Transcript of Speaker Pelosi’s Remarks at Press Event on Emergency Rental Assistance

August 10, 2021
Press Release

San Francisco – Speaker Pelosi joined community leaders for a press event on the Emergency Rental Assistance program, which makes federal funding available to assist pandemic-affected rental households with rent, back-rent and utility payments.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you very much Gabriel for, for what you do.  And it's in your DNA, as we know.  Jose Medina started this, La Raza, 51 years ago.  How could it be?  And you carry on that tradition.

I come here to pay my respects and to say thank you for what you do, but also to listen, to listen to our VIPs, our people who are experiencing this, who know firsthand what they need and how they can receive it and can be messengers to other people to take advantage of these opportunities.

I thank Mabel Aguilar for her leadership in all of this, because she has been such an important – and we'll be hearing from her as well.

But Gabriel, thank you.  You are a leader.  And you said the things that are so important.  La Raza is a perfect bridge to people, to the community, culturally, linguistically appropriate – and not only that, on the forefront, a model for other organizations, as well, to follow.

So, when we put forth a bill, like [$339 billion] in the [Reconciliation] Package, and it comes down to billions to the state, millions to the city.  How it, how it reaches people is really what is important.

So, I'm glad the press is here today, because you can be the messengers, too, because an initiative isn't successful unless people take advantage of it.  And that's why our, our VIPs here telling their story will give people confidence.  ‘Oh, that’s like my story.  I'll apply for this as well.’

The housing issue is one that is a values – is not even an issue – it's a values, an ethical issue.  It's in the Gospel of Matthew: ‘When I was homeless, you gave me shelter.  When I was a stranger you took me in.’

For me and my family, my father was Mayor from when I was from first grade to when I went away to college.  And my mother, as First Lady, had as her issue housing.  And she said – and I was so pleased that when she passed away, the Baltimore Sun, the paper there, to our friends in the press, the paper there quoted her in her obituary, that she said, ‘How can we teach children love and respect when we don't make sure they have a decent place to live?’

And that was what this fight was about for us these past weeks.  Not only will they have the impact of losing housing, but uncertainty of what schools they would go to.

I will describe to my colleagues and to others: our colleagues know we have all kinds of initiatives going in the House, but we had to get the Administration to make – and thank God Joe Biden is a person of great empathy, sympathy and experience.  He knows the people.  He has authenticity in that regard.

But the very picture of children, families with their baby cribs and their belongings out on the street, we've seen it even before COVID, even before COVID.  And then people can’t take that.  How are you going to find another place when you have an eviction?  Well, we have – I mean, that isn’t right.

So, hopefully, this period now – we're in the courts, of course, and who knows what happens in the courts, but the President has given the imprimatur that people should not be evicted.  

And the money is out there, $[46] billion spread around the country to be delivered to renters and to landlords, or whatever the system is that is set up, but to assure to the renter so that they will not lose their housing.  Our values: for the children, for the families.

And again, the outreach that La Raza does is essential to the success of those families staying in their homes, children staying in the schools that they go to, not becoming homeless or moving in with other families at a time – this is a public health issue.  That was our argument to the court.  If the CDC is saying we all must wear masks, we all must get vaccinated because of the delta variant, as you mentioned, then why are we not applying that standard also to keeping people in their homes and not having them double up or living on the street, which creates a public health – contributes to a public health hazard?

So, I came right – I just came from Washington.  This is my first stop, and I couldn't be happier than to be here for this, for the children.  Now they stopped, but their sounds, the sounds of them laughing and jumping around and everything, that is what we're all about: the future for the children.  

And we cannot, we cannot be responsible if we are not being responsible to the children.

So, you didn't hear any – want me to start all over?

[Laughter]

All I can say is La Raza is great.  We're going to hear now – I'm thrilled to be here to hear your story.  I want to praise Gabriel and Mabel for what they do.  And now – you’re going to be the MC, so now I will yield back to you.  But with the praise of – our city of San Francisco is always on the forefront of helping people.  And I’m so glad to be here with Eric Shaw, the Director of the Mayor's Office of Housing and Community Development, but that honor of introducing him, for that I will deal with that I will yield back to Gabriel.

