Pelosi Remarks at American Rescue Plan ‘Teach-In’ Day of Action Press Event

April 7, 2021
Press Release

San Francisco – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Director of San Francisco Department of Public Health Dr. Grant Colfax and Chief Health Officer of North East Medical Services (NEMS) Dr. Kenneth Tai for a ‘teach in’ press event to highlight the life-saving resources contained in President Biden’s American Rescue Plan and help San Franciscans understand how they can benefit from health provisions in the legislation.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  Dr. Tai, I thank you for being a model to the country on how we meet the needs in a culturally appropriately – appropriate, linguistically comfortable way to the people we're here to serve.   You are a model, as I said, and, again, as we were writing the legislation, we wanted to be able to meet the needs of people and you are an example of how to do that.  And you, with – I appreciate your kind words.  I more appreciate your saving of lives. 

Your reading – the letter from your patient is the most eloquent statement of support for what NEMS does, but also for how important health care is and the culturally appropriate care that you give.  When we were having the fight on the Affordable Care Act to save it, we had 10,000 events where people read, told their stories.  Those stories, again, are the most eloquent.  Congratulations on that wonderful success.  And did you say she was 90 years old?

Dr. Tai.  Right.

Speaker Pelosi.  Ninety years old.  Wow.  So I'm honored to be here with you to be here with Grant – Dr. Grant Colfax, the Director of Public Health for the city of San Francisco, a champion of science and health.  I'll be introducing him in a moment. 

It's a privilege to be here at NEMS, which for over 50 years has been a force for justice and progress in the city.  It's no accident that $11 million is there because, again, it was – this is a nationally significant example of how funds can best be used.  Thank you for the work to deliver life-saving care – the most vulnerable, in a way, again, that's culturally competent, and thank you for being a source of hope and healing to thousands, as we have heard, as you fight the frontline, on the frontlines to combat this pandemic.  

Today, we are having a day of action, a ‘teach in’ across the country.  It is part of other events leading up to this.  Last week, the First Lady was in Delano administering vaccines to farm workers.  The Governor had joined – the Governor and the First Lady of California joined her there.  Gavin, the Governor was in the Bay Area this week, as well as – the, we're very proud of our Vice President, who was in Oakland yesterday.  And now we're here today.  And at the end of this press conference, the President of the United States will be part of all of that, again, focusing on the importance of vaccines. 

And Dr. Tai talked about some of what is in the package.  But what's in the package doesn't work unless people take advantage of it.  Hence the ‘teach in’ to say what is available to them.  And it's not just about the vaccines, although that's very important.  It is – unless we crush the virus, we are not going to be able to solve some of our other challenges in our economy and education as well.  But the fact is, is that, again, here we are in the lead, crushing the virus. 

In addition to that, we want to make sure that the rescue package was successful in what it set out to do: vaccines in the arms, money in the pockets of the American people, children safely in school, workers safely back on the job and many things in the legislation to facilitate that.  And we want people, if they're eligible for a Child Tax Credit – most families in America are – that they take advantage of it, as well as other benefits in the legislation.  So around the country, we're focusing on vaccinations here today, but many of my colleagues may be focusing on other aspects of the legislation. 

You know, I always say everything is about the children.  The children, the children, the children.  Their health: vaccination.  Their education: substantial resources for safely going back to school in the bill.  The economic security of their families: again, money in the pockets, opening businesses with – again, safely.  And that's – that economic security of the families includes their seniors, that Dr. Tai talked about.  But also, what's in the bill that is very substantial is transformative legislation protecting the pensions of America's working families, again, For The Children.  And so this legislation is, again, For The Children with a big, tens of billions of dollars for child care, over $170 billion for education, Child Tax Credit.  Just remarkably transformative, taking half the children on poverty, out of poverty.  The list goes on. 

