparency will give state and local leaders greater certainty around supply so that they can plan their vaccination efforts and administer vaccines effectively and efficiently.
 
Purchase 200 Million Additional Doses to Be Delivered This Summer, Double the Nation’s Vaccine Supply: President Biden directed his COVID-19 Response Coordinator to work with HHS to increase our total vaccine supply for the American people.  The Biden-Harris Administration is working to purchase an additional 100 million doses of each of the two Food and Drug Administration-authorized vaccines – Pfizer and Moderna.  This increases the total vaccine order for the U.S. by 50%, from 400 million to 600 million with these additional doses expected to deliver this summer. With these additional doses, the U.S. will have enough vaccine to fully vaccinate 300 million Americans by the end of this summer.

Biden Takes Action to Advance Racial Equity, Root Out Systemic Racism in Housing, Criminal Justice

President Joe Biden, signing four executive orders to advance racial equity, stated, “We have never fully lived up to the founding principles of this nation, to state the obvious, that all people are created equal and have a right to be treated equally throughout their lives.  And it’s time to act now, not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because if we do, we’ll all be better off for it.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

This afternoon, President Biden outlined his vision and new elements of his agenda for advancing racial equity for Americans who have been underserved and left behind, signing four executive actions to advance racial equity and take the first steps to root out systemic racism in housing and criminal justice.

“Equal opportunity is the fundamental promise of America. But systemic racism and discrimination in our economy, laws, and institutions have put the promise of America out of reach for too many families of color,” he stated.
 
President Biden renewed the federal government’s commitment to making the American Dream real for families across the nation by taking bold and ambitious steps to root out inequity from our economy and expand opportunities for communities of color and other underserved Americans.
 
His executive orders direct the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to take steps necessary to redress racially discriminatory federal housing policies that have contributed to wealth inequality for generations; end the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) use of private prisons;  recommitted the federal government to respect Tribal sovereignty and strengthen the Nation-to-Nation relationship between the United States and Tribal Nations; and combat xenophobia against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
 
These orders build on actions the President took during his first week in office to advance equity, which historians have described as one of the most robust efforts to advance racial justice in the first weeks of any new administration. On his first day in office, President Biden signed an unprecedented Executive Order establishing a whole-of-government initiative to address racial equity and support underserved communities, and redress systemic racism in federal policies, laws, and programs. He took immediate action to roll back harmful policies, such as President Trump’s 1776 Commission and ban on diversity and inclusion training for federal employees and contractors. In the days ahead, President Biden will reinvigorate the federal government’s role as a model employer by expanding and building on the efforts of the Obama-Biden Administration, by requiring all agencies to take affirmative steps to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion, as well as by requiring accessibility.
 
President Biden committed to embedding racial equity across his Administration’s response to COVID-19 and the economic crisis. In his first week in office, he signed executive actions to provide relief to American families that will aid families of color that are being disproportionately impacted by this economic crisis. He directed the Department of Agriculture to address the growing crisis of hunger facing more than one in five Black and Latino households by increasing access to nutritious food for millions of children missing meals due to school closures, issuing new guidance to help an additional 12 million Americans access nutrition assistance, and beginning the process to increase the value of supplemental nutrition assistance program benefits to better reflect today’s grocery costs.

The President extended the pause on federal student loan payments and collections, protecting borrowers burdened by educational debt, who are disproportionately Americans of color. He extended the federal government’s foreclosure and eviction moratoriums until February 28, 2021, helping families who are more likely to be rent burdened to stay safely housed.  President Biden directed the Department of Treasury to take steps to make the delivery of stimulus benefits more equitable to help the 8 million households, many of whom are families of color, who never received the first stimulus checks they were entitled to. And, the President began the process of requiring federal contractors to pay a $15 minimum wage and provide emergency paid leave to workers bringing financial relief to low wage workers.
    
These actions are just the start. The President is committed to working with Congress to pass bold legislation that advances racial equity, including increasing funding for small businesses, investing in Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other Minority Serving Institutions, and tripling funding for Title I schools, which serve a majority of low-income students. As the President has said, he is focused on ensuring that small businesses owned by people of color and others who have been historically disadvantaged – many of whom were shut out of previous relief packages – receive support.
 
And President Biden’s American Rescue Plan will provide immediate, direct relief to communities and families bearing the brunt of the crisis – including communities and families of color. Economists estimate that the investments in the American Rescue Plan will lift over eight million Black, Latino, and Asian Americans out of poverty and will provide relief across sectors where families of color are most disproportionately impacted in this crisis: in food and financial security, healthcare access, and education and child care. The President’s rescue plan will expand protections for frontline workers, 40 percent of whom are people of color.  It will increase and extend Unemployment Insurance benefits, supporting the one in ten Black workers and one in eleven Latino workers who are unemployed. And, the plan will provide critical relief to Native American communities and Tribes. 

Before signing the additional executive orders, President Biden remarked, “In my campaign for President, I made it very clear that the moment had arrived as a nation where we face deep racial inequities in America and system- — systemic racism that has plagued our nation for far, far too long. 

“I said it over the course of the past year that the blinders had been taken come off the nation of the American people.  What many Americans didn’t see, or had simply refused to see, couldn’t be ignored any longer.
 
“Those 8 minutes and 46 seconds that took George Floyd’s life opened the eyes of millions of Americans and millions of people around — all over the world.  It was the knee on the neck of justice, and it wouldn’t be forgotten.  It stirred the conscience of tens of millions of Americans, and, in my view, it marked a turning point in this country’s attitude toward racial justice…

“COVID-19 has further ripped a path of destruction through every community in America, but no one has been spared, but the devastation in communities of color has been nothing short of stunning.  Just look at the numbers: 40 percent of frontline workers — nurses, first responders, grocery store workers — are Americans of color, and many are still living on the edge.  One in ten black Americans is out of work today.  One in eleven Latino Americans is out of work today.  One in seven households in America — about one in four black, one in five Latino households in America — report that they don’t have enough food to eat in the United States of America. 
 
“Black and Latino Americans are dying of COVID-19 at rates nearly three times that of white Americans.  And it’s not white Americans’ fault, but it’s just a fact.  And the Americans now know it, especially younger Americans. 
 
“One of the reasons I’m so optimistic about this nation is that today’s generation of young Americans is the most progressive, thoughtful, inclusive generation that America has ever seen.  And they are pulling us toward justice in so many ways, forcing us to confront the huge gap in economic inequity between those at the top and everyone else, forcing us to confront the existential crisis of climate; and, yes, forcing us to confront systemic racism and white supremacy. 
 
“It’s just been weeks since all of America witnessed a group of thugs, insurrectionists, political extremists, and white supremacists violently attack the Capitol of our democracy.  And so now — now is the time to act.  It’s time to act because that’s what the faith and morality calls us to do…

“We have never fully lived up to the founding principles of this nation, to state the obvious, that all people are created equal and have a right to be treated equally throughout their lives.  And it’s time to act now, not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because if we do, we’ll all be better off for it.
 
“For too long, we’ve allowed a narrow, cramped view of the promise of this nation to fester.  You know, we’ve — we’ve bought the view that America is a zero-sum game in many cases: ‘If you succeed, I fail.’ ‘If you get ahead, I fall behind.’  ‘If you get the job, I lose mine.’  Maybe worst of all, ‘If I hold you down, I lift myself up.’ 
 
“We’ve lost sight of what President Kennedy told us when he said, “A rising tide lifts all boats.”  And when we lift each other up, we’re all lifted up.  You know, and the corollary is true as well: When any one of us is held down, we’re all held back.  More and more economic studies in recent years have proven this, but I don’t think you need economic studies to see the truth.
 
“Just imagine if instead of consigning millions of American children to under-resourced schools, we gave each and every three- and four-year-old child a chance to learn, to go to school — not daycare, school — and grow and thrive in school and throughout.  When they’ve done that — the places it’s been done, it shows they have an exponentially greater chance of going all the way through 12 years of school and doing it well.
 
But, you know, does anyone — does anyone in this whole nation think we’re not all better off if that were to happen? 
 
“Just imagine if instead of denying millions of Americans the ability to own a home and build generational wealth — who made it possible for them buy a home, their first home — and begin to build equity to provide for their families and send their children off to school, does anyone doubt that the whole nation will be better off? 
 
“Just imagine: Instead of denying millions of young entrepreneurs the ability to access capital, we made it possible to take their dream to market, create jobs, reinvest in their own communities.  Does anyone doubt this whole nation wouldn’t be better off?
 
“Just imagine if more incredibly creative and innovative — how much more creative and innovative we’d be if this nation held — held the historic black colleges and universities to the same opportunities — and minority-serving institutions — that had the same funding and resources of public universities to compete for jobs and industries of the future.  You know, just ask the first HBCU graduate elected as Vice President if that’s not true. 
 
“But to do this, I believe this nation and this government need to change their whole approach to the issue of racial equal- — equity.  Yes, we need criminal justice reform, but that isn’t nearly enough.  We need to open the promise of America to every American.  And that means we need to make the issue of racial equity not just an issue for any one department of government; it has to be the business of the whole of government. 
 
“That’s why I issued, among the first days, my whole-of-government executive order that will, for the first time, advance equity for all throughout our federal policies and institutions.  It focuses on the full range of communities who have been long underserved and overlooked: people of color; Americans with disabilities; LGBTQ Americans; religious minorities; rural, urban, suburban communities facing persistent poverty. 
 
“And I’ve asked Ambassador Susan Rice to lead the administration’s charge through the White House and Domestic Policy Council because I know she’ll see it through.  Every White House, every White House component, and every agency will be involved in this work because advancing equity has to be everyone’s job….

“In the weeks ahead, I’ll be reaffirming the federal government’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and accessibility, building on the work we started in the Obama-Biden administration.  That’s why I rescinded the previous administration’s harmful ban on diversity and sensitivity training, and abolished the offensive, counter-factual 1776 Commission.  Unity and healing must begin with understanding and truth, not ignorance and lies….

“I ran for President because I believe we’re in a battle for the soul of this nation.  And the simple truth is, our soul will be troubled as long as systemic racism is allowed to persist.  We can’t eliminate it if — it’s not going to be overnight.  We can’t eliminate everything. 
 
“But it’s corrosive, it’s destructive, and it’s costly.  It costs every American, not just who have felt the sting of racial injustice.  We aren’t just less of a — we are not just a nation of morally deprived because of systemic racism; we’re also less prosperous, we’re less successful, we’re less secure. 
 
“So, we must change, and I know it’s going to take time.  But I know we can do it.  And I firmly believe the nation is ready to change, but government has to change as well.  We need to make equity and justice part of what we do every day — today, tomorrow, and every day.

Here’s a summary of the additional executive actions fostering racial equity that President Biden signed:
  
Advance Fair Housing. President Biden will sign a Presidential Memorandum “Redressing Our Nation’s and the Federal Government’s History of Discriminatory Housing Practices and Policies.” This memorandum recognizes the central role the federal government has played implementing housing policies across the United States, from redlining to mortgage discrimination to destructive federal highway construction, that have had racially discriminatory impacts. The Fair Housing Act requires the federal government to advance fair housing and combat housing discrimination, including disparate impact discrimination that appears neutral but has an unjustified discriminatory effect in practice. This Presidential Memorandum directs HUD to examine the effects of the previous Administration’s regulatory actions that undermined fair housing policies and laws.  And, it directs HUD to take steps necessary based on that analysis to fully implement the Fair Housing Act’s requirements.
 
Reform our Incarceration System to End the Use of Private Prisons. More than two million people are currently incarcerated in the United States, and a disproportionate number of these individuals are people of color. Mass incarceration imposes significant costs on our society and communities, while private prisons profiteer off of federal prisoners in less safe conditions for prisoners and correctional officers alike. President Biden is committed to reducing mass incarceration while making our communities safer. That starts with ending DOJ’s reliance on private prisons. The Order directs the Attorney General not to renew Department of Justice contracts with privately operated criminal detention facilities.
 
Reaffirm the Federal Government’s Commitment to Tribal Sovereignty and Consultation. The Biden Administration is committed to re-establishing federal respect for Tribal sovereignty, strengthening the Nation-to-Nation relationship between the federal government and American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes, empowering self-determination, and advancing racial justice for Native communities. This Executive Order reinvigorates the commitment of all federal agencies to engage in regular, robust, and meaningful consultation with Tribal governments.
 
Combat Xenophobia Against Asian American and Pacific Islanders. While bullying and discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) is a long-standing and unacceptable problem in our country, rates of harassment and violence against AAPIs have risen dramatically in the past year. President Biden will sign a Presidential Memorandum acknowledging the harm that these actions have caused, and establishing that the policy of his Administration is to condemn and denounce anti-Asian bias and discrimination. This Memorandum directs the Department of Health and Human Services, in coordination with the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, to consider issuing guidance describing best practices to advance cultural competency, language access, and sensitivity towards AAPIs in the federal government’s COVID-19 response. It also directs the Department of Justice to partner with AAPI communities to prevent hate crimes and harassment against AAPIs.

Biden Inaugurated President:’This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge and unity is the path forward’

Joseph R. Biden Jr. takes oath of office of President of the United States (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News-Photos-Features.com

The inauguration of Joe Biden as America’s 46th president would have been historic – the first woman/Black/South Asian vice president, the man who was the youngest US Senator becoming the oldest US president – but it has taken place amid historic circumstances which twisted the traditions and pomp and circumstance that normally accompany the peaceful transition of power. Because for the first time, the transition of power was not peaceful.

The dignitaries, pared down because of the pandemic, and the onlookers exclusively confined to National Guard, Capitol Police and security personnel because of the threat of domestic terrorism, looked out on a sea of flags down the length of the National Mall, where people would have been. And there was no outgoing President on the podium, though there were three prior Presidents: Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton – and no cordial greeting at the White House, gracious tour for the first ladies, or sharing a limousine to the Capitol to demonstrate to the world the essence of democracy: that the loser accepts loss and hands off the office with an aim toward protecting the nation against enemies foreign and domestic.

Two Wednesdays ago, there was an armed insurrection of the Capitol intended to disrupt the certification of Biden as president, the first time the Capitol Building had been invaded since the War of 1812; one Wednesday ago, Donald Trump became the first president impeached for the second time for his part in inciting the insurrection and attempting to overturn a free and fair election, and this Wednesday, “democracy prevailed,” as Biden said in his inaugural.

In every way the man and the message were 180 degrees turned around from Trump’s inauguration four years ago when the theme of Trump’s inaugural address was “American carnage” – that turned out to be his agenda and as he departed, he left 400,000 dead and 24 million sickened by COVID-19; millions facing eviction or foreclosure; millions of jobless; hundreds of thousands of businesses shuttered; civil unrest and hostility not seen since the Civil War.

Biden is completely different, starting with his Inauguration-eve national Memorial to the 400,000 lives lost to COVID-19, with a dramatic lighting display at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool.

Biden’s inaugural message was focused on “unity”, but not in a Pollyannish-way.

He cast unity as the key to survival – to end the pandemic, to restore economic prosperity, and to save democracy: “To overcome these challenges – to restore the soul and to secure the future of America – requires more than words. It requires that most elusive of things in a democracy: Unity.”

He stressed the need for truth and the end of lies “told for power and for profit” (an actual applause line).

And each of us has a duty and responsibility, as citizens, as Americans, and especially as leaders – leaders who have pledged to honor our Constitution and protect our nation — to defend the truth and to defeat the lies.

His speech was idealistic and uplifting, full of promise and possibility yet remarkably frank:

“Through a crucible for the ages America has been tested anew and America has risen to the challenge. Today, we celebrate the triumph not of a candidate, but of a cause, the cause of democracy,” he said.

“The will of the people has been heard and the will of the people has been heeded. We have learned again that democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile. And at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed…”

He listed the litany of unprecedented crises intersecting all at once, saying, “To overcome these challenges – to restore the soul and to secure the future of America – requires more than words. It requires that most elusive of things in a democracy: Unity…

“Today, on this January day, my whole soul is in this: Bringing America together. Uniting our people. And uniting our nation…

“This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge, and unity is the path forward.”

He said, “This is a time of testing. We face an attack on democracy and on truth. A raging virus. Growing inequity. The sting of systemic racism. A climate in crisis. America’s role in the world. Any one of these would be enough to challenge us in profound ways. But the fact is we face them all at once, presenting this nation with the gravest of responsibilities. Now we must step up. All of us.”

In probably the starkest contrast to his precedessor, Biden said, “Take a measure of me and my heart..I pledge this to you: I will be a President for all Americans….I will give my all in your service thinking not of power, but of possibilities. Not of personal interest, but of the public good.” 

But he returned to his theme that overcoming these crises will require all of us.  “It is a time for boldness, for there is so much to do… We will be judged, you and I, for how we resolve the cascading crises of our era…

“May this be the story that guides us. The story that inspires us. The story that tells ages yet to come that we answered the call of history. We met the moment. That democracy and hope, truth and justice, did not die on our watch but thrived. That our America secured liberty at home and stood once again as a beacon to the world…

“That is what we owe our forbears, one another, and generations to follow. So, with purpose and resolve we turn to the tasks of our time. 

“Sustained by faith.  Driven by conviction. And, devoted to one another and to this country we love with all our hearts.”

Here is his inaugural address, highlighted:

President Joseph R. Biden delivers his inaugural address: “Today, on this January day, my whole soul is in this: Bringing America together. Uniting our people. And uniting our nation…This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge, and unity is the path forward.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Inaugural Address of President Joseph R. Biden, Jr.

Chief Justice Roberts, Vice President Harris, Speaker Pelosi, Leader Schumer, Leader McConnell, Vice President Pence, distinguished guests, and my fellow Americans. 

This is America’s day.

This is democracy’s day. 

A day of history and hope.

Of renewal and resolve.

Through a crucible for the ages America has been tested anew and America has risen to the challenge. 

Today, we celebrate the triumph not of a candidate, but of a cause, the cause of democracy.

The will of the people has been heard and the will of the people has been heeded.

We have learned again that democracy is precious.

Democracy is fragile.

And at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.

So now, on this hallowed ground where just days ago violence sought to shake this Capitol’s very foundation, we come together as one nation, under God, indivisible, to carry out the peaceful transfer of power as we have for more than two centuries.
  
We look ahead in our uniquely American way – restless, bold, optimistic – and set our sights on the nation we know we can be and we must be.

I thank my predecessors of both parties for their presence here. 

I thank them from the bottom of my heart. 

You know the resilience of our Constitution and the strength of our nation. 

As does President Carter, who I spoke to last night but who cannot be with us today, but whom we salute for his lifetime of service. 

I have just taken the sacred oath each of these patriots took — an oath first sworn by George Washington. 

But the American story depends not on any one of us, not on some of us, but on all of us.

On “We the People” who seek a more perfect Union.

This is a great nation and we are a good people. 

Over the centuries through storm and strife, in peace and in war, we have come so far. But we still have far to go. 

We will press forward with speed and urgency, for we have much to do in this winter of peril and possibility.

Much to repair.

Much to restore.

Much to heal.

Much to build.

And much to gain. 

Few periods in our nation’s history have been more challenging or difficult than the one we’re in now.

A  once-in-a-century virus silently stalks the country. 

It’s taken as many lives in one year as America lost in all of World War II.

Millions of jobs have been lost.

Hundreds of thousands of businesses closed.

A cry for racial justice some 400 years in the making moves us. The dream of justice for all will be deferred no longer.

A cry for survival comes from the planet itself. A cry that can’t be any more desperate or any more clear. 

And now, a rise in political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism that we must confront and we will defeat.

To overcome these challenges – to restore the soul and to secure the future of America – requires more than words. 

It requires that most elusive of things in a democracy: 

Unity.

Unity.

In another January in Washington, on New Year’s Day 1863, Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. 

When he put pen to paper, the President said, “If my name ever goes down into history it will be for this act and my whole soul is in it.”

My whole soul is in it.

Today, on this January day, my whole soul is in this: 

Bringing America together. 

Uniting our people.  

And uniting our nation.

I ask every American to join me in this cause.

Uniting to fight the common foes we face: 

Anger, resentment, hatred.

Extremism, lawlessness, violence.

Disease, joblessness, hopelessness.

With unity we can do great things. Important things.

We can right wrongs.

We can put people to work in good jobs.

We can teach our children in safe schools.

We can overcome this deadly virus.

We can reward work, rebuild the middle class, and make health care 
secure for all.

We can deliver racial justice.

We can make America, once again, the leading force for good in the world.

I know speaking of unity can sound to some like a foolish fantasy. 
 
I know the forces that divide us are deep and they are real.

But I also know they are not new. 

Our history has been a constant struggle between the American ideal that we are all created equal and the harsh, ugly reality that racism, nativism, fear, and demonization have long torn us apart.

The battle is perennial. 

Victory is never assured.

Through the Civil War, the Great Depression, World War, 9/11, through struggle, sacrifice, and setbacks, our “better angels” have always prevailed. 

In each of these moments, enough of us came together to carry all of us forward.

And, we can do so now. 

History, faith, and reason show the way, the way of unity.

We can see each other not as adversaries but as neighbors.

We can treat each other with dignity and respect.

We can join forces, stop the shouting, and lower the temperature.

For without unity, there is no peace, only bitterness and fury.

No progress, only exhausting outrage.

No nation, only a state of chaos.

This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge, and unity is the path forward. 

And, we must meet this moment as the United States of America. 

If we do that, I guarantee you, we will not fail.

We have never, ever, ever failed in America when we have acted together.

And so today, at this time and in this place, let us start afresh.

All of us.

Let us listen to one another.

Hear one another. 

See one another.

Show respect to one another.

Politics need not be a raging fire destroying everything in its path.

Every disagreement doesn’t have to be a cause for total war.

And, we must reject a culture in which facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured. 

My fellow Americans, we have to be different than this. 

America has to be better than this. 

And, I believe America is better than this.

200,000 flags stand in for people on the National Mall who would have attended the Inauguration of the 46th President of the United States © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Just look around.

Here we stand, in the shadow of a Capitol dome that was completed amid the Civil War, when the Union itself hung in the balance. 

Yet we endured and we prevailed.

Here we stand looking out to the great Mall where Dr. King spoke of his dream.

Here we stand, where 108 years ago at another inaugural, thousands of protestors tried to block brave women from marching for the right to vote. 

Today, we mark the swearing-in of the first woman in American history elected to national office – Vice President Kamala Harris.

Don’t tell me things can’t change. 

Kamala Harris is administered the oath of office in as the first woman, first Black, first South Asian Vice President of the United States by the first Latina Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Because here is the thing about life: There is no accounting for what fate will deal you. 

There are some days when we need a hand. 

There are other days when we’re called on to lend one.

That is how we must be with one another.

And, if we are this way, our country will be stronger, more prosperous, more ready for the future. 

My fellow Americans, in the work ahead of us, we will need each other. 

We will need all our strength to persevere through this dark winter. 

We are entering what may well be the toughest and deadliest period of the virus. 

We must set aside the politics and finally face this pandemic as one nation. 

I promise you this: as the Bible says weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning. 

We will get through this, together

The world is watching today. 

So here is my message to those beyond our borders: America has been tested and we have come out stronger for it. 

We will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again. 

Not to meet yesterday’s challenges, but today’s and tomorrow’s.  

We will lead not merely by the example of our power but by the power of our example
.

We will be a strong and trusted partner for peace, progress, and security.

We have been through so much in this nation.

And, in my first act as President, I would like to ask you to join me in a moment of silent prayer to remember all those we lost this past year to the pandemic. 

To those 400,000 fellow Americans – mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, sons and daughters, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. 

We will honor them by becoming the people and nation we know we can and should be. 

Let us say a silent prayer for those who lost their lives, for those they left behind, and for our country. 

Amen. 

President Joe Biden leads a silent prayer for those lives lost to COVID-19, now numbering over 400,000 (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com


This is a time of testing. 

We face an attack on democracy and on truth.

A raging virus.

Growing inequity.

The sting of systemic racism.

A climate in crisis.

America’s role in the world.

Any one of these would be enough to challenge us in profound ways.

But the fact is we face them all at once, presenting this nation with the gravest of responsibilities. 

Now we must step up. 

All of us. 

It is a time for boldness, for there is so much to do.

And, this is certain. 

We will be judged, you and I, for how we resolve the cascading crises of our era. 

Will we rise to the occasion? 

Will we master this rare and difficult hour? 

Will we meet our obligations and pass along a new and better world for our children?

I believe we must and I believe we will. 

And when we do, we will write the next chapter in the American story. 

It’s a story that might sound something like a song that means a lot to me. 

It’s called “American Anthem” and there is one verse stands out for me: 

“The work and prayers
of centuries have brought us to this day
What shall be our legacy?
What will our children say?…
Let me know in my heart
When my days are through
America
America
I gave my best to you.”

Let us add our own work and prayers to the unfolding story of our nation.

If we do this then when our days are through our children and our children’s children will say of us they gave their best. 

They did their duty.

They healed a broken land.

My fellow Americans, I close today where I began, with a sacred oath.

Before God and all of you I give you my word.

I will always level with you.

I will defend the Constitution.

I will defend our democracy.

I will defend America.

I will give my all in your service thinking not of power, but of possibilities.

Not of personal interest, but of the public good. 

And together, we shall write an American story of hope, not fear.

Of unity, not division.

Of light, not darkness.

An American story of decency and dignity.

Of love and of healing. 

Of greatness and of goodness.

May this be the story that guides us.

The story that inspires us.

The story that tells ages yet to come that we answered the call of history.

We met the moment.

That democracy and hope, truth and justice, did not die on our watch but thrived.

That our America secured liberty at home and stood once again as a beacon to the world.

That is what we owe our forbears, one another, and generations to follow.

So, with purpose and resolve we turn to the tasks of our time. 

Sustained by faith. 

Driven by conviction.

And, devoted to one another and to this country we love with all our hearts.

May God bless America and may God protect our troops.

Thank you, America.

Amanda Gorman, national youth poet laureate encapsulated the themes of the inauguration in her galvanizing poem, “The Hill We Climb” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Lady Gaga performs the National Anthem at the nation’s 59th Presidential Inauguration © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Jennifer Lopez sings “This Land is Your Land” at the nation’s 59th Presidential Inauguration © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Garth Brooks performs “Amazing Grace” at the nation’s 59th Presidential Inauguration © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com.

_________________

© 2021 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures. ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

FACT SHEET: President-elect Biden Announces American Rescue Plan

Emergency Legislative Package to Fund Vaccinations, Provide Immediate, Direct Relief to Families Bearing the Brunt of the COVID-19 Crisis, and Support Struggling Communities

President-Elect Joe Biden described the first part of his two-pronged plan of Rescue and Recovery from the surging coronavirus pandemic and the economic devastation. “A two-step plan to build a bridge to the other side of the crises we face and to a better, stronger, more secure America…the first step — the American Rescue Plan — that will tackle the pandemic and get direct financial assistance and relief to Americans who need it the most.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The COVID-19 pandemic and the corresponding economic crisis are devastating families across the country. More than 20 million Americans have contracted COVID-19, and at least 370,000 have died. From big cities to small towns, too many Americans are barely scraping by, or not scraping by at all. And the pandemic has shined a light on the persistence of racial injustice in our healthcare system and our economy. The need to act is clear in the lines at food banks, the small businesses that are closed or closing, and the growing number of Americans experiencing housing insecurity. After nearly a year of the public health crisis, our nation remains in this dark winter of the pandemic and facing a deep economic crisis. 

President-elect Biden is laying out the first step of an aggressive, two-step plan for rescue, from the depths of this crisis, and recovery, by investing in America, creating millions of additional good-paying jobs, combatting the climate crisis, advancing racial equity, and building back better than before.

While Congress’s bipartisan action in December was a step in the right direction, it was only a down payment. It fell far short of the resources needed to tackle the immediate crisis. We are in a race against time, and absent additional government assistance, the economic and public health crises could worsen in the months ahead; schools will not be able to safely reopen; and vaccinations will remain far too slow. 

As last month’s jobs report underscored, the virus and our economy are intertwined. We cannot rescue our economy without containing this virus. 

Today, President-elect Biden is announcing the American Rescue Plan to change the course of the pandemic, build a bridge towards economic recovery, and invest in racial justice. The American Rescue Plan will address the stark, intergenerational inequities that have worsened in the wake of COVID-19. Researchers at Columbia University estimate that these proposals will cut child poverty in half.

Specifically, President-elect Biden’s American Rescue Plan will:

  • Mount a national vaccination program, contain COVID-19, and safely reopen schools, including by setting up community vaccination sites nationwide, scaling up testing and tracing, eliminating supply shortage problems, investing in high-quality treatments, providing paid sick leave to contain spread of the virus, addressing health disparities, and making the necessary investments to meet the president-elect’s goal of safely reopening a majority of K-8 schools in the first 100 days.
  • Deliver immediate relief to working families bearing the brunt of this crisis by sending $1,400 per-person checks to households across America, providing direct housing and nutrition assistance, expanding access to safe and reliable childcare and affordable healthcare, increasing the minimum wage, extending unemployment insurance, and giving families with kids and childless workers an emergency boost this year.
  • Support communities that are struggling in the wake of COVID-19 by providing support for the hardest-hit small businesses, especially small businesses owned by entrepreneurs of color, and protecting the jobs of the first responders, transit workers, and other essential workers we depend on.

In addition to addressing the public health and economic crises head on, the president-elect’s plan will provide emergency funding to upgrade federal information technology infrastructure and address the recent breaches of federal government data systems. This is an urgent national security issue that cannot wait. 

President-elect Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan is ambitious, but achievable, and will rescue the American economy and start beating the virus. Congress should act expeditiously to help working families, communities, and small businesses persevere through the pandemic.

This legislative package is needed now to address the immediate crises. In the coming weeks, President-elect Biden will lay out his economic recovery plan to invest in America, create millions of additional good-paying jobs, combat the climate crisis, and build back better than before. 

Mount a national vaccination program, contain COVID-19, and safely reopen schools

The pandemic is raging, with record high infection and death rates. A new strain of the virus that is even more contagious is appearing in communities across the country. Meanwhile, Americans are waiting to get their vaccines, even while doses are sitting on shelves. More than ten months into the pandemic, we still lack necessary testing capacity and are suffering from shortages of supplies like basic protective equipment for those on the front lines. Americans of color are being infected and are dying from COVID-19 at greater rates because of lasting systemic racism in our health care system. And, older Americans continue to suffer at disproportionate rates.

We can’t wait to slow the spread of this virus. And, we can’t fight this pandemic in fits and starts. President-elect Biden is putting forward a comprehensive plan to deal with this crisis and launch a whole-of-government COVID-19 response plan that will change the course of the pandemic by ensuring we have necessary supplies and protective gear, increasing testing to mitigate spread, vaccinating the US population, safely reopening schools, and addressing COVID-19 health disparities. 

To support this plan, President-elect Biden is calling on Congress to provide the $160 billion in funding necessary to save American lives and execute on his plan to mount a national vaccination program, expand testing, mobilize a public health jobs program, and take other necessary steps to build capacity to fight the virus. He is also calling on Congress to ensure our schools have everything they need to safely reopen and to provide emergency paid leave so people can stay home when needed to help contain the spread of the virus. Altogether, this would put over $400 billion toward these critical measures for addressing COVID-19.  

President-elect Biden’s rescue proposal will: 

Mount a national vaccination program. Current vaccination efforts are not sufficient to quickly and equitably vaccinate the vast majority of the U.S. population. We must ensure that those on the ground have what they need to get vaccinations into people’s arms. The president-elect’s proposal will invest $20 billion in a national vaccination program in partnership with states, localities, Tribes and territories. This will include launching community vaccination centers around the country and deploying mobile vaccination units to hard-to-reach areas. The Biden Administration will take action to ensure all people in the United States — regardless of their immigration status — can access the vaccine free-of-charge and without cost-sharing. To help states ensure that all Medicaid enrollees will be vaccinated, President-elect Biden will also work with Congress to expand the Federal Medicaid Assistance Percentage (FMAP) to 100% for the administration of vaccines.

Scale up testing to stop the spread of COVID, safely reopen schools, and protect at-risk populations. While we are working to vaccinate the population, we need to focus on what we know works. Testing is a critical strategy for controlling the spread of COVID-19, yet the U.S. is still not using it effectively. Despite innovations to improve testing, tests are still not widely available. The president-elect’s plan invests $50 billion in a massive expansion of testing, providing funds for the purchase of rapid tests, investments to expand lab capacity, and support to help schools and local governments implement regular testing protocols. Expanded testing will ensure that schools can implement regular testing to support safe reopening; that vulnerable settings like prisons and long-term care facilities can regularly test their populations; and that any American can get a test for free when they need one.

Mobilize a public health jobs program to support COVID-19 response. The president-elect’s plan includes an historic investment in expanding the public health workforce. This proposal will fund 100,000 public health workers, nearly tripling the country’s community health roles. These individuals will be hired to work in their local communities to perform vital tasks like vaccine outreach and contact tracing in the near term, and to transition into community health roles to build our long-term public health capacity that will help improve quality of care and reduce hospitalization for low-income and underserved communities.

Address health disparities and COVID-19. While COVID-19 has devastated the entire country, it has hit some groups and communities of color much harder than others. President-elect Biden is committed to addressing the disparities evident in the pandemic at every step, from ensuring equitable distribution of vaccines and supplies to expanding health care services for underserved communities. His proposal includes funding to provide health services for underserved populations, including expanding Community Health Centers and investing in health services on tribal lands. These funds will support the expansion of COVID treatment and care, as well as our ability to provide vaccination to underserved populations. 

Protect vulnerable populations in congregate settings. Long-term care residents and workers account for almost 40% of all U.S. COVID-19 deaths. Further, African-American and Latina women, who have borne the brunt of the pandemic, are overrepresented among long-term care workers. The president-elect’s proposal provides critical funding for states to deploy strike teams to long-term care facilities experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks — which may impede vaccination of residents and workers — and to conduct better infection control oversight.

1 in 5 state and federal prisoners in the U.S. has had COVID-19, and African Americans and Latinos are overrepresented among incarcerated individuals. The proposal also supports COVID-19 safety in federal, state, and local prisons, jails, and detention centers by providing funding for COVID-19 mitigation strategies, including supplies and physical distancing; safe re-entry for the formerly incarcerated; and the vaccination of both incarcerated people and staff.

Identify and address emerging strains of COVID-19. The identification of new strains of SARS-CoV-2 in the United Kingdom and South Africa highlight a key vulnerability in our nation’s COVID response: we simply do not have the kind of robust surveillance capabilities that we need to track outbreaks and mutations. Tracking the way the virus is changing and moving through the population is essential to understanding outbreaks, generating treatments and vaccines, and controlling the pandemic. The president-elect’s proposal includes funding to dramatically increase our country’s sequencing, surveillance, and outbreak analytics capacity at the levels demanded by the crisis.

Provide emergency relief and purchase critical supplies and deploy National Guard. Persistent supply shortages — from gloves and masks to glass vials and test reagents — are inhibiting our ability to provide testing and vaccination and putting frontline workers at risk. The president-elect’s plan will invest $30 billion into the Disaster Relief Fund to ensure sufficient supplies and protective gear, and to provide 100% federal reimbursement for critical emergency response resources to states, local governments, and Tribes, including deployment of the National Guard. The president-elect will call for an additional $10 billion investment in expanding domestic manufacturing for pandemic supplies. These funds will support President-elect Biden in fulfilling his commitment to fully use the Defense Production Act and to safeguard the country by producing more pandemic supplies in the U.S.

Invest in treatments for COVID-19. Months into this pandemic, we still do not have reliable and accessible treatments. The federal government urgently needs to invest to support development, manufacturing, and purchase of therapies to ensure wide availability and affordability of effective treatments, as well as invest in studies of the long-term health impacts of COVID-19 and potential therapies to address them.

Protect workers against COVID-19. Millions of Americans, many of whom are people of color, immigrants, and low-wage workers, continue to put their lives on the line to keep the country functioning through the pandemic. They should not have to lie awake at night wondering if they’ll make it home from work safely the next day, or if they’ll bring home the virus to their loved ones and communities. The president-elect is calling on Congress to authorize the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue a COVID-19 Protection Standard that covers a broad set of workers, so that workers not typically covered by OSHA, like many public workers on the frontlines, also receive protection from unsafe working conditions and retaliation. And, President-elect Biden is calling on Congress to provide additional funding for OSHA enforcement and grant funding, including for the Susan Harwood grant program, for organizations to help keep vulnerable workers healthy and safe from COVID-19. These steps will help keep more workers healthy, reopen more businesses safely, and beat the virus.

 Restore U.S. leadership globally and build better preparedness. Protecting the United States from COVID-19 requires a global response, and the pandemic is a grave reminder that biological threats can pose catastrophic consequences to the United States and the world. The president-elect’s plan will provide support to the international health and humanitarian response; mitigate the pandemic’s devastating impact on global health, food security, and gender-based violence; support international efforts to develop and distribute medical countermeasures for COVID-19; and build the capacity required to fight COVID-19, its variants, and emerging biological threats.

Provide schools the resources they need to reopen safely. A critical plank of President-elect Biden’s COVID-19 plan is to safely reopen schools as soon as possible — so kids and educators can get back in class and parents can go back to work. This will require immediate, urgent action by Congress. The COVID-19 pandemic created unprecedented challenges for K-12 schools and institutions of higher education, and the students and parents they serve. School closures have disproportionately impacted the learning of Black and Hispanic students, as well as students with disabilities and English language learners. While the December down payment for schools and higher education institutions was a start, it is not sufficient to address the crisis. President-elect Biden is calling on Congress to provide $170 billion — supplemented by additional state and local relief resources — for K-12 schools and institutions of higher education. These resources will help schools serve all students, no matter where they are learning, and help achieve President-elect Biden’s goal to open the majority of K-8 schools within the first 100 days of his Administration. 

  • Provide $130 billion to help schools to safely reopen. Schools need flexible resources to safely reopen and operate and/or facilitate remote learning. The president-elect’s plan will provide $130 billion to support schools in safely reopening. These funds can be used to reduce class sizes and modify spaces so students and teachers can socially distance; improve ventilation; hire more janitors and implement mitigation measures; provide personal protective equipment; ensure every school has access to a nurse; increase transportation capacity to facilitate social distancing on the bus; hire counselors to support students as they transition back to the classroom; close the digital divide that is exacerbating inequities during the pandemic; provide summer school or other support for students that will help make up lost learning time this year; create and expand community schools; and cover other costs needed to support safely reopening and support students. These funds will also include provisions to ensure states adequately fund education and protect students in low-income communities that have been hardest hit by COVID-19. Districts must ensure that funds are used to not only reopen schools, but also to meet students’ academic, mental health and social, and emotional needs in response to COVID-19, (e.g. through extended learning time, tutoring, and counselors), wherever they are learning. Funding can be used to prevent cuts to state pre-K programs. A portion of funding will be reserved for a COVID-19 Educational Equity Challenge Grant, which will support state, local and tribal governments in partnering with teachers, parents, and other stakeholders to advance equity- and evidence-based policies to respond to COVID-related educational challenges and give all students the support they need to succeed. In addition to this funding, schools will be able to access FEMA Disaster Relief Fund resources to get reimbursed for certain COVID-19 related expenses and will receive support to implement regular testing protocols.
  • Expand the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund. The president-elect’s plan will ensure colleges have critical resources to implement public health protocols, execute distance learning plans, and provide emergency grants to students in need. This $35 billion in funding will be directed to public institutions, including community colleges, as well as, public and private Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other Minority Serving Institutions. This funding will provide millions of students up to an additional $1,700 in financial assistance from their college.
  • Hardest Hit Education Fund. Provide $5 billion in funds for governors to use to support educational programs and the learning needs of students significantly impacted by COVID-19, whether K-12, higher education, or early childhood education programs.

Provide emergency paid leave to 106 million more Americans to reduce the spread of the virus. No American should have to choose between putting food on the table and quarantining to prevent further spread of COVID-19. And yet, nearly 1 in 4 workers and close to half of low-income workers lack access to paid sick leave, disproportionately burdening Americans of color. Lack of paid leave is threatening the financial security of working families and increasing the risk of COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths. Congress did the right thing last year when it created an emergency paid leave program through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. That action decreased daily infections by 400 cases per state per day in states that previously had no paid sick leave requirement. While the December down payment extended the Families First employer tax credits through March 2021, it did not renew the requirement that employers provide leave. President-elect Biden is calling on Congress to:

  • Put the requirement back in place and eliminate exemptions for employers with more than 500 and less than 50 employees. He will also make it clear that healthcare workers and first responders get these benefits, too. Closing these loopholes in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act will extend emergency paid leave to up to 106 million additional workers.
  • Provide expanded paid sick and family and medical leave. The president-elect will provide over 14 weeks of paid sick and family and medical leave to help parents with additional caregiving responsibilities when a child or loved one’s school or care center is closed; for people who have or are caring for people with COVID-19 symptoms, or who are quarantining due to exposure; and for people needing to take time to get the vaccine.
  • Expand emergency paid leave to include federal workers. This measure will provide paid leave protections to approximately 2 million Americans who work for the federal government. 
  • Provide a maximum paid leave benefit of $1,400 per-week for eligible workers. This will provide full wage replacement to workers earning up to $73,000 annually, more than three-quarters of all workers
  • Reimburse employers with less than 500 employees for the cost of this leave. Extending the refundable tax credit will reimburse employers for 100 percent of the cost of this leave. 
  • Reimburse state and local government for the cost of this leave.
  • Extend emergency paid leave measures until September 30, 2021. With so much uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, extending paid leave until the end of September will help to limit the spread of COVID-19 and provide economic security to millions of working families.


Deliver Immediate, Direct Relief to Families Bearing the Brunt of the Crisis. 

As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, millions of Americans are hurting through no fault of their own. More than 10 million Americans are unemployed, and 4 million have been out of work for half a year or longer. The jobs crisis is particularly severe in communities of color, where 1 in 10 Black workers and 1 in 11 Latino workers are unemployed. Large numbers of families are struggling to pay rent or their mortgages and put food on the table. And, last month, it only got worse: we lost 140,000 jobs in December, including 20,000 public educators, and nearly 400,000 jobs at restaurants and bars.

President-elect Biden is calling on Congress to take urgent action to deliver immediate, direct relief to Americans bearing the brunt of this crisis. Altogether, this would devote about $1 trillion towards building a bridge to economic recovery for working families and, according to researchers at Columbia University, cut child poverty in half. 

President-elect Biden’s plan will: 

Give working families a $1,400 per-person check to help pay their bills, bringing their total relief payment from this and the December down payment to $2,000. More than 1 in 3 households — and half of Black and Latino households — are struggling to pay for usual household expenses like rent and groceries during the pandemic. In this crisis, working families need more than the $600 per person that Congress passed last year. President-elect Biden is calling on Congress to increase that direct financial assistance to $2,000. An additional $1,400 per person in direct checks will help hard-hit households cover expenses, spend money at local businesses in their communities, and stimulate the economy. President-elect Biden’s plan will also expand eligibility to adult dependents who have been left out of previous rounds of relief and all mixed status households. And, his plan will ensure that the Treasury Department has the flexibility and resources it needs to deliver stimulus checks to the families that need them most, including the millions of families that still haven’t received the $1,200 checks they are entitled to under the CARES Act. 

Extend and expand unemployment insurance benefits so American workers can pay their bills. Around 18 million Americans rely on the unemployment insurance program. Congress did the right thing by continuing expanded eligibility and extending the number of weeks unemployed workers can receive benefits. One study estimates that extending pandemic unemployment insurance programs through 2021 could create or save over five million jobs. But these benefits are set to expire in weeks — even as the COVID-19 pandemic worsens. Millions of Americans are receiving benefits through unemployment insurance programs that will no longer serve new beneficiaries starting in mid-March.

President-elect Biden is calling on Congress to extend these and other programs, providing millions of hard-hit workers with the financial security and peace of mind they need and deserve. And, he believes Congress should provide a $400 per-week unemployment insurance supplement to help hard-hit workers cover household expenses. The president-elect is committed to providing these emergency supports to families for as long as the COVID-19 crisis continues and employment opportunities remain limited. The president-elect is proposing to extend these emergency unemployment insurance programs through September 2021, and will work with Congress on ways to automatically adjust the length and amount of relief depending on health and economic conditions so future legislative delay doesn’t undermine the recovery and families’ access to benefits they need.

President-elect Biden’s plan will:

  • Extend financial assistance for workers who have exhausted their regular unemployment compensation benefits. Extending and increasing the additional weeks provided under the emergency unemployment insurance program will ensure that approximately 5 million Americans continue to receive assistance in the months ahead. 
  • Extend financial assistance for unemployed workers who do not typically qualify for unemployment compensation benefits. The president-elect believes Congress should extend unemployment support for self-employed workers, like ride-share drivers and many grocery delivery workers, who do not typically qualify for regular unemployment compensation. And, he supports increasing the number of weeks these workers can receive the benefit to provide long-term financial security to the program’s approximately 8 million beneficiaries
  • Fully fund states’ short-time compensation programs and additional weeks of benefits. Short-time compensation programs, also known as work sharing, help small businesses stay afloat and economically vulnerable workers make ends meet by enabling workers to stay on the job at reduced hours, while making up the difference in pay. These programs avoid layoffs and pave the way for rapid rehiring and an accelerated recovery. 

Help struggling households keep a roof over their heads. The economic fallout of COVID-19 has made it more difficult for working families, especially families of color, to cover their housing expenses. Across the country, 1 in 5 renters and 1 in 10 homeowners with a mortgage are behind on payments. Congress took an important step in the right direction by securing $25 billion in rental assistance and extending the federal eviction moratorium until January 31. However, American families already owe $25 billion in back rent, and the threat of widespread evictions will still exist at the end of January. Further, more than 10 million homeowners have fallen behind on mortgage payments. Failing to take additional action will lead to a wave of evictions and foreclosures in the coming months, overwhelming emergency shelter capacity and increasing the likelihood of COVID-19 infections. And Americans of color, who have on average a fraction of the wealth available to white families, face higher risks of eviction and housing loss without critical assistance. 

President-elect Biden is calling on Congress to take immediate action to forestall a coming wave of COVID-related evictions and foreclosures. 

  • Ensure that families hit hard by the economic crisis won’t face eviction or foreclosure. The president-elect is calling on Congress to extend the eviction and foreclosure moratoriums and continue applications for forbearance on federally-guaranteed mortgages until September 30, 2021. These measures will prevent untold economic hardship for homeowners, while limiting the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. The president-elect is also calling on Congress to provide funds for legal assistance for households facing eviction or foreclosure.
  • Help renters and small landlords make ends meet by providing an additional $30 billion in rental and critical energy and water assistance for hard-hit individuals and families. While the $25 billion allocated by Congress was an important down payment on the back rent accrued during this crisis, it is insufficient to meet the scale of the need. That’s why President-elect Biden is proposing an additional $25 billion in rental assistance to provide much-needed rental relief, especially for low- and moderate-income households who have lost jobs or are out of the labor market. The president-elect is also proposing $5 billion to cover home energy and water costs and arrears through programs like the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, for struggling renters. These funds will ensure that the hardest-hit renters and small landlords, including those in disadvantaged communities that have suffered disproportionately in terms of pollution and other environmental harms, aren’t put in the position where they can’t cover their own housing expenses. This program includes a competitive set-aside of funding for states to invest in clean energy and energy efficiency projects that reduce electricity bills for families in disadvantaged communities.
  • Deliver $5 billion in emergency assistance to help secure housing for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness. This funding will allow states and localities to help approximately 200,000 individuals and families obtain stable housing, while providing a downpayment on the president-elect’s comprehensive approach to ending homelessness and making housing a right for all Americans. Specifically, these funds will provide flexibility for both congregate and non-congregate housing options, help jurisdictions purchase and convert hotels and motels into permanent housing, and give homeless services providers the resources they need to hire and retain staff, maintain outreach programs, and provide essential services. 

Address the growing hunger crisis in America. About 1 in 7 households nationwide, including more than 1 in 5 Black and Latino households and many Asian American and Pacific Islander households, are struggling to secure the food they need. While the December down payment provided $13 billion to strengthen and expand federal nutrition programs, it will not solve the hunger crisis in America. President-elect Biden is calling on Congress to ensure all Americans, regardless of background, have access to healthy, affordable groceries. The president-elect’s plan will:

  • Extend the 15 percent Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit increase. Maintaining the increase through the summer — when childhood hunger spikes due to a lack of school meals — is a critical backstop against rising food insecurity. This change will help keep hunger at bay for around 40 million Americans. The president-elect is calling for this to be extended through September 2021. He is also committed to providing this boost for as long as the COVID-19 crisis continues, and will work with Congress on ways to automatically adjust the length and amount of relief depending on health and economic conditions so future legislative delay doesn’t undermine the recovery and families’ access to benefits they need.
  • Invest $3 billion to help women, infants and children get the food they need. This multi-year investment in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is needed to account for increased enrollment due to growing hunger and to increase outreach to ensure that low-income families have access to high-quality nutritious food and nutrition education. 
  • Partner with restaurants to feed American families and keep restaurant workers on the job at the same time. The FEMA Empowering Essential Deliveries (FEED) Act will leverage the resources and expertise of the restaurant industry to help get food to families who need it, and help get laid-off restaurant workers across the country back on the job.
  • Support SNAP by temporarily cutting the state match. The president-elect is calling for a one time emergency infusion of administrative support for state anti-hunger and nutrition programs to ensure that benefits get to the kids and families that need it most.
  • Provide U.S. Territories with $1 billion in additional nutrition assistance for their residents. Bolstering the Nutrition Assistance Program block grant will help thousands of working families in Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands put food on the table for the duration of the pandemic.

Raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour. Throughout the pandemic, millions of American workers have put their lives on the line to keep their communities and country functioning, including the 40 percent of frontline workers who are people of color. As President-elect Biden has said, let’s not just praise them, let’s pay them. Hard working Americans deserve sufficient wages to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads, without having to keep multiple jobs. But millions of working families are struggling to get by. This is why the president-elect is calling on Congress to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour, and end the tipped minimum wage and sub-minimum wage for people with disabilities so that workers across the country can live a middle class life and provide opportunity for their families. 

Call on employers to meet their obligations to frontline essential workers and provide back hazard pay. Essential workers — who are disproportionately Black, Latino, and Asian American and Pacific Islander — have risked their lives to stock shelves, harvest crops, and care for the sick during this crisis. They have kept the country running even during the darkest days of the pandemic. A number of large employers, especially in the retail and grocery sectors, have seen bumper profitability in 2020 and yet done little or nothing at all to compensate their workers for the risks they took. The president-elect believes these employers have a duty to do right by their frontline essential workers and acknowledge their sacrifices with generous back hazard pay for the risks they took across 2020 and up to today. He and the vice president-elect will call on CEOs and other business leaders to take action to meet these obligations.

Expand access to high-quality, affordable child care. We are facing an acute, immediate child care crisis in America, which is exacerbating our economic crisis. Due to increased costs and lower enrollment, a recent survey of child care providers showed that most child care providers expect that they will close within a few months without relief or are uncertain how long they can stay open. If left unaddressed, many child care providers will close — some permanently — and millions of children could go without necessary care, and millions of parents could be left to make devastating choices this winter between caring for their children and working to put food on the table. Early childcare providers are almost entirely women, among whom 40 percent are people of color, and so these closures could devastate engines of opportunity for minority- and women-owned businesses. President-elect Biden is calling on Congress to take immediate actions to address this crisis by helping child care centers reopen and remain open safely, and by making that care affordable to families who need it. 

In addition, too many families are unable to afford child care, while early educators earn wages so low that they can’t support their own families. This challenge existed before COVID-19, and the pandemic has exacerbated it. President-elect Biden is calling on Congress to ease the financial burden of care for families, expand financial support for child care providers so that this critical sector can stay afloat during the pandemic and beyond, and make critical investments to improve wages and benefits for the essential child care sector. President-elect Biden’s plan will:

  • Help hard-hit child care providers, including family child care homes, cover their costs and operate safely by creating a $25 billion emergency stabilization fund. This Emergency Stabilization Fund will help hard-hit child care providers that are in danger of closing and provide support to nearly half of all child care providers. It will also assist those that have had to shut down meet their financial obligations during the pandemic, so that they can reopen. It will help providers pay for rent, utilities, and payroll, as well as increased costs associated with the pandemic including personal protective equipment, ventilation supplies, smaller group sizes, and modifications to make the physical environment safer for children and workers.
  • Expand child care assistance to help millions of families and help parents return to work. Millions of parents are risking their lives as essential workers, while at the same time struggling to obtain care for their children. Others have become 24/7 caregivers while simultaneously working remotely. Still more are unemployed, caring for their children full-time, and worrying about how they will make ends meet or afford child care when they do find a job. And, the limited access to child care during the pandemic has caused more women to leave the workforce. While the December down payment provides $10 billion in funding through the Child Care and Development Block Grant program, the president-elect’s proposal expands this investment with an additional $15 billion in funding, including for those who experienced a job interruption during the COVID-19 pandemic and are struggling to afford child care. This additional assistance with child care costs will help the disproportionate number of women who left the labor force to take on caregiving duties reenter the workforce. And, this expanded investment will also help rebuild the supply of child care providers, and encourage states to take meaningful steps towards increasing the pay and benefits of child care workers.
  • Increase tax credits to help cover the cost of childcare. To help address the childcare affordability crisis, President-elect Biden is calling on Congress to expand child care tax credits on an emergency basis for one year to help working families cover the cost of childcare. Families will get back as a tax credit as much as half of their spending on child care for children under age 13, so that they can receive a total of up to $4,000 for one child or $8,000 for two or more children. The tax credit will be refundable, meaning that families who don’t owe a lot in taxes will still benefit. The full 50 percent reimbursement will be available to families making less than $125,000 a year. And, all families making between $125,000 and $400,000 will receive a partial credit so they receive benefits at least as generous as those they can receive today.

Bolster financial security for families and essential workers in the midst of the pandemic. The lowest income families are particularly vulnerable in the midst of the pandemic, and President-elect Biden is calling for one year expansions of key supports for families on an emergency basis. The Child Tax Credit should be made fully refundable for the year. Currently, 27 million children live in families with household incomes low enough that they didn’t qualify for the full value of the Child Tax Credit, and this measure would give these children and their families additional needed resources. The president-elect is also calling to increase the credit to $3,000 per child ($3,600 for a child under age 6) and make 17 year-olds qualifying children for the year.

He is also calling for an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit for the year to ensure that the lowest income workers get critical support including millions of essential workers. He is proposing to raise the maximum Earned Income Tax Credit for childless adults from roughly $530 to close to $1,500, raise the income limit for the credit from about $16,000 to about $21,000, and expand the age range that is eligible including by eliminating the age cap for older workers and expanding eligibility for younger workers so that they can claim the credit they deserve. Expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit for childless adults would give a needed boost to the earnings of several million workers, including cashiers, home health aides, delivery people, and other people working in essential occupations. The president-elect also is committed to making sure that Americans who see their earnings fall in 2021 due to the pandemic don’t see the Earned Income Tax Credit reduced as a result.

Lastly, the president-elect is calling for an additional $1 billion for states to cover the additional cash assistance that Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) recipients needed as a result of the pandemic crisis. The pandemic has led to increased TANF caseloads, generated higher costs for many TANF recipients — from higher utility costs to the need for internet access for remote schooling — and longer periods of joblessness given high unemployment. These funds will provide sorely needed relief.

Preserving and expanding health coverage. Roughly two to three million people lost employer sponsored health insurance between March and September, and even families who have maintained coverage may struggle to pay premiums and afford care. Further, going into this crisis, 30 million people were without coverage, limiting their access to the health care system in the middle of a pandemic. To ensure access to health coverage, President-elect Biden is calling on Congress to subsidize continuation health coverage (COBRA) through the end of September. He is also asking Congress to expand and increase the value of the Premium Tax Credit to lower or eliminate health insurance premiums and ensure enrollees — including those who never had coverage through their jobs — will not pay more than 8.5 percent of their income for coverage. Together, these policies would reduce premiums for more than ten million people and reduce the ranks of the uninsured by millions more. 

Expanding access to behavioral health services. The pandemic has made access to mental health and substance use disorder services more essential than ever. The president-elect is calling on Congress to appropriate $4 billion to enable the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Health Resources and Services Administration to expand access to these vital services.

Ensure adequate funding for veterans’ health. COVID-19 has put enormous pressure on America’s veterans and on the Veterans Health Administration that is charged with providing and facilitating top-notch care for them. The president-elect is committed to ensuring America delivers on its promise to the people who have served our country. To account for increased usage as many veterans have lost access to private health insurance, higher overall costs, and other pandemic-related impacts, the president-elect is immediately requesting an additional $20 billion to make sure that veterans’ health care needs can be met through this crisis. 

Combat increased risk of gender-based violence. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated domestic violence and sexual assault, creating a “shadow pandemic” for many women and girls who are largely confined to their home with their abuser and facing economic insecurity that makes escape more difficult. President Biden is calling for at least $800 million in supplemental funding for key federal programs that protect survivors.  
 

Provide Critical Support to Struggling Communities. 

COVID-19 and the resulting economic crisis has devastated communities across the country. Schools remain closed, with students struggling with remote learning and parents — 1.6 million mothers this fall — leaving the workforce. Small businesses, the backbones of their communities that employ nearly half of American workers, are unable to keep their doors open. And, some state and local essential workers are seeing their wages reduced or their jobs disappear. President-elect Biden is calling on Congress to send a lifeline to small businesses; protect educators, public transit workers, and first responders from lay-offs; and keep critical services running at full strength. Altogether, his plan would provide approximately $440 billion in critical support to struggling communities. This is in addition to funds that President-elect Biden is requesting for safely reopening schools throughout the country.

President-elect Biden’s plan will:

Provide small businesses with the funding they need to reopen and rebuild. Small businesses sustain half of the private sector jobs in America, and they have struggled in the wake of COVID-19. Black- and Brown-owned small businesses, and those in hard-hit industries like restaurants, hotels, and the arts, have suffered disproportionately. Nationally, small business revenue is down 32 percent, and at least 400,000 firms have permanently closed. To help hard-hit firms survive the pandemic and fully recover, President-elect Biden is calling on Congress to:

  • Provide grants to more than 1 million of the hardest hit small businesses. This $15 billion in flexible, equitably distributed grants will help small businesses get back on their feet, put the current disaster behind them, and build back better. 
  • Leverage $35 billion in government funds into $175 billion in additional small business lending and investment. With a $35 billion investment in successful state, local, tribal, and non-profit small business financing programs, Congress can generate as much as $175 billion in low-interest loans and venture capital to help entrepreneurs — including those in the clean energy sector — innovate, create and maintain jobs, build wealth, and provide the essential goods and services that communities depend on.

In addition, the president-elect wants to work with Congress to make sure that restaurants, bars, and other businesses that have suffered disproportionately have sufficient support to bridge to the recovery, including through the Community Credit Corporation at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). 

Provide support for first responders and other essential workers. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, first responders, frontline public health workers, and countless other essential workers have risked their lives to keep our communities safe and functioning. Educators have worked tirelessly to keep our children learning and growing, coming up with new ways to reach and engage their students, often while balancing caring for their own children. Without these front line workers, we will not be able to effectively respond to the pandemic, administer the vaccine, or safely reopen our schools. President-elect Biden is calling on Congress to provide $350 billion in emergency funding for state, local, and territorial governments to ensure that they are in a position to keep front line public workers on the job and paid, while also effectively distributing the vaccine, scaling testing, reopening schools, and maintaining other vital services. The president-elect is also calling on Congress to allocate $3 billion of this funding to the Economic Development Administration (EDA). Grants from EDA provide resources directly to state and local government entities, tribal institutions, institutions of higher education, and non-profits to fund initiatives that support bottom’s up economic development and enable good-paying jobs. This funding — double the amount provided by the CARES Act — will support communities nationwide with a broad range of financial needs as they respond to and recover from COVID-19.

Protect the future of public transit. Safe and dependable public transit systems are critical for a robust and equitable economy recovery. The president-elect is calling for $20 billion in relief for the hardest hit public transit agencies. This relief will keep agencies from laying off transit workers and cutting the routes that essential workers rely on every day while making these transit systems more resilient and ensuring that communities of color maintain the access to opportunity that public transportation provides. 

Support Tribal governments’ response to COVID-19. COVID-19 has exacted an especially high toll in Indian Country. People living on reservations are four times more likely to have COVID-19 and American Indian and Alaska Natives are nearly twice as likely to die from COVID-19 than white Americans. While the December down payment had many beneficial provisions, it included little direct funding to help Tribal governments respond to COVID-19. President-elect Biden is calling on Congress to give Tribes the resources they need to obtain sufficient personal protective equipment, increase access to clean water and electricity, and expand internet access so that children can learn remotely and more families can obtain basic health care through telemedicine. President-elect Biden’s plan would invest $20 billion in Indian Country to support Tribal governments’ response to the pandemic. These resources will help to reduce stark and persistent inequities in COVID-19 transmission, hospitalization, and death, while improving economic conditions and opportunity. 

Modernize federal information technology to protect against future cyber attacks. 

In addition to the COVID-19 crisis, we also face a crisis when it comes to the nation’s cybersecurity. The recent cybersecurity breaches of federal government data systems underscore the importance and urgency of strengthening U.S. cybersecurity capabilities. President-elect Biden is calling on Congress to launch the most ambitious effort ever to modernize and secure federal IT and networks. To remediate the SolarWinds breach and boost U.S. defenses, including of the COVID-19 vaccine process, President-elect Biden is calling on Congress to: 

  • Expand and improve the Technology Modernization Fund. A $9 billion investment will help the U.S. launch major new IT and cybersecurity shared services at the Cyber Security and Information Security Agency (CISA) and the General Services Administration and complete modernization projects at federal agencies. In addition, the president-elect is calling on Congress to change the fund’s reimbursement structure in order to fund more innovative and impactful projects.
  • Surge cybersecurity technology and engineering expert hiring. Providing the Information Technology Oversight and Reform fund with $200 million will allow for the rapid hiring of hundreds of experts to support the federal Chief Information Security Officer and U.S. Digital Service. 
  • Build shared, secure services to drive transformational projects. Investing $300 million in no-year funding for Technology Transformation Services in the General Services Administration will drive secure IT projects forward without the need of reimbursement from agencies. 
  • Improving security monitoring and incident response activities. An additional $690M for CISA will bolster cybersecurity across federal civilian networks, and support the piloting of new shared security and cloud computing services.

Biden Rebukes Trump Administration’s ‘Roadblocks’ to National Security Transition Team as ‘Nothing Short of Irresponsible’

President-Elect Joe Biden issued his sternest condemnation yet of the Trump Administration’s “roadblocks from the political leadership at the Department of Defense and the Office of Management and Budget” of his transition team, which will endanger national security as the Biden administration takes over in January. “It’s nothing short of irresponsible.”  © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

President-Elect Joe Biden issued his sternest condemnation yet of the Trump Administration’s “roadblocks from the political leadership at the Department of Defense and the Office of Management and Budget” of his transition team, which will endanger national security as the Biden administration takes over in January. “It’s nothing short of irresponsible.”  

In remarks following briefings with his National Security team, Biden laid out the challenges he faces and a blueprint for his administration’s approach:

“Many of the agencies that are critical to our security have incurred enormous damage. They’ve been hollowed out. In personnel.  In capacity. In morale. In policy processes that have atrophied or been sidelined. In the disrepair of our alliances. In our absence from key institutions that matter to the welfare of the American people. In a general disengagement from the world.
 
“And all of it makes it harder for our government to protect the American people and to defend our vital interests in a world where threats are constantly evolving and our adversaries are constantly adapting.  Rebuilding the full set of our instruments of foreign policy and national security is a key challenge that Vice President-elect Harris and I will face upon taking office — starting with our diplomacy.”

Issues ranging from climate change to global pandemic to fair trade and economic opportunity, he said, will depend on “the power of smart and effective American leadership” with partners, effectively doing a 180-degree turn from Trump’s “America First” policy.

It also means “modernizing our defense priorities to better deter aggression in the future, rather than continuing to over-invest in legacy systems designed to address the threats of the past. And we have to be able to innovate and reimagine our defenses against growing threats in new realms like cyberspace.

Biden said he would work immediately to roll back the restrictions at the southern border, but cautioned that new processes and procedures will take time to implement. “We will have to have a process to ensure everyone’s health and safety, including the safety of asylum seekers hoping for a new start in the United States free from violence and persecution…

“We will champion liberty and democracy once more.  We will reclaim our credibility to lead the free world. And we will, once again, lead not just by the example of our power, but by the power of our example,” Biden declared.

Here is a highlighted transcript of his remarks on December 28, from Wilmington, Delaware:

Good afternoon.

Before I begin, I want to say a few brief words on the explosion that took place Friday 
in Nashville.

Federal, state, and local law enforcement are working around the clock to gain more information on motive and intent. 

This bombing was a reminder of the destructive power that individuals and small groups can muster, and the need for continuing vigilance. 

I want to thank the police officers who worked quickly to evacuate the area before the explosion occurred, and all the firefighters and first responders who jumped into action early on Christmas morning.
 
Their bravery and cool-headedness likely saved lives and prevented a worse outcome — and we are all grateful for that.

And I know the hearts of all Americans are with the people of Nashville as they rebuild and recover from this traumatic event.

Now, Vice President-elect Harris and I, along with our nominees to lead our national security institutions, have just been briefed by some of the professionals who have been conducting agency reviews as part of our transition.

This is a long-standing part of the orderly transition of power in American democracy. 

We welcomed teams from the incoming Trump-Pence administration four years ago. 

And over the past few weeks, teams of genuine policy and management experts, many with previous government experience, have gone into agencies across the government to conduct interviews with personnel to gather information and to assess the state of the federal government that we will shortly inherit. 

These teams worked under incredibly difficult circumstances — taking COVID-19 precautions, 
and waiting weeks for ascertainment — but they have done an outstanding job.

From some agencies, our teams received exemplary cooperation from the career staff. 

From others, most notably the Department of Defense, we encountered obstruction from the political leadership. 

And the truth is: many of the agencies that are critical to our security have incurred enormous damage.

They’ve been hollowed out. 

In personnel. In capacity. In morale.
 
In policy processes that have atrophied or been sidelined.
 
In the disrepair of our alliances.

In our absence from key institutions that matter to the welfare of the American people.

In a general disengagement from the world.
 
And all of it makes it harder for our government to protect the American people and to defend our vital interests in a world where threats are constantly evolving and our adversaries are constantly adapting.

Rebuilding the full set of our instruments of foreign policy and national security is a key challenge that Vice President-elect Harris and I will face upon taking office — starting with our diplomacy.

Today, we heard from the leaders of the State and USAID agency review teams about the critical early investments we are going to need to make in our diplomacy, in our development efforts, and in rebuilding our alliances to close ranks with our partners and bring to bear the full benefits of our shared strength for the American people.
 
When we consider the most daunting threats of our time, we know that meeting them requires American engagement and leadership, but also that none of them can be solved by America acting alone.
 
Take climate change for example.

The United States accounts for less than 15 percent of global carbon emissions. 

But without a clear, coordinated, and committed approach from the other 85 percent of carbon emitters, the world will continue to warm, storms will continue to worsen, and climate change will continue to threaten lives and livelihoods, public health, and economies — and our very existence on our planet.
 
We’ve learned so painfully this year the cost of being unprepared for a pandemic that leaps borders and circles the globe.
 
If we aren’t investing with our partners around the world in strengthening health systems everywhere, we’re undermining our ability to permanently defeat COVID-19, and we’re leaving ourselves vulnerable to the next deadly epidemic.
 
And as we compete with China and hold China’s government accountable for its abuses on trade, technology, human rights, and other fronts, our position will be much stronger when we build coalitions of like-minded partners and allies to make common cause with us in defense of our shared interests and values.
 
We are almost 25 percent of the global economy on our own, but together with our democratic partners, we more than double our economic leverage.
 
On any issue that matters to the U.S.-China relationship — from pursuing a foreign policy for the middle class, including a trade and economic agenda that protects American workers, our intellectual property, and the environment — to ensuring security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region, to championing human rights — we are stronger and more effective when we are flanked by nations that share our vision for the future of our world.
 
That’s how we multiply the impact of our efforts and make those efforts more sustainable.
 
That’s the power of smart and effective American leadership.

But right now, there’s an enormous vacuum.

We’re going to have to regain the trust and confidence of a world that has begun to find ways 
to work around us or without us.
 
We also heard from key leaders on our intelligence and defense review teams, including Stephanie O’Sullivan, former principal deputy director of national intelligence, and retired Army Lieutenant General Karen Gibson.

We talked about the different strategic challenges we will face from both Russia and China, and the reforms we must make to put ourselves in the strongest possible position to meet these challenges.
 
That includes modernizing our defense priorities to better deter aggression in the future, rather than continuing to over-invest in legacy systems designed to address the threats of the past.
 
And we have to be able to innovate and reimagine our defenses against growing threats in new realms like cyberspace.
 
We are still learning about the extent of the SolarWinds hack and the vulnerabilities that have been exposed.

As I said last week — this attack constitutes a grave risk to our national security. 

And we need to close the gap between where our capabilities are now and where they need to be 
to better deter, detect, disrupt, and respond to these sorts of intrusions in the future.

This is an area where Republicans and Democrats are in agreement — and we should be able to work on a bipartisan basis to better secure the American people against malign cyber actors.

And right now, as our nation is in a period of transition, we need to make sure that nothing is lost in the handoff between administrations.
 
My team needs a clear picture of our force posture around the world and of our operations to deter our enemies.

We need full visibility into the budget planning underway at the Defense Department and other agencies in order to avoid any window of confusion or catch-up that our adversaries may try to exploit.
 
But — as I said at the beginning — we have encountered roadblocks from the political leadership at the Department of Defense and the Office of Management and Budget. 

Right now, we just aren’t getting all the information that we need from the outgoing administration in key national security areas. 

It’s nothing short of irresponsible.

 
Finally, we spoke about the day-one challenges that we will need to address immediately, drawing on the skill sets of the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
 
We were briefed on the steps needed to clean up the humanitarian disaster that the Trump Administration has systematically created on our southern border. 

We will institute a humane and orderly response.

That means rebuilding the capacity we need to safely and quickly process asylum seekers without creating a near-term crisis in the midst of a deadly pandemic.
 
These are hard issues. 

And the current administration has made them much harder by working to erode our capacity. 

It’s going to take time to rebuild it.

And we’re going to work purposefully and diligently to responsibly roll back Trump’s restrictions starting on day one.
 
But it’s not as simple as throwing a switch to turn everything back on — especially amid a pandemic.

We will have to have a process to ensure everyone’s health and safety, including the safety of asylum seekers hoping for a new start in the United States free from violence and persecution.
 
Of course, an essential part of this will be managing the safe, equitable, and efficient distribution of vaccines to as many Americans as possible — as quickly as possible.
 
FEMA has an enormous part to play in this, and we heard from the former FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate today.

We want to make sure that our administration is poised to make full use of FEMA’s domestic reach and capacity in managing our COVID response.

Finally, from every briefer, I was heartened to also hear about the incredible strength 
we will be inheriting — the career professionals working across these agencies.

They never stop doing their jobs and continue to serve our country day in and day out to keep their fellow Americans safe, just as they have always done.
 
These agencies are filled with patriots who have earned our respect, and who should never be treated as a political football.

I’m looking forward to the honor of working with them again, to asking for their advice and inputs to help shape the best possible policies for all Americans.
 
And I want to thank the incredible folks who have served on all the Agency Review Teams as part of this transition. 

They’ve dedicated their time, energy, and vital expertise to help ensure Vice President-elect Harris and I are ready to hit the ground running.

As we look forward to the start of a new year, fresh with hope and the possibilities of better days to come, but clear-eyed about the challenges that will not disappear overnight, I want to reiterate my message to the American people:

We’ve overcome incredible challenges as a nation. And we will do so again.

We’ll do it by coming together.
 
By uniting after a year of pain and loss to heal, to rebuild, and to reclaim America’s place in the world.

This is the work that lies ahead of us, and I know we are up to the task. 

We will champion liberty and democracy once more. 

We will reclaim our credibility to lead the free world. 

And we will, once again, lead not just by the example of our power, but by the power of our example. 
 
May God bless you all.

May God protect our troops.

Biden: Trump’s Refusal to Sign COVID-19 Economic Relief Bill is ‘Abdication of Responsibility that has Devastating Consequences’

President-Elect Joe Biden is calling Trump’s refusal to sign the COVID-19 economic relief bill, passed with overwhelming and bipartisan majority, an “abdication of responsibility” that has “devastating consequences.” (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

As Donald Trump sits back, tweets inciting calls to violence over overturning the 2020 election and makes threats as millions face eviction in the middle of winter and a raging pandemic; hunger; poverty (8 million have fallen into poverty just since July); the number of COVID-19 deaths surpass 330,000; every four days, a million more are infected (double the number just from Election Day, likely having much to do with Trump super-spreader rallies and forced in-person voting amid his sabotage of absentee voting); and Trump’s inaction or actual veto of bills that would provide COVID-19 relief and help fund vaccinations, and would cause the entire government to shut down, President-Elect Joe Biden is calling his refusal to sign the bill, passed with overwhelming and bipartisan majority, an “abdication of responsibility” that has “devastating consequences.” That’s an understatement. Here is Biden’s statement:

It is the day after Christmas, and millions of families don’t know if they’ll be able to make ends meet because of President Donald Trump’s refusal to sign an economic relief bill approved by Congress with an overwhelming and bipartisan majority. 

This abdication of responsibility has devastating consequences. Today, about 10 million Americans will lose unemployment insurance benefits. In just a few days, government funding will expire, putting vital services and paychecks for military personnel at risk. In less than a week, a moratorium on evictions expires, putting millions at risk of being forced from their homes over the holidays. Delay means more small businesses won’t survive this dark winter because they lack access to the lifeline they need, and Americans face further delays in getting the direct payments they deserve as quickly as possible to help deal with the economic devastation caused by COVID-19. And while there is hope with the vaccines, we need funding to be able to distribute and administer them to millions of Americans, including frontline health care workers.

This bill is critical. It needs to be signed into law now. But it is also a first step and down payment on more action that we’ll need to take early in the new year to revive the economy and contain the pandemic — including meeting the dire need for funding to distribute and administer the vaccine and to increase our testing capacity.

In November, the American people spoke clearly that now is a time for bipartisan action and compromise. I was heartened to see members of Congress heed that message, reach across the aisle, and work together. President Trump should join them, and make sure millions of Americans can put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads in this holiday season.

Biden Announces his Team to Beat the Climate Crisis

President-Elect Joe Biden introducing his Climate team:We are committed to facing climate change by delivering environmental justice. These aren’t pie-in-the-sky dreams. These are concrete, actionable solutions. And this team will get them done.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Each one a person of remarkable achievement, who lifted themselves up, sometimes from abject poverty; several were the first in their family to go to college, several were immigrants or children of immigrants, and one is a 35th generation Pueblo Indian, the first Native American to lead the Interior Department which historically ruled over Indian lands and routinely violated treaties. The nominees and appointees to key climate and environmental positions are the incarnation of President-Elect Joe Biden’s campaign promises, specifically, the first administration to elevating climate and environmental protection to this level and priority.

As Biden said, like his other cabinet picks, these climate, energy and environment nominees and appointees are brilliant, qualified and tested, and barrier-busting, precedent-breaking, historic, “a cabinet that looks like America, that taps into the best of America.”

The  contrast to Trump, who declared climate change a “hoax” and whose priorities – to overturn the climate action and environmental protection initiatives of the Obama-Biden administration and elevate to top positions lobbyists and executives from gas, oil, and mining industries, people of privilege and wealth – could not be more stark.

Clean energy, resilient infrastructure, sustainable agriculture and development, are the building blocks to Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan that will employ millions in new jobs and enterprises and keep the United States competitive with the rest of the world. “When we think about climate change, we think jobs.”

Electric cars – incentivized with purchase for the federal fleet – will mean one million auto industry jobs; transforming the electricity sector to being carbon-free “will be the greatest spur to job creation and economic competitiveness in the 21st Century, not to mention the benefits to our health and our environment.”

He added, “And we are committed to facing climate change by delivering environmental justice. 

“These aren’t pie-in-the-sky dreams. These are concrete, actionable solutions. And this team will get them done.”

Biden introduced his nominees:

Secretary of the Interior, Congresswoman Deb Haaland.
Secretary of Energy, former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm.

Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Secretary of North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality Michael Regan

Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, environmental lawyer Brenda Mallory

National Climate Advisor and head of the newly formed White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy, former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy

Deputy National Climate Advisor, Ali Zaidi.

These nominees – as throughout Biden’s cabinet – are notable for their story and the values their background forged.

Here are their remarks, highlighted: –Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Remarks by President-elect Joe Biden

Today I am pleased to announce the team that will lead my Administration’s ambitious plan to address an existential threat of our time — climate change.

Like their fellow-Cabinet nominees and appointments, members of our environment and energy team are brilliant, qualified and tested, and barrier-busting.

With today’s announcements there will be six African American members of our Cabinet. 

A record.

After today, our Cabinet won’t just have one or two precedent-breaking appointments, but 12 —including today’s long-overdue appointment of the first Native American Cabinet Secretary.

Already there are more people of color in this Cabinet than any Cabinet ever. More women than ever.

The Biden-Harris Cabinet will be an historic Cabinet.

A Cabinet that looks like America. 

That taps into the best of America.

That opens doors and includes the full range of talents we have in this nation.

And like the rest of the team, today’s nominees are ready on Day One, which is essential because we literally have no time to lose.

Just this year, wildfires burned more than 5 million acres in California, Washington, and across the West — an area roughly the size of the entire state of New Jersey.

Intense and powerful hurricanes and tropical storms pummeled Florida, Louisiana, North Carolina, and across the Gulf and along the East Coast. 

Record floods, hurricane-speed windstorms, and severe droughts ravaged the Midwest.

And more Americans see and feel the devastation in big cities and small towns, on coastlines and farmlands, in red states and blue states.

Billions of dollars in damage. Homes and memories washed away. Small businesses closed up for good. Crops and farmlands destroyed for the next generation family farmer.

Just last year, the Defense Department reported that climate change is a direct threat to more than two-thirds of the military’s operationally critical installations. And this could well be a conservative estimate.

And so many climate and health calamities are colliding at once.

It’s not just a pandemic that keeps people inside — it’s poor air quality.

Multiple studies have shown air pollution is associated with an increased risk of death from Covid-19. 

Folks, we’re in a crisis.

Just like we need a unified national response to COVID-19, we need a unified national response to climate change. 
 
We need to meet this moment with the urgency it demands as we would during any national emergency.

And from the crisis, we need to seize the opportunity to build back better than we were before. 
That’s what this Administration will do.

When we think about climate change, we think “jobs.” Good-paying union jobs.

A key plank of our Build Back Better economic plan is building a modern, climate-resilient infrastructure and clean energy future.

We can put millions of Americans to work modernizing water, transportation, and energy infrastructure to withstand the impacts of extreme weather.

When we think about renewable energy, we see American manufacturing, American workers, racing to lead the global market.

We see farmers making American agriculture first in the world to achieve net-zero emissions and gaining new sources of income in the process.

We see the small businesses and master electricians designing and installing innovative, energy-conserving buildings and homes. This will reduce electricity consumption and save hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in energy costs.

And we will challenge everyone to step up.

We will bring America back into the Paris Agreement and put us back in the business of leading the world on climate change.

The current Administration reversed the Obama-Biden fuel-efficiency standards and picked Big Oil companies over the American workers. Our Administration will not only bring those standards back — we will set new, ambitious ones that our workers are ready to meet.

We see American workers building and installing 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations across the country. 

We see American consumers switching to electric vehicles through rebates and incentives.

Not only that — the federal government owns and maintains an enormous fleet of vehicles. 

And we’re going to harness the purchasing power of our federal government to make sure we are buying clean, electric vehicles that are made and sourced by union workers right here in America.

All together, this will mean one million new jobs in the American auto industry. 

And we’ll do another big thing: put us on a path of achieving a carbon-pollution-free electricity sector by 2035 that no future president can turn back.

Transforming the American electricity sector to produce power without carbon pollution will be the greatest spur to job creation and economic competitiveness in the 21st Century, not to mention the benefits to our health and our environment.
 
But we need to get to work right away.
 
We’ll need scientists at national labs, land-grant universities, and Historically Black Colleges and Universities to innovate the technologies needed to generate, store, and transmit this clean electricity.
 
We’ll need engineers to design them and workers to manufacture them.

We’ll need ironworkers and welders to install them.

That’s how we’ll become the world’s largest exporter of these technologies, creating even more jobs.

We know how to do this. 

The Obama-Biden Administration rescued the auto industry and helped them retool. 

We made solar energy cost-competitive with traditional energy and weatherized more than a million homes.

The Recovery Act made record clean energy investments — $90 Billion — on everything from smart grid systems to clean energy manufacturing.

We will do it again — bigger, and faster, and better than before.

We’ll also build 1.5 million new energy-efficient homes and public housing units that will benefit our communities three-times over by alleviating the affordable housing crisis, by increasing energy efficiency, and by reducing the racial wealth gap linked to homeownership.

We’ll create more than a quarter-million jobs right away, to do things like working toward plugging the 3.2 million abandoned oil and gas wells that the EPA says pose an ongoing threat to the health and safety of our communities.

We’ll launch a new, modern-day Civilian Climate Corps to heal our public lands and make us less vulnerable to wildfires and floods.

And I believe that every American has a fundamental right to breathe clean air and drink clean water. 

But I know that we haven’t fulfilled that right. No, we haven’t fulfilled that right for a generation or more in places like Cancer Alley in Louisiana or along the Route 9 corridor right here in Delaware.

Fulfilling this basic obligation to all Americans, especially in low-income white, Black, Brown, and Native American communities who too often don’t have clean air and clean water is not going to be easy.

But it is necessary. And we are committed to facing climate change by delivering environmental justice. 

These aren’t pie-in-the-sky dreams. These are concrete, actionable solutions.

And this team will get them done. 

For Secretary of the Interior, I nominate Congresswoman Deb Haaland.

She’s of the Pueblo people. A 35th-generation New Mexican.

She’s from a military family. Her mom, also Pueblo, served in the United States Navy. Her dad, Norwegian American, a Marine now buried in Arlington.

A single mom, she raised her child while running a small business.

When times were tough, they relied on food stamps.

Congresswoman Haaland graduated from law school and got involved in politics.

Two years ago, she became one of the first Native American women to serve in Congress.

She serves on the Armed Services Committee, and Committee on Natural Resources, and Chairs the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands, where she’s earned the respect 
of a broad coalition of people — from tribal leaders to environmental groups to labor. 

As the first Native American Cabinet Secretary in the history of the United States of America, she will be a true steward of our national parks, natural resources, and all of our lands.

The federal government has long broken promises to Native American tribes who have been on this land since time immemorial. 

With her appointment, Congresswoman Haaland will help me strengthen the nation-to-nation relationship, and I am honored she accepted this critical role.

For Secretary of Energy, I nominate Jennifer Granholm.

The first woman to ever serve as Governor of Michigan.

In 2009, she faced the collapse of a defining industry of her state and our nation.

But I saw firsthand how she responded. She bet on the autoworkers. She bet on the promise of a clean energy future.

Her leadership helped rescue the American auto industry, helped save one million American jobs, and helped bring Detroit back.

Governor Granholm is just like the state she led so effectively for eight years: hard-working, resilient, and forward-thinking.

Someone not only capable of solving urgent problems, but someone who sees the opportunities of the future always with her eyes on the needs and aspirations of working people.

Throughout her career, she’s worked with states, cities, business, and labor to promote a clean energy future with new jobs, new industries, cleaner and more affordable energy. 

Now, I’m asking her to bring that vision and faith in America to the Department of Energy. 

For Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, I nominate Michael Regan.

A proud son of North Carolina, he turned a passion for exploring the woods and waters of the Inner Coastal Plain into a deep expertise in environmental science.

He got his start at the EPA serving in both Democratic and Republican Administrations, working on everything from reducing air pollution to improving energy efficiency.

He currently serves as Secretary of North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality, 
where he’s brought people together across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to help build a new clean energy economy, creating quality jobs, and confronting climate change.

He led the charge to clean up the Cape Fear River, contaminated for years by dangerous toxic chemicals.

And he created North Carolina’s first board of its kind to address environmental justice and equity. 

It helps lift up frontline and fenceline communities who had carried the burdens of industrial progress for too long, without sharing in the benefits.

Michael would be the second African American official and first African American man to serve in this position.

He shares my belief in forging consensus and finding common purpose.

He is the leader who will reassert the EPA’s place as the world’s premier environmental protection agency that safeguards our planet, protects our lives, and strengthens our economy for all Americans.

For Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, I nominate Brenda Mallory.

An accomplished public servant. A brilliant environmental lawyer.

A daughter of a working-class family who has dedicated her life to solving the most complex environmental challenges facing America.

She has served in both Democratic and Republican administrations, helping safeguard our public lands and helping communities manage their natural resources responsibly.

As Chair of CEQ, I’m asking her to coordinate our environmental efforts across the entire federal government to solve some of the most persistent environmental problems America faces today. 

Brenda would be the first African American official to hold this critical position. 

We are fortunate that one of the most widely respected environmental leaders in the country accepted the call to serve again.

To serve as the first-ever National Climate Advisor and lead the newly formed White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy, I appoint Gina McCarthy.

The fact I’ve asked a former EPA Administrator to take this role and lead this new office shows how serious I am.

Gina’s got more than 30 years of experience.

She’s a policy wonk and a people person. 

A problem-solver and coalition builder.

As EPA Administrator, she was instrumental in carrying out the Obama-Biden Climate Action Plan.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Getting toxins out of the air we breathe. Conserving critical water sources.

She led our effort to help lower carbon emissions of existing power plants and power plants of the future.

And by doing the necessary work here at home, she helped us rally the world around the Paris Climate Accords.

Today, I’m asking her to take a singular focus on carrying out our ambitious climate agenda 
here at home, while my Special Envoy John Kerry leads our climate efforts around the world.

I’m grateful to work alongside her again.

And to serve as Deputy National Climate Advisor, I appoint Ali Zaidi.

He served as a top climate advisor to President Obama and me at the Office of Management and Budget and the Domestic Policy Council. 

He helped draft and implement our Climate Action Plan and secure the Paris Climate Agreement.

He currently serves as New York’s Deputy Secretary of Energy and Environment and the State’s Chairman of Climate Policy and Finance.

He’s helping to create jobs generating solar and wind power, jobs building electric charging stations and a more modern grid, bold climate action grounded in science, economics, and public health.

And, he’s an immigrant from Pakistan who grew up in the Rust Belt, outside Erie, Pennsylvania.

Ali knows we can beat the climate crisis with jobs. 

He knows we can deliver environmental justice and revitalize communities too often overlooked and forgotten. 

And every day he’ll walk into the White House, knowing the world is looking for America to lead.

To each of you, thank you for answering the call to serve.

To your families, thank you. 

We could not do this without you or them.

To the career civil servants at these agencies, we look forward to working with you to once again carry out your department’s mission with honor and integrity.

And to the American people — yes, the goals I’ve laid today are bold. 

The challenges ahead are daunting.

But I want you to know that we can do this.

We must do this. 

And we will do this.

We are America. 

And there’s nothing we can’t do when we work together.

May God bless you all.

May God protect our troops.

Congresswoman Deb Haaland is Biden’s nominee for Secretary of Interior, the first Native American to be nominated for cabinet member: “We know that climate change can only be solved with participation of every department and of every community coming together in common purpose — this country can and will tackle this challenge.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com 

Remarks by Nominee for Secretary of Interior, Deb Haaland

I’m proud to stand here — on the ancestral homelands of the Lenape Tribal Nation. 

The president-elect and vice president-elect are committed to a diverse cabinet, and I’m honored and humbled to accept their nomination for Secretary of the Interior. 

Growing up in my mother’s Pueblo household made me fierce. My life has not been easy — I struggled with homelessness, relied on food stamps, and raised my child as a single mom. 

These struggles give me perspective to help people succeed. 

My grandparents — who were taken away from their families as children and sent to boarding school, in an effort to destroy their traditions and identities — maintained our culture. 

This moment is profound when we consider the fact that a former Secretary of the Interior once proclaimed it his goal to, quote, ‘civilize or exterminate’ us. I’m a living testament to the failure of that horrific ideology.

I also stand on the shoulders of my ancestors, and all the people who have sacrificed so that I can be here. 

My dad was a US Marine, and no matter where we were stationed, he made sure we spent time outdoors. 

Time with my dad in the mountains or on the beach and time with my grandparents in the cornfield at Laguna taught me to respect the Earth and to value our resources. I carry those values with me everywhere. I’m a product of their resilience. 

As our country faces the impacts of climate change and environmental injustice, the Interior Department has a role to address these challenges. 

The president-elect’s goals are driven by justice and empowering communities who have shouldered the burdens of environmental negligence.  

And we will ensure that the decisions at Interior will once again be driven by science.

We know that climate change can only be solved with participation of every department and of every community coming together in common purpose — this country can and will tackle this challenge. 

The president-elect and vice president-elect know that issues under Interior’s jurisdiction aren’t simply about conservation — they’re woven in with justice, good jobs, and closing the racial, wealth, and health gaps. 

This historic moment will not go by without the acknowledgment of the many people who have believed in me over the years and had the confidence in me for this position.

I’ll be fierce for all of us, for our planet, and all of our protected land.

I am honored and ready to serve.

Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, is nominated to become Secretary of Energy: “The path to building back better starts with building and deploying those products here, stamping them Made in America, and exporting them around the world. We can win those jobs for American workers.”© Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com 

Remarks by Nominee for Secretary of Energy,  Jennifer Granholm

Mr. President-elect, Madam Vice President-elect — thank you for your confidence.

I bring my gratitude, and that of the loves of my life: My best friend and husband Dan Mulhern, my glorious children and their equally magnificent spouses — Connor and Alexis, Cece and Damián, and Jack.  

My commitment to clean energy was forged in the fire.

I was the Governor of Michigan when the Great Recession struck, pushing the auto industry — the lifeblood of our state — to the brink of collapse.

Workers were losing their jobs through no fault of their own.

Banks wouldn’t lend; families lost their homes; our unemployment rate shot up to 15 percent.

But then, thankfully, as now, “help was on the way.”

Joe Biden and the Obama administration worked with us to rescue the auto industry, save a million jobs, retool and electrify Detroit for the future, and diversify Michigan’s economy on the strength of a new sector: clean energy.

Today, in the midst of another harrowing crisis, clean energy remains one of the most promising economic growth sectors in the world.

Over the next two decades, countries will invest trillions of dollars in electric cars, solar panels, wind turbines, and energy-efficient appliances and buildings.

They’ll upgrade their electric grids using smart technology.

Millions of good-paying jobs will be created — but where will those jobs be?

In China, or other countries fighting tooth-and-nail to corner the clean energy market? Or here in America?

The path to building back better starts with building and deploying those products here, stamping them Made in America, and exporting them around the world.

We can win those jobs for American workers. 

I know what those jobs will mean for families.

Though I’m proud to have been a U.S. citizen for 40 years, I arrived here as a Canadian immigrant at age four, brought by parents seeking opportunity. 

My mom is a funny and fierce Irish/Welsh “Newfie” from Newfoundland, Canada — an island fishing province they call “The Rock.”

Like many women in her generation, she never went to college.

My dad died earlier this year of a cerebral hemorrhage.

He was born into extreme poverty, in a cabin in rural Canada with no running water.

My grandfather had immigrated from Sweden during the depression; unable to find a job to provide for his young family, he shot himself in desperation when my dad was three years old.

My grandmother became a single mom, with three young children, living in dire poverty.

My dad found work at a sawmill at 11. And after he married my mom, they came to America for better jobs.  

Despite not having a college degree, my hard-working, gentle dad got the fair chance he was looking for in America — he started out as a bank teller, and retired as head of the bank.

It is because of my family’s journey — and my experience fighting for hardworking Michigan families — that I have become obsessed.

Obsessed with creating good-paying jobs in America — obsessed with seizing the opportunities of a clean energy future.

We can let other countries beat us to those opportunities, or we can get in the game.

I’m so ready, and honored, Coach, that you are putting me on the field with this amazing team — to help create those jobs in every pocket of this country, and especially in the hardest-hit places, for the people still waiting on the fair chance they need.

Thank you for tapping me to work on their behalf.

Biden nominated Michael Regan to Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency: “We need an all-hands-on-deck approach from industry to individuals, finding common ground to build back better for workers, for communities, for our economy, and for our planet. And that’s what we’ll pursue together.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com 

Remarks by Nominee for Administrator of the EPA, Michael Regan

Mr. President-elect, Madam Vice President-elect: Thank you for this opportunity.

Growing up as a child, hunting and fishing with my father and grandfather in eastern North Carolina — I developed a deep love and respect for the outdoors and our natural resources.

But I also experienced respiratory issues that required me to use an inhaler on days when pollutants and allergens were especially bad.

I’ve always been curious about the connections between our environment and our health — how the world around us contributes to, or detracts from, our enjoyment of life.

So after completing my education in environmental science, there was one place in particular I wanted to work: the EPA.

When I started that first summer internship, I never imagined I would one day be nominated to lead the agency as its Administrator.

So this opportunity is a dream come true.

Since the start of my career, my goals have been the same: To safeguard our natural resources; to improve the quality of our air and water; to protect families and communities and help them seize the opportunities of a cleaner, healthier world.

Now, I’m honored to pursue those goals alongside leaders who understand what’s at stake.

When President-elect Biden called out the plight of fenceline communities during the campaign, he made it clear that we would no longer just deal with issues up to the fencelines of facilities —  we would actually see the people on the other side of those fences.

He has already backed up that commitment by assembling a team that reflects America — and I’m proud to join the vice president-elect as a fellow HBCU graduate in this administration.

Together, this team will ensure that environmental justice and human impacts are top of mind as we tackle the tough issues.

After nearly a decade at the EPA, I know firsthand the remarkable dedication and talent of the career staff.

And as a state official, I understand how the actions of the EPA can help or hurt local efforts.

We are going to ensure that the EPA is once again a strong partner for the states — not a roadblock.

We will be driven by our conviction that every person in our great country has the right to clean air, clean water, and a healthier life no matter how much money they have in their pocket, the color of their skin, or what community they live in.

We will move with urgency on climate change, protecting our drinking water, and enacting an environmental justice framework that empowers people in all communities.

But we also know that these challenges can’t be solved by regulation alone.

And we know that environmental protection and economic prosperity are not mutually exclusive — they go hand in hand.

We need an all-hands-on-deck approach from industry to individuals, finding common ground to build back better for workers, for communities, for our economy, and for our planet.

And that’s what we’ll pursue together. 

I look forward to continuing that work on behalf of the American people.

Biden is appointing environmental lawyer Brenda Mallory as Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality: “CEQ will work with a broad range of partners on a broad range of issues, tackle the full breadth of climate change, preserve the natural treasures of our nation, center environmental justice, and help more communities overcome legacy environmental impacts.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com 

Remarks by Appointee for Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, Brenda Mallory

Mr. President-elect — Madam Vice President-elect —I am honored and humbled by the trust you’ve placed in me, and I look forward to getting to work with this incredible team.

I am especially grateful for this chance to return to public service at a time when agency personnel are looking for optimism, and so many communities are struggling under the weight of persistent and interwoven crises.

I know first-hand the challenges that everyday people face when one unexpected illness or expense can upend the economic stability of a family.

I grew up in the working-class community of Waterbury, Connecticut — a town not so different from Scranton, Pennsylvania.

I know the faces of the marginalized, and I appreciate the challenges of urban pollution. 

While the words climate change and environmental injustice were not part of my vernacular back then, the evidence of their impacts was all around.

In that setting, there was plenty of opportunity to work to make a difference in people’s lives.

For my parents, and particularly my father, dedication to tackling community challenges was vitally important.

Service, in all its forms, was essential.

They taught me to be a problem-solver — to recognize that each of us is blessed with different talents, and we are called to bring those gifts to bear wherever we are to work with anyone and everyone to make things better in the communities we share.

This has been a driving force and a guiding principle on my journey. 

I earned a high school scholarship that changed the course of my life. 

I became the first in my family to go to college, I attended law school, and at each stage, I was aware of how different the world I came from was from the one I was entering.

I didn’t set out to specialize in environmental issues, but once I started, I was always mindful of the practical implications of decisions.

As a staffer at the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights, I learned that environmental protection and ensuring the health and wellbeing of all communities had to be reconciled.  

It is essential that we deploy smart and humane policy to help communities pull themselves back from the edge and improve the health, security, and prosperity of all their people.

The Build Back Better plan is poised to breathe new life into the Council on Environmental Quality. 

CEQ will work with a broad range of partners on a broad range of issues, tackle the full breadth of climate change, preserve the natural treasures of our nation, center environmental justice, and help more communities overcome legacy environmental impacts.

I am grateful to the President-elect and the Vice President-elect for elevating this work and lifting up the communities where it will make a world of difference.

Thank you for this opportunity to serve.

Gina McCarthy, the former EPA Administrator, will be the first-ever National Climate Advisor and head of the newly formed White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy: “Climate change isn’t only a threat to the planet — it’s a threat to the health and wellbeing of people, and the precious natural resources we depend on. Defeating that threat is the fight of our lifetimes. And our success will require the engagement of every community and every sector in our nation, and every country across our world.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Remarks by Appointee for White House Climate Coordinator, Gina McCarthy

Mr. President-elect — Madam Vice President-elect—

Thank you for the opportunity to serve — and to work alongside this talented team.

The issues I’ll be taking on in this role are personal to me, and have been for as long as I can remember.

As keen listeners may have already guessed, I grew up in and around Boston.

My Dad was a teacher in the Boston Schools for more than 40 years; my Mom waitressed in local doughnut shops.

Looking back, I guess we were a lower-middle-class family. Instead of expensive vacations, my sisters and I did our adventuring in our backyard, playing in the woods and around ponds in our hometown.  

A beach day for our family was a swim in Boston Harbor.

That meant coming out of the water with oil and other things stuck to our skin — so we’d have to dry and clean ourselves at the same time.

That was back in the 60s, before the first Earth Day — not the Boston Harbor of today.  

I can remember jumping up to close the windows in my classroom when the chemical stench from the nearby rubber factory would start wafting in.

That smell kept us from outside recess on more days than I cared to remember. 

So I figured out early on that there was a connection between our environment and our health.  

And that understanding drew me into a long career of public service helping families and communities like mine, and those facing much steeper and more insidious legacies of environmental harm to overcome the challenges that were holding them back.

Environmental protection is part of my moral fiber.

And I am proud of the progress we’ve made and the work I did in local and state governments as well as at EPA to make air and water cleaner, make communities safer and more livable, and begin to confront climate change.

I’m here today because climate change isn’t only a threat to the planet — it’s a threat to the health and wellbeing of people, and the precious natural resources we depend on.

Defeating that threat is the fight of our lifetimes.

And our success will require the engagement of every community and every sector in our nation, and every country across our world. 

But the opportunities to act on climate right now fill me with hope, energy, and excitement.

We not only have the responsibility to meet this moment together, we have the capacity to meet this moment together.

The President-elect has put together the strongest climate plan ever raised to this level of leadership.

It rises to this incredible moment of opportunity to build back better for our health, for jobs, and for communities that have been systemically disadvantaged for years.