* * *

Speaker Pelosi.  I love you, too, Mynor.  Let’s hear from the children.  The children are here.  Jesús, where’s Jesús?  Jesús is here.  Mirily, Raquel and Isabel.  We have the whole family.

[Applause]

And also we have Wilberth who is here.  Wilberth, thank you. 

[Maria], [Maria] here.

Nothing is more eloquent than the story that Mynor told and the presence of the human consequence, for better that we have to get the word out.

So, I hope you will help us share the word.  I know that La Raza is doing just that.  So, thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you for coming and telling your story.  Your story is the most eloquent statement.

Thank you so much. 

[Applause]

I'm sure they'll be pleased to take any questions.

Gabriel Medina.  And, yes, I wanted to just say ‘Maria’ – we miswrote the name.  My apologies.  Gracias, Maria, para todos.  Gracias para venir y la familia.

And, you know, Speaker Pelosi, I guess we want to do a closing or we take any questions.  Speaker Pelosi, we’d love you to close us out a little bit more.  And thank you so much for joining us.

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you so much.  Well, thank you, again, very much, Gabriel, for your extraordinary leadership.  Many of the challenges that we're facing with COVID existed before, and you have been addressing them historically and in real time, as well.  So, you know what we need to do, you know who we need to help and you know how to do it.  So, let's thank Gabriel and, again, the La Raza for the work that they are doing. 

[Applause]

They really are a model of national significance to the country.  That's why we are here.  And, again, nothing more eloquent than the personal stories. 

This is part – I just want you to know – this is part of our ‘Build Back Better’ that President Biden has put forth.  This morning – yeah, this morning, our time, the Congress passed an infrastructure bill, which will create good-paying jobs, and we're happy about that.  But the total vision is about not only building physical infrastructure, but building human infrastructure.  And the CARES legislation that we have as part of the Rescue package, and now as we go forward with the budget, which the Senate has put forth their version, of values – a budget should be a statement of our national values.  What's important to our country should be reflected in how we allocate our resources. 

And that's why, when we're talking about housing and the well-being of children, we have in the next legislation that we will be debating a major, transformative commitment to child care.  Affordable, quality child care.  We have a major commitment to home health care, major commitment to not only enable people to go to work, because somebody is caring for their families at home – whether it's a person with disabilities, a senior or a child, but that those workers are well paid and respected for what they do.  In fact, I hope they would even be unionized.  That's my hope.  The – in addition to that, we have pre-K, universal pre-K.  Children learning, parents earning. 

So, the vision that the President has, and in the House the Congressional Democrats share, is about a better future, is about Building Back Better, with more people participating in the economic success of our country.  With equity, equity, equity, whether we're talking about building a highway or taking one down, which has separated communities before.  It's about being better.  Building Back Better. 

I like to say Building Back Better With Women, because many of these initiatives enable women to be more strongly in the workplace.  And I only named a few of the things: workforce development initiatives, investments in education, major investments in housing, affordable housing.  Those needs were there before, as we all know, before COVID, but nonetheless, we see in this emergency situation adjust allocations for hundreds of millions – excuse me, did I say millions?  Hundreds of billions of dollars for affordable housing.  So, the list goes on.  

And, at the same time, for the children, we have to do so in a way that is green and sustainable, so that we are responsibly handing over the planet to the next generation.  And, as you know, it has become urgent.  It's a health issue, for the air that kids breathe and the water that they drink.  It's a jobs issue: green, good-paying jobs with all that goes into enabling many more people who participate in those jobs.  It's a security issue because of drought and famine and other things, people – competition for habitat and resources is a security issue.  And it's a moral issue.  If you believe, as do I, that this is God's creation, and we have a moral responsibility to be good stewards, then you know we have to do this.  But, even if you don't share that particular approach, we all know we have a moral responsibility, to our children and their future, to hand off the planet in a way – it's not just about tomorrow.  It's in the here and now. 

So, all of this about Building Back Better – it’s transformative.  It's not incremental.  It's transformative.  It makes a bigger difference.  And it does so For The People.  So, that's why I said when I came here, I came to say thank you and congratulate you and urge people to participate by coming forth and applying for this, but also, but also to listen, to take the stories back.  