Today, as I said, right here at NEMS.  We're talking about the vaccinations.  Twenty-one billion dollars nationwide in the bill.  Over 50 billion for testing, tracing, treatment.  That's still very important.  And mask wearing, still very important in all of this.  New additions – initiatives to drastically lower the cost of the Affordable Care Act and we're very, very proud of that.  I feel a proprietary interest in the Affordable Care Act and in this legislation, we raise the – we lower the threshold for how people can participate in the subsidies.  Nearly 8 billion, as you mentioned, seven point – I think you said six or five, whatever, billion to expand public health workforce.  This is very important.  We have been delinquent in this regard.  Again, you were a model to make this possible.  And 4 billion in behavioral and mental health, including to address provider burnout.  Our heroes – much of this bill is what we had in the Heroes Act – our heroes, our state and local workers, our health care providers, our teachers, our transportation, sanitation, first responders, police and fire, food workers and the rest who make our lives possible.  That is in this legislation as well and affects us here. 

Now, less than a month after the passage and the signing of the American Rescue Package, nearly 220 million vaccines had been delivered; 170 million have been administered.  One hundred and seventy million.  Over 100 – and that, again, the President is – President Biden is way ahead of his schedule of 100 million in the first 100 days.  He’ll be closer to 200 million in the first 100 days of vaccines, doses and inoculations. 

Vaccines in the arms.  Money in the pockets.  Nearly 150 million checks have been sent.  One hundred and fifty million people have received a check and nearly a trillion dollars have been put, as part of this, nearly a trillion dollars put in the pockets of America's workers.  We're on track to exceed, again, the President's 100 million in 100 days, as I said.  And within two weeks, nearly all adults will be eligible for the vaccine within five miles of their homes.  That logistical consideration is very important, because it can be a barrier. 

And here in California, thanks to the leadership of Governor Newsom, whom I mentioned earlier, we have now officially administered 20 million vaccines including 4 million to the hardest-hit community in our state.  I want to salute Mayor London Breed.  We’re so proud of her leadership in San Francisco for her outstanding progress to deliver the vaccine in San Francisco, last week reaching a record of 14,000 vaccines in arms per day.  Well, well over the goal of 10,000.  And I salute Dr. Colfax, and I'll be introducing him in a moment, as I said.  Half of San Francisco adults have received at least one dose and 30 percent had been fully vaccinated.  We're working to ensure that the most vulnerable, the most vulnerable – thank you, Dr. Tai, for your leadership and the staff here at NEMS – have access to the vaccine.  And that's why Congress recently passed legislation just to clarify and to emphasize that any veteran in any VA facility can now get the vaccine regardless of age or whatever.  But as Dr. Tai has said, and NEMS team knows, we cannot take our foot off of the accelerator. 

That is why we're thrilled that the Biden-Harris Administration has announced, under the purview of the American Rescue Plan, a $10 billion initiative to expand vaccine access and build vaccine confidence in high-risk communities.  What Dr. Tai has talked about in his connection to the community and NEMS’s connection to the community is so important, because the vaccines only work if people avail themselves of it.  And the confidence that you have, the big trust that exists in the community with NEMS is very essential to crushing this virus.  It's imperative that Americans know that the vaccine is safe and is backed by science. 

As part of the plan, we secured $6 billion for over 1,000 community health centers.  Nearly 1 billion has been awarded to California, including, again, we talked about the 11 million for North East Medical Services.  Community health centers are such an answer to so many challenges that the communities face.  I've often said if I were starting a new country, in terms of a health care plan, I would carpet the country with community health centers and then go from there. 

So thank you for your leadership, your connection to the community, but, again, the model that you are for us as we write legislation.  Democrats in Washington are hard at work to distribute the life-saving resources of the American Rescue Plan as urgently and as equitably, equitably, equitably, equitably as possible.  In this mission, we're grateful for your partnership and your leadership and, again, the model you are.  And we thank the entire NEMS team, not just Dr. Tai, he's a great leader, but his entire team, for your relentless work to defeat the pandemic, and to do so in a way that advances justice in America. 

Now, it is my privilege to yield the floor to the distinguished leader of the Public Health [Department] in San Francisco, Dr. Grant Colfax.  He has been on the job so effectively, that we are very, very proud of his leadership.  Not only that, he has made himself available to make sure people know, whether it's in community events in the rest, such as this today, but others along the way, because – I'm fond of quoting Lincoln, Lincoln said ‘Public sentiment is everything.  With it, you can accomplish almost anything.  Without it, practically nothing.’  But for public sentiment and people to participate, they have to know.  And Dr. Colfax, working with Mayor London Breed, wants to be sure that people know how they can avail themselves of the benefits, of the benefits of the rescue package, particularly when it comes to crushing the virus.  He is a champion in that regard.  Dr. Grant Colfax.

***

Thank you very much, Dr. Colfax, for being, again, as Dr. Tai is, a model to the nation on how to proceed in the most culturally appropriate, linguistically comfortable way to meet the needs of the most vulnerable.  That is our goal, because as you pointed out, within our health care system, there have been disparities and we do not want them solidified.  As we go forward with this, in fact, we want them to be eliminated and using this as that opportunity, and the substantial funds that go with it.  And we're trying to get as many as much vaccine out as possible, and that is part of the challenge that you spelled out.  These resources in this legislation will help do that. 

The, again, this is part of a national day ‘teach in’ for us to talk about the rescue package writ large, and different aspects of it are being addressed around the country.  Today, here in San Francisco, we are taking great pride in the success in our state of California in the city of San Francisco, under the leadership of Governor Newsom, of Mayor Breed and others throughout the state.  And we're honored as I said earlier that the First Lady was in Delano inoculating farmworkers the other day, the Vice President in Oakland yesterday, the Governor in the Bay Area, as well.  And now here, the Speaker of the House.

Again, I accept your kind words about the legislation and I will convey them to the House Democrats because, sadly, we had to pass this very important legislation with only Democratic votes.  And Members from the Bay Area were very, very substantially involved in writing that legislation.  My colleague in representation of San Francisco, Jackie Speier, as well as others.  I'm happy to go into it, if that's part of your questions.  Any questions that you may have?  

Let's start with this subject.  I'll be happy to answer other questions, but let's stay on this subject of the rescue package, especially the success in San Francisco on the vaccines.  Any questions or observations you want to make on that?  If not, Dr. Tai, you want to say some wrap-up comments about what we’re here to do and what the prospects are?

***

Thank you, Dr. Colfax, for your wonderful leadership and for honoring us with your presence and your wisdom today.  Thank you, Dr. Tai, so much.  In his remarks, Dr. Colfax mentioned HIV/AIDS.  And again, when I went to Congress, the first words I said on the Floor of the House was about HIV and AIDS.  I’d come to fight against HIV and AIDS.

And San Francisco then, as now, was a model to the rest of the country in community-based solutions.  And, as Dr. Tai and Dr. Colfax have told us, is our example here once again.  At that time we were in – we were writing the – a few years later, we wrote the Ryan White Care Act.  And largely, it was based on community-based care from San Francisco in three ways: care, prevention, and research.

So again, San Francisco is leading the way, as we did then.  What Dr. Colfax and Dr. Tai talked about was a decision, a decision that was made to, again, crush this virus.  And as Dr. Colfax mentioned, this is about science and governance, to respect the science and follow the science, and to have the governance to enforce the rules to prevent the further spread, especially as we are concerned about variants and the rest as we go forward.

But it has – the progress that has been made has been because of a decision in San Francisco to respect science and governance.  If you ignore that, if you don't say, well, I don't care if they say I have to wear a mask or keep my distance or whatever, then you're not solving the problem.  The problem-solving is a decision. So, I thank you for the decision that you have made and the execution of all of that.

Any questions?  Yes, sir.

Q:  This is a little off-topic.  Is that OK?

Speaker Pelosi.  Unless there's someone who is on topic – I would have hoped that with an epidemic in our country and an economic crisis that is accompanying it, there might be a question on that.

Q:  It is.  So, the Governor wants to reopen California in mid-June.  Do you agree with that timeline?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, I have to yield to the scientist on that.  That was on-topic.

[Laughter]

Dr. Colfax.  So, I think what's hopeful about the governor's announcement is that announcement was made based on the concept – and I think the hope and the optimism – that every San Franciscan will have opportunities, sixteen and over, will have access to the vaccine by that date.  So, what I'm excited about, as I said earlier, we need more vaccine.  I took the Governor's announcement as a strong indication that the state believes there will be robust supplies of vaccine coming in before June 15th so we can get those vaccines into arms.  We'll see where we are.  Again, we need to follow the data, but I'm very hopeful that our whole system will be at working at capacity getting 20,000 vaccines in arms a day, so that we have a better chance of meeting that 15th date. Thank you.

Q:  Madam Speaker, I do have a couple questions that are off-topic, I believe, but Dr. Tai brought up this in his talk.  He talked about the attacks on Asians in American and the hate crimes.  Any new strategies in the House to how to address that?  How are going to stop the targeted attacks on Asians in this country?

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you very much for your question and to – being in Chinatown. Once again, just pointing out the respect that we have in our community for the AAPI community.  I would say – just leading up to what comes next – I was very proud of the President when he made his speech about COVID.  He talked and that was the initial speech in the White House.  He came forward and included the challenge that we have addressing the AAPI hate crimes that are out there in the very 24 hours of his inauguration.  

Even before that speech, he taught – he tasked the Department of Justice – we didn't even have an Attorney General yet – but he tasked Department of Justice to focus on the hate crimes and the AAPI community.  And that is very, as you know, is very important.  We do – again, in everything that we are doing, are trying to incorporate that in.

Here's the thing, and this is my experience here in San Francisco.  And I feel very proud to represent a city, a district that is so blessed with a large Asian, AAPI community and a very diverse AAPI community as well.  On these hate crimes, and again, we passed hate crimes legislation years ago – again, largely about LGBTQ hate crimes.  But it was a model for how we go forward.

In order to really address the problem, you have to prove that it's a hate crime.  And it's, as you know, in some of our communities, a person my age who might be Chinese, maybe not completely – as would I not be – familiar with some of the vernacular that people use – bad language and stuff.  They won't – somebody has to write it down.  Write it down.  You're there, you hear it, write it down.  So, we have proof that this is a hate crime.  Now, we don't want to have to have such a high threshold of proof.  But for the moment, we do.   And we just want everybody to know that all of us are in this together to fight this.

So, we have legislation that we passed about it.  When we go back, we will have the hate – COVID hate crimes legislation that we have.  We passed the – it kind of breaks my heart even to talk about it because it's so emotional for us.  We passed the Asian hate crimes, [COVID] hate crimes bill – the Chinese hate crimes bill, specifically Chinese because of what somebody up there – over there was saying.  It was Grace Meng’s legislation.

When I went to the Floor to talk about the legislation, our colleagues on the other side of the aisle said, ‘Look at that, the Speaker of the House on the Floor, wasting the time of the Congress, talking about something that doesn't mean that much to most people in our country.‘  Imagine that they would say that.  But that's what – that's what that is.

Now, let's hope that public sentiment has changed some of their attitudes on this.  But we will have a few pieces of legislation that were on the books anyway to do the ban – the No Ban, you know, to reverse the [Trump] Muslim ban, which affects some of the Asian Pacific American community, but also to continue to fight on the end.

So, we'll see what they say when we have the COVID because, as you know, that was kind of the hook that what's-his-name was using on this the COVID No Ban legislation.

But we're not going to stop because of – and I wish, I wish that you could all hear my colleagues speak about this.  Doris Matsui, who was born in a camp, talked about it.  To hear Grace Meng talk about it.  I don't know if you saw the hearing that we had on the legislation.  Members were really crying because of what the other side’s hateful remarks that Members of Congress were making about this.  

So, we have a challenge, but we also have a vision or a plan on how to get us through this.  But as a practical matter, I keep saying, if you see something listen to what that person has to say because usually they'll say some nasty thing because they're doing some very nasty thing.  So, let's stay in touch about that because it's central to who we are as a country.  It's not just about the AAPI community.  It's about who we are as a country, that we cannot allow this to take place and it does –  sad to say.

Yes?

Q:  Speaker Pelosi, there’s concern that COVID is actually coming into this country because of migrants who are infected crossing the border illegally.  I want to ask you about that and also about the House Minority Leader’s request for a classified meeting with all the Congressional leaders following the many nationals who are on the terror watch list presenting at the border. 

Speaker Pelosi. I think that was the Senate Minority Leader, wasn't it?  Was that Mitch McConnell who asked for it?   Oh, it was?  Was it, Kevin?  They reported to me that it was Mitch McConnell this morning, but maybe they both are doing it.

Well, first of all, let's just say, when we make a decision to respect science and governance, we also have to respect facts.  And it's no useful thing for an excuse that is not the cause of the COVID crisis in our country.  The cause in the country and the loss of so many lives comes to the fact that one year ago, the President of the United States called it a hoax, refused to accept the science and refused to engage in any governance that would help prevent the spread of it.  Even his own advisors now are saying at least half the people who have died might not have died if there was other [behavior].

So, for them to start blaming it on whoever's coming across the border and asking for a classified briefing is really more subterfuge than science.  

Any other questions?  You said you had a second question?  

Q:  I have a follow up question in a different way, yeah.  With the crisis on the border, so many families with children wind up at the border.  How do we make sure that there is a safe and equitable transfer of the people who should be let into the country and that they get the medical treatment and the vaccination that they need?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, let me – I believe – I'm glad you asked that question in a larger sense, instead of quoting the ridiculousness of the Republicans in the Congress.  

The fact is, is that we're on a good path at the border under leadership of Joe Biden, President Biden.  There is – it's about three things. It's about restructuring how we do what is happening there, because we were in a very bad situation under the Trump Administration.  It's about a refugee plan.  

The – when we had a hearing on the No Ban, the Muslim ban, that would be four years ago, when that first was instituted, the other American – the American Evangelical Association, the representative of American Evangelicals came to that hearing to testify against the President's position of the Muslim ban.  And what – at that time, what he said, that holds true now is, ‘the American refugee resettlement program is the crown jewel of American humanitarianism.’  That's the – that's the – that's being said by the evangelicals, the crown jewel of America.

So, we have to restructure what we're doing.  We have to have a decent respect for our responsibilities for people who have a legitimate cause for refugee status.  And we also have to have their resettlement as quickly as possible.  It's estimated that 70-some percent of the children have a relative in the country, and of that number may be 40-some percent have a parent in the country.  But you have to do it in a safe way, identifying carefully to make sure that that the relationship is the safe one for the child.

So, I call it the three R's, restructuring the whole system, respecting the refugee status that we have an obligation to do and the resettlement in a way that is safe for the children, because it's always about the children.

Any other questions from anybody else?  

Staff.  Last question.

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes, sir.  You had two.  Okay.  Yes.

Q:  Looking ahead to the infrastructure bill, how confident do you feel that you will be able to get it passed, especially with no support from the GOP?

Speaker Pelosi.  Especially what?

Q:  Especially with no support from the GOP?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, let's hope that they will be concerned about the safety of our bridges, the safety of the air that our children breathe, that they would consider that – they would be concerned about that. It’s – that's – this is not about that.  This is about the rescue plan.  But the jobs bill that will come next is probably appropriate way to segue from here, and that is this, again, some history about America.

At the founding of our country, Thomas Jefferson, tasked the Secretary of the Treasury, Gallatin, the Gallatin Plan to build the infrastructure of America.  America was expanding, the Louisiana Purchase, Lewis and Clark expeditions and the rest, and they – and so this was the plan.  And they built the Cumberland Road, the Erie Canal.  Big, think big and transformative about infrastructure.

100 years later, President Teddy Roosevelt, anniversary of 100 years, he instituted his infrastructure plan.  It was called the National Park Service, something so, again, transformative for our country, so big and all-American.  

In the 50s, the late 50s, President Eisenhower, for security purposes, instituted a big, transformative plan, the interstate highway system, again, to unify the country for security reasons.

And now it's time for us to have a big transformative, a system that is again in the keeping with our Founders and leaders throughout our country’s history.  And that is something that is entrepreneurial.  That is, again, based on what the country needs and the national science – what do we call it – the [American] Society of Civil Engineers has said that we are trillions of dollars behind in the infrastructure of our country.  