It will be my honor to help turn this plan into promises kept by marshaling every part of our government, working directly with communities, and harnessing the forces of science — and the values of environmental justice — to build a better future for my two—soon to be three—little grandchildren, and for generations of Americans to come.

Thank you for this opportunity to help put Americans back to work in innovative, good-paying jobs to improve the health of our communities and to help clear the path for people in every hometown in America to live brighter, cleaner, more vibrant lives.

 

Biden is appointing Ali Zaidi his Deputy National Climate Advisor: “For our planet and the people who live here, the peril of the climate crisis is already evident. But we can also see the promise in the jobs — casting and machining, installing and rewiring, pouring new foundations and building new industries. And in the possibility of repairing communities hurt places where the pollution has been heavy, and opportunity has never quite reached.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com 

Remarks by Appointee for Deputy White House Climate Coordinator, Ali Zaidi

Thank you President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris.

I am deeply honored to answer your call to serve this nation that I love, especially at this moment of consequence.

For our planet and the people who live here, the peril of the climate crisis is already evident.

But we can also see the promise in the jobs — casting and machining, installing and rewiring, pouring new foundations and building new industries. 

And in the possibility of repairing communities hurt places where the pollution has been heavy, and opportunity has never quite reached.

Mr. President-elect & Madam Vice President-elect, you campaigned on delivering that promise by mounting a response equal to this existential threat, not only by listening to the science, but also by invigorating the economy. Revving up manufacturing and innovation, spurring good-paying union jobs and advancing justice — long overdue.

Leading by the example of America at its best.

When my parents moved from Pakistan to Pennsylvania, they brought two little kids — and a few suitcases of dreams.

Dreams their kids are living today: 

Danish, my brother: a doctor on the frontlines of the COVID crisis, and me: moving to frontlines of the fight against climate change.

To be healthy, to have purpose, and to be able to give back — that is how our parents taught us to define the American Dream.

I am so grateful to be serving alongside the team you have assembled.

Grateful for Gina McCarthy, my guide and good friend, for the incredible and inspiring leaders on this stage, and for those with whom we’ll partner all across your administration.

This has been a trying year for all Americans — marked by so much loss. But throughout, you have been there for us. 

And when the pandemic hit closer to home, you were there for me.

Mr. President-elect, that is who you are.  A person of faith and family, decency and goodness. 

Your leadership gives me hope.    

My students, scientists imagining and inventing, give me hope

Young organizers, mobilizing and advocating, give me hope

And together, I know: We will meet this moment.

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris: “These public servants reflect the very best of America. And they are the team we need to meet this urgent challenge.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com 

Remarks Vice President-elect Kamala Harris

A few months ago, as wildfires raged across the West, I traveled home to California. 

What I saw on that trip — and so many others in recent years — was heartbreaking.

Charred playgrounds.

Homes and neighborhoods in ashes. 

Firefighters battling fires, while their own homes burned to the ground.

Some of the most toxic air, anywhere in the world. 

Two years ago, in 2018, when I visited communities like Paradise that had been devastated by wildfires, that year’s fire season was considered the worst in California’s history. 

This fire season was even worse. The worst in California’s history — and America’s history. 

And of course, fires are only one symptom of our growing climate crisis. 

In recent years, families across the Midwest have experienced historic flooding, while families along our coasts have endured some of the most active hurricane seasons on record. 

They only name a storm if it’s particularly dangerous. This year, we had more named storms than ever before.

Our climate crisis is not a partisan issue. 

And it is not a hoax. 

It is an existential threat to all of us, particularly poor communities and communities of color who bear the greatest risks from polluted air, polluted water, and a failing infrastructure. 

Years ago, when I was District Attorney in San Francisco, I created the first environmental justice unit in the city — and one of the first in our country. 

Because I believe that everyone has a right to breathe clean air and drink clean water. 

So does the president-elect. 

Part of the reason I was so proud to join him as his running mate was because he was proposing one of the most ambitious climate plans in history.

A plan to secure carbon-pollution free electricity by 2035. 

A plan to achieve net-zero emissions no later than 2050.

A plan to invest in a clean energy future, and create millions of good-paying, union jobs, along the way.

And the team that President-elect Biden and I are announcing today will help make that plan a reality.

They are some of our country’s most seasoned public servants and climate experts.

They have experience mastering the most effective ways to get things done when it comes to climate change. 

They recognize the importance of bringing the private sector and organized labor together with government to meet this challenge, and confront this crisis head-on with our allies and partners around the world.

And they are compassionate leaders who understand that, ultimately, addressing climate change is about building safer communities, and healthier communities, and thriving communities, for all Americans.

These public servants reflect the very best of America. And they are the team we need to meet this urgent challenge. 

In his 2015 encyclical, the Holy Father Pope Francis wrote — quote: “Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home.”

Starting on January 20th, we will work to heed those words and come together, here in our country and around the world, to build and protect our common home for generations to come.

Thank you, Mr. President-elect.

President-Elect Biden, After Electoral College Vote: ‘In America, Politicians Don’t Take Power — the People Grant Power to Them’

Joe Biden officially became President-Elect with the conclusion of the Electoral College vote. “In America, politicians don’t take power — the people grant power to them,” Biden said in remarks to the nation © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Joe Biden officially became President-Elect with the conclusion of the Electoral College vote cementing Joe Biden’s victory with 306 votes to Donald Trump’s 232.  After weeks of keeping silent as the Trump campaign brought 60 lawsuits in the hopes of the Supreme Court ultimately declaring Trump the winner, Biden delivered a rebuke of the efforts by Trump and the Republicans to overturn the election, as notable for the most votes cast in history and the most votes won by a candidate in history,  by disenfranchising millions of voters, mostly Black, but declared democracy “resilient, true and strong.”

In America, politicians don’t take power — the people grant power to them,” Biden declared.

He attacked the unprecedented, relentless but baseless court challenges, culminating in Texas seeking to overturn the results in four swing states, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Georgia to “wipe out the votes of more than 20 million Americans in other states and to hand the presidency to a candidate who lost the Electoral College, lost the popular vote, and lost each and every one of the states whose votes they were trying to reverse.

It’s a position so extreme we’ve never seen it before. A position that refused to respect the will of the people, refused to respect the rule of law, and refused to honor our Constitution. Thankfully, a unanimous Supreme Court immediately and completely rejected this effort…

“In this battle for the soul of America, democracy prevailed. We the People voted. Faith in our institutions held. The integrity of our elections remains intact. Now it is time to turn the page as we’ve done throughout our history.”

Here is a highlighted transcript of his remarks, as prepared for delivery:

Good evening, my fellow Americans. 

Over the past few weeks, officials in each state, commonwealth, and district, without regard to party or political preference have certified their winning candidate.  

Today, the members of the Electoral College representing the certified winner, cast their votes for President and Vice President of the United States in an act just as old as our nation itself. 

And once again in America, the rule of law, our Constitution, and the will of the people have prevailed.

Our democracy — pushed, tested, threatened — proved to be resilient, true, and strong.

The Electoral College votes which occurred today reflect the fact that even in the face of a public health crisis unlike anything we have experienced in our lifetimes, the people voted. 

They voted in record numbers. More Americans voted this year than have ever voted in the history of the United States of America. Over 155 million Americans were determined to have their voices heard and their votes counted.

At the start of the pandemic crisis, many were wondering how many Americans would vote at all. But those fears proved to be unfounded. 

We saw something very few predicted or even thought possible — the biggest voter turnout ever in the history of the United States of America. 

Numbers so big that this election now ranks as the clearest demonstration of the true will of the American people — one of the most amazing demonstrations of civic duty we’ve ever seen in our country. 

It should be celebrated, not attacked.

More than 81 million of those votes were cast for me and Vice President-elect Harris. 

This too is a record number. More votes than any ticket has received in the history of America. 

It represented a winning margin of more than 7 million votes over the number of votes cast for President Trump and Vice President Pence.

Altogether, Vice President-elect Harris and I earned 306 electoral votes — well exceeding the 270 electoral votes needed to secure victory.  

306 electoral votes is the same number of electoral votes Donald Trump and Mike Pence received in 2016. 

At that time, President Trump called his Electoral College tally a landslide. 

By his own standards, these numbers represented a clear victory then. 

And I respectfully suggest they do so now.

If anyone didn’t know it before, they know it now.  

What beats deep in the hearts of the American people is this: Democracy. 

The right to be heard. 

To have your vote counted. 

To choose the leaders of this nation.

To govern ourselves. 

In America, politicians don’t take power — the people grant power to them. 

The flame of democracy was lit in this nation a long time ago. And we now know that nothing, not even a pandemic or an abuse of power, can extinguish that flame.

And as the people kept it aflame, so, too did courageous state and local officials and election workers. 

American democracy works because Americans make it work at the local level. 

One of the extraordinary things we saw this year was these everyday Americans — our friends and neighbors, often volunteers, Democrats and Republicans and Independents — demonstrating absolute courage. They showed a deep and unwavering faith in and a commitment to the law. 

They did their duty in the face of a pandemic.

And then they could not and would not give credence to what they knew was not true. 

They knew the elections they oversaw were honest and free and fair. 

They saw it with their own eyes. 

And they wouldn’t be bullied into saying anything different. 

It was truly remarkable because so many of these patriotic Americans were subjected to so much: enormous political pressure, verbal abuse, and even threats of physical violence. 

While we all wish that our fellow Americans in these positions will always show such courage and commitment to free and fair elections, I hope we never again see anyone subjected to the kind of threats and abuse we saw in this election. 

It is unconscionable. 

We owe these public servants a debt of gratitude. They didn’t seek the spotlight, and our democracy survived because of them. 

Which is proof once more that it’s the everyday American — infused with honor and character and decency — that is the heart of this nation.

And in this election, their integrity was matched by the strength, independence, and the integrity of our judicial system. 

In America, when questions are raised about the legitimacy of any election, those questions are resolved through a legal process. 

And that is precisely what happened here. 

The Trump campaign brought dozens and dozens and dozens of legal challenges to test the results. 

They were heard.  And they were found to be without merit. 

Time and again, President Trump’s lawyers presented their arguments to state officials, state legislatures, state and federal courts, and ultimately to the United States Supreme Court, twice.

They were heard by more than 80 judges across the country. 

And in every case, no cause or evidence was found to reverse or question or dispute the results.  

A few states went to recounts. All of the counts were confirmed.

The results in Georgia were counted three times. It did not change the outcome. 

The recount conducted in Wisconsin actually saw our margin grow. 

The margin we had in Michigan was fourteen times the margin President Trump won the state by four years ago. 

Our margin in Pennsylvania was nearly twice the size of President Trump’s margin four years ago.

And yet none of this has stopped baseless claims about the legitimacy of the results. 

Even more stunning, 17 Republican Attorneys General and 126 Republican Members of Congress actually signed on to a lawsuit filed by the State of Texas. It asked the United States Supreme Court to reject the certified vote counts in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. 

This legal maneuver was an effort by elected officials in one group of states to try to get the Supreme Court to wipe out the votes of more than twenty million Americans in other states and to hand the presidency to a candidate who lost the Electoral College, lost the popular vote, and lost each and every one of the states whose votes they were trying to reverse. 

It’s a position so extreme we’ve never seen it before. A position that refused to respect the will of the people, refused to respect the rule of law, and refused to honor our Constitution.

Thankfully, a unanimous Supreme Court immediately and completely rejected this effort. 

The Court sent a clear signal to President Trump and his allies that they would be no part of this unprecedented assault on our democracy. 

Every avenue was made available to President Trump to contest the results. 

He took full advantage of each and every one of these avenues. 

President Trump was denied no course of action he wanted to take. 

He took his case to Republican Governors and Republican Secretaries of State. To Republican state legislatures. To Republican-appointed judges at every level. 

And in a case decided after the Supreme Court’s latest rejection, a judge appointed by President Trump wrote: “This court has allowed the plaintiff the chance to make his case, and he has lost on the merits.”

Even President Trump’s own cybersecurity chief overseeing our elections said it was the most secure in American history.

Let me say it again, his own cybersecurity chief overseeing this election said it was the most secure in American history.

Respecting the will of the people is at the heart of our democracy — even when we find those results hard to accept. 

But that is the obligation of those who have taken a sworn duty to uphold our Constitution.

Four years ago, as the sitting Vice President of the United States, it was my responsibility to announce the tally of the Electoral College votes that elected Donald Trump.

I did my job. 

And I am pleased — but not surprised — that a number of my former Republican colleagues in the Senate have acknowledged the results of the Electoral College.

I thank them. I am convinced we can work together for the good of the nation.

That is the duty owed to the people, to our Constitution, and to history.

In this battle for the soul of America, democracy prevailed.

We the People voted. 

Faith in our institutions held. 

The integrity of our elections remains intact.


Now it is time to turn the page as we’ve done throughout our history.

To unite. To heal.

As I said through this campaign, I will be a president for all Americans.

I will work just as hard for those of you who didn’t vote for me, as I will for those who did.

There is urgent work in front of us all.

Getting the pandemic under control and getting the nation vaccinated against this virus.

Delivering immediate economic help so badly needed by so many Americans who are hurting today — and then building our economy back better than ever.

In doing so, we need to work together, give each other a chance, and lower the temperature.

And most of all, we need to stand in solidarity as fellow Americans. To see each other, our pains, our struggles, our hopes, our dreams. 

We are a great nation. 

We are a good people.

We may come from different places and hold different beliefs, but we share a love for this country. A belief in its limitless possibilities.

For we, the United States of America, have always set the example for the world for the peaceful transition of power.

We will do so again.

I know the task before us will not be easy. 

It’s tempered by the pain so many of us are feeling.

Today, our nation passed a grim milestone, 300,000 deaths due to this virus.

My heart goes out to all of you in this dark winter of the pandemic about to spend the holidays and the new year with a black hole in your hearts and without the ones you love by your side.

My heart goes out to all of you who have fallen on hard times through no fault of your own, unable to sleep at night, weighed down with the worry of what tomorrow will bring for you and for your family.

But we have faced difficult times before in our history.

And I know we will get through this one, together.

And so, as we start the hard work to be done, may this moment give us the strength to rebuild this house of ours upon a rock that can never be washed away. 

And as in the Prayer of St. Francis, for where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith, where there is darkness, light.

This is who we are as a nation. 

This is the America we love. 

And that is the America we will be.

May God bless you all.

May God protect our troops and all those who stand watch over our democracy.