When Gabriel was introducing me, he was introducing me as the Congresswoman from this district and referenced that I was also Speaker of the House.  As I say to my Members, no matter what title you may give me, whether it's Whip, Leader or Speaker, no title means more to me than being the Member of Congress from San Francisco. 

[Applause]

Q:  The Infrastructure bill passed the Senate.  Will it come to the House now? [Inaudible] –

Speaker Pelosi.  Excuse me, one second.  On this subject, can we – is anybody on the subject of the –  

Q:  Speaker Pelosi, [inaudible]  –  

Speaker Pelosi.  I’ll come back to you.

Q:  [inaudible] A lot of the money has been promised so that [inaudible].  How does this make a difference [inaudible]?

Speaker Pelosi.  If you would like to explain that, Eric?  I mean I can, but let’s have it [inaudible].  But that’s exactly the right question.

Eric Shaw.  Thank you for that.  So, in San Francisco, our local program, the tenants apply directly in partnership with our community based partners.  The payments and the rent do go to the landlord to excise the rent.  But, we've been leveraging the state programs, the city anti-eviction programs, to make sure that we get the dollars into – that the tenants are empowered to make sure they’re getting the resources themselves, that they're partnering with the CBOs and that the landlords are partners in this as well, to understand the rights and resources coming to tenants to make sure they stay in their homes.  And so, we have an anti-eviction message as well.  We're partnering closely with the CBOs and the landlords.  For Los – I mean, excuse me – for San Francisco, this is a tenant-based program, which the tenants apply directly for the assistance.

Q:  So, to follow up real quick, Dr. Shaw, if maybe the tenant maybe has a language issue, or whatever the case would be, and the landlord doesn’t know the rules, that would be – they’re at odds.  So, how would you fill that gap?

Eric Shaw.  So, that's actually – that's the role of our community partners right now.  They're serving that bridge and making sure we have all the necessary information, that we're educating the landlord around the information needed to receive the payments, and then is tracking the success of that and making sure we're in line with meeting our goals for the most, most vulnerable residents, ensuring that we have – that we're aligning the resources of places most impacted by COVID, but really understanding that.  

So, I think 96 or 97 percent of our dollars have gone to households with AMIs less than 30 percent.  So, really showing that we're targeting these resources to those who need it most and letting them know to ask for that assistance, apply for that assistance.  And so La Raza has been a great partner in that space as well.

Gabriel Medina.  I can tell – and I know many of our rental assistance champions are here today – but, yeah, it's definitely very tenant-based.  And the city's really helped us by making sure that we're not just doing debt relief to benefit the landlord, but to do three months of rent in advance so that, you know, it can stabilize their housing for those three months in advance.  So, you know, they have their options on what to do.  So, I think that's been very helpful.  Also minimizing the paperwork.  Minimizing and letting us streamline to get things to families was also really, really important to get these monies into the hands of our tenants.  And, certainly, connecting to nonprofit agencies like La Raza, and – like many of the other partners that are community based – we're able to give them all kinds of counsel, advice and they tell us their tenant issues.

Speaker Pelosi.  If I just may put this in a little perspective.  Maxine Waters put this in last year.  She was fighting for this all last year, and we finally, really we got it toward the end of the year, and it was to help the tenants.  And to help the tenants, there's a benefit, obviously, to the landlords, too.  And so, $[46] billion.  I mean, that is an enormous amount of money, the likes of which we have never seen for this purpose.  And the purpose was to keep people in their homes and to stop evictions, however the money is distributed.  But, for some, there was some confusion, as you sought clarification.  And California and San Francisco have been leaders in making sure that the tenant is well served.  And the landlord benefits, too, when you can pay the rent.  So, thank you for your question.

And more questions on the eviction, on the moratorium, on the rental assistance?  Any more comments?  Okay, so you want to ask about the –

Q:  Just a quick question Madam Speaker, yeah.  It passed through the Senate.  It’ll come to the House now.  How could you get it to pass?  How do you get it through?

Speaker Pelosi.  The question is – in case you didn't hear – is the Senate infrastructure – the bipartisan infrastructure bill passed the Senate this morning.  How would we expect to get it through the House?

Well, let me just say, with all the respect in the world for the Senate bill – I'm glad it passed.  I'm glad it's bipartisan, strