1:44 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. Excuse me. I’d like to start by saying a few words about the ransomware cyberattack currently impacting Colonial Pipeline. This is something that my administration — our administration have been tracking extremely carefully. And I have been perfectly — personally briefed every day.
The Department of Energy is working directly with Colonial to get the pipelines back online and operating at full capacity as quickly and safely as possible.
The FBI also is engaged to assess the — and address this attack. The agencies across the government have attacked quifly — quickly to mitigate any impact on our fuel supply.
And over the weekend, at my direction, the Department of Transportation issued an emergency order to loosen restrictions on truck drivers in order to allow more fuel to be transported via tanker.
We’re prepared to take additional steps, depending on how quickly the company is able to bring its pipeline back to full operational capacity.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has determined Colonial’s network was infected by ransomware, and it’s a criminal act, obviously. The FBI released details of the attack so others can take steps to prevent being infected.
My administration takes issue — this — takes this very seriously. We have efforts underway with the FBI and DOJ — Department of Justice — to disrupt and — and prosecute ransomware criminals. And my administration will be pursuing a global effort of ransomware attacks by transnational criminals who often use global money-laundering networks to carry them out.
My administration is also committed to safeguarding our critical infrastructure, which — much of which is privately owned and managed, like Colonial. Private entities are making their own determination on cybersecurity.
So to jumpstart greater private-sector investment in cybersecurity, we launched a new public-private initiative in April. It begins with a 100-day sprint to improve cybersecurity in the electric sector, and we’ll follow that with similar initiatives in natural gas pipelines, water, and other sectors.
In addition to companies stepping up, we need to invest to safeguard our critical infrastructure. That’s one of the many things my American Jobs Plan is designed to do.
I also want to update the people on the progress that we’ve made in our recovery and the next steps that we’re going to be taking.
As we learned Friday, the economy created 266,000 jobs in April. In fact, altogether, since the time we took office, we’ve created more than 1.5 million jobs in the country. It’s the most jobs created in the first 100 days of any President on record: more than three times the solid job creation that President Carter [Clinton] saw in his first 100 days and more than six times what President Reagan saw.
In the three months before I got here, our country was creating roughly 60,000 jobs a month. In the three months since we’ve gotten here, we’ve been creating 500- — on average, 500,000 jobs per month.
In the first quarter, our economy grew at 6.4 percent rate, outpacing the growth we’re seeing from other — our friends in the Eurozone.
Because of the American Rescue Plan, forecrast- — forecasters are projecting we’ll see the fastest economic growth in nearly 40 years in the months to come. We’re moving in the right direction.
So let’s be clear: Our economic plan is working. I never said — and no serious analyst ever suggested — that climbing out of the deep, deep hole our economy was in would be simple, easy, immediate, or perfectly steady. Remember, 22 million Americans lost their jobs in this pandemic.
So, some months will exceed expectations; others will fall short. The question is, “What is the trendline? Are we headed in the right direction? Are we taking the right steps to keep it going?” And the answer, clearly, is yes.
I also want to offer a bit more detail on the month’s jobs numbers, in particular. These months — these monthly reports are snapshot, as you all know. A one — it’s a — they take one week, a moment in time. Since this snapshot was taken around the week of April the 12th — since then, COVID-19 counts are down by more than 40 percent since then, and vaccination rates among working-age Americans has roughly doubled since then.
This survey was taken before adults — before every adult was eligible to be vaccinated. So, back then, 18 percent of working-age adults were fully vaccinated. Today, if it were taken, 34 percent are fully vaccinated.
No wonder things in America feel better today than they did back when the survey was taken.
With that context, here are the steps we’re going to be taking to maintain our progress. First, today we’re opening a portal for state and local governments to apply for their — the first funds from the American Rescue Plan. Because states and local governments have to balance their budgets, a lot of them had to lay off employees when the economy — state and federal — state employees and local employees when the economy slowed and tax revenues fell. We’re talking about 1.3 million state and local employees out of work.
Now — but now the money we’re distributing — going to be distributing now is going to make it possible for an awful lot of educators, first responders, sanitation workers to go back to work.
Second — this is a yearlong program. Second, we’re delivering assistance to tens of thousands of restaurants and bars across the country. Today, we’re sending out the first relief checks to 16,000 hard-hit restaurants with help for many more to follow. A lot more people are going to be employed.
Third, the employers bring back laid-off workers. To help them do that, we’re going to remind them that there is some progress they can take advantage — some programs they can take advantage of.
For example, employers can hire back their laid-off workers part time without those workers having to give up all of their unemployment benefits.
Here is another example: In the American Rescue Plan, we expanded a tax incentive called “Employee Retention Tax Credit.” This can provide a recovering small- or medium-sized — a small- or medium-sized business a direct credit for each worker they keep on or a job that they rehire.
Fourth, we’re going to provide real help for people struggling with the challenge of childcare, which is making it hard for many parents who need to work — especially women — to get back to work.
During this crisis, thousands of childcare providers and centers were forced to close because they couldn’t make ends meet with fewer students and higher costs to keep them safe. As a result, parents lost support — lost the support system they depended on for childcare, and tens of thousands of childcare workers lost their jobs. In fact, there are 150,000 fewer childcare jobs now than there were pre-pandemic.
The American Rescue Plan has already allocated funds to states to address the immediate challenge to our economy and of too few childcare operations. This is a largest investment in childcare since World War Two.
Today, my administration is releasing guidance to states to help get the funds they need out the door as quickly as possible to allow dramatic expansion and availability of childcare in this country. With these funds, states can help hundreds of thousands of providers reopen and stay open and provide safe and healthy learning environments for more than 5 million children.
These funds will also allow states to provide over 800,000 families with subsidies to pay for childcare. Simply put, it’s going to help working parents get back to work. This one-time investment is a — is a real answer to a real problem where our economy is facing right now.
Look, the fifth thing we’re going to do: We’re going to make it clear that anyone collecting unemployment who is offered a suitable job must take the job or lose their unemployment benefits. There are a few COVID-19-related exceptions so that people aren’t forced to choose between their basic safety and a paycheck, but, otherwise, that’s the law.
I know there’s been a lot of discussion since Friday — since Friday’s report that people are being paid to stay home rather than go to work. Well, we don’t see much evidence of that. That is a major factor — we don’t see that — that — look, it’s easy to say — the line has been, because of the generous unemployment benefits, that it’s a major factor in labor shortages.
Americans want to work. Americans want to work. And as my dad used to say, “A job is about a lot more than a paycheck; it’s about your dignity, your place in the community, being able to look your kid in the eye and say, ‘Everything is going to be okay.'”
I think the people who claim Americans won’t work even if they find a good and fair opportunity underestimate the American people. So we’ll insist that the law is followed with respect to benefits, but we’re not going to turn our backs on our fellow Americans.
Twenty-two million people lost their jobs in this pandemic through no fault of their own. They lost their jobs to a virus, and to a government that bungled its response to the crisis and failed to protect them.
We still have 8 million fewer jobs than we did when the pandemic started. And for many of those folks, unemployment benefits are a lifeline. No one should be allowed to game the system and we’ll insist the law is followed, but let’s not take our eye off the ball.
Families — families who are just trying to put food on the table, keep a roof over their head — they aren’t the problem. We need to stay focused on the real problems in front of us: beating this pandemic and creating jobs.
Again, the law is clear: If you’re receiving unemployment benefits and you’re offered a suitable job, you can’t refuse that job and just keep getting the unemployment benefits.
We’re also working to overcome all the barriers that may be making it harder for people to get back to work: childcare, getting vaccinated, getting schools open. We’re making progress in all these things. And we need others to step up and play a role as well.
For example, we need employers to step up in a couple of ways. First, we need them to get help to their people and get them vaccinated.
Two weeks ago, I announced that we will provide a tax credit to employers if they give workers paid time off to get a shot and recover from the effects of the — the side effects, if there are any. Our economy can’t achieve its full potential until we get more people vaccinated. Employers can help that.
And we also need to recognize that people will come back to work if they’re paid a decent wage.
The last Congress before I became President gave businesses over $1.4 trillion in COVID relief. Congress may have approved that money, but let’s be clear: The money came from the American people. And it went from the American people to American businesses, many of them big businesses, to help them get through this pandemic and keep their doors open.
I’m not questioning it; it was the right thing to do. But my expectation is that, as our economy comes back, these companies will provide fair wages and safe work environments. And if they do, they’ll find plenty of workers and we’re all going to come out of this together better than before.
So we need to stay focused on creating jobs and beating this pandemic today, and building back better for tomorrow. America — the American Rescue Plan is just that: a rescue plan. It’s to get us out of the crisis and back on the track, but it’s not nearly enough.
That’s why we need the American Jobs Plan, which is an eight-year investment — an eight-year investment strategy to make sure working people of this country get to share in the benefits of a rai- — a rising economy, and to put us in a position to win the competition with China and the rest of the world for the 21st century.
That’s the next stage. That’s what I’m — we’re doing right now. We’re working to get that passed.
I want to thank you all. And may God protect our troops. Thank you.
Q Mr. President — Mr. President, if you can’t protect critical infrastructure from a criminal actor, how can you possibly protect it from a state actor?
THE PRESIDENT: We can do both, and we will.
Q Do you think Russia is involved at all, implicitly, with that attack?
THE PRESIDENT: I’m going to have a conver- — I’m going to be meeting with President Putin. And so far, there is no evidence based on — from our intelligence people that Russia is involved. Although there is evidence that the actors — ransomware — is in Russia. They have some responsibility to deal with this.
1:59 P.M. EDT