This is a security, a safety issue for the safety of our bridges.  It's a jobs issue, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs issue.  Jobs, not only to build the infrastructure, but jobs to promote commerce, as a result of that improved infrastructure, whether it is the dredging of our harbors for more freight for more trade or whether it is the facilitating of transportation to get produce, especially to market where time is a factor.

And so it is again, again, about jobs, good-paying jobs, made in America jobs.  And I do believe that it – well, you see is very popular among the American people.  And it will have bipartisanship among the American people.  And we'll have bipartisanship among the officials in the communities that will benefit, whether it's a water project, some of our water projects are over 100 years old, made of wood and brick.  And much of it contains lead, again, For The Children.  As the President said, who's going to be against getting lead out of the water for our children?

So, again, it's about broadband.  It was mentioned earlier about how important it is for everybody to have access, for whether it's telemedicine or distanced learning or just promotion of commerce and the rest.  So, we're very excited about the particulars that will be in the jobs bill.  We would hope that that would appeal to the Republicans in the Congress. 

We had a hearing, I've tasked – let me say called upon my Committee Chairs, the Committee Chairs of Committees of jurisdiction to reach across the aisle and see where they could find bipartisan, common ground.  Because just to go back in history, again, historically, infrastructure has not been a partisan issue, we've always been able to work together, at the local level to join in on supporting a particular project, at the Congressional level to get the job to get the job done.

So, I'm very excited about what it is.  And again, it is a jobs bill.  And if it's a jobs bill, it has to have workforce development initiatives, as well as, as opportunities for all of the communities to be involved, whether it's in jobs, but also in contracts and the rest.  

So, it's pretty exciting.  It's transformative is in keeping with America's sphere, of entrepreneurship, of public-private partnerships.  And again, of moving people to school, to work to market, to whatever in a way that keeps the air cleaner, improves the quality of life, as again, it creates jobs and promotes commerce.

So, I'm optimistic that hopefully they will be joining in this.  One example was they had a cut this in the interest of reaching across the aisle.  We were hit hearing a few weeks ago before the Passover-Easter break on electrification.  And it was a bipartisan hearing under the leadership of our Chairman, Peter DeFazio, Mr. Graves, the co-chair, excuse me, the Ranking Member on that committee.  And in that hearing, people came like the head of FedEx.  And those, those kind of people saying we're going electric.

So, if you're going electric, what you have to do is have distribution of charge stations around the country.  That’s an infrastructure issue.  That’s a big infrastructure issue.  And hearing the private sector say, ‘Oh we're going electric,’ means we have to do the infrastructure to accommodate that to move product, move people but also have clean air.  So, it was impressive.  And I think it made an impression on the Republicans.  But we'll find out.

When we had a former President, up until recently, in our last bill that we passed had many good things in it in a bipartisan way.  We tried to get electric – focus on electric cars in that, but the President said if that was in the bill, he would not sign the bill.  

Now, we are in a completely different place on that one issue, for example, science, technology, preeminence in the world.  So, it's about clean air, clean water.  It's about health.  It's about jobs, preeminence in the world and green technologies.  It's about, again, security, making everything safer for the American people.  And it's a responsibility that we have to our children and future generations to do so in a way that preserves the planet.

If you do believe, as I that this is God's creation, and we need to be good stewards of it, then you would agree.  If you don't share that religious belief, that's okay.  But you also – we all agree we have a responsibility to the children to preserve the planet.  This infrastructure jobs bill is directed to respecting science and governance, to get the job done.  

But here we are today about the rescue package.  We're very proud of it.  But the pride we take is not in the legislation.  The pride we take is in NEMS and Dr. Tai for how it is being implemented, because he is making it meet the needs of the people.  And that is what its purpose is.  And from a from a science standpoint, from a governance standpoint, we thank Dr. Colfax and Mayor Breed for making so much of this possible, as an example to the rest of the country that San Francisco always has been.  

Thank you so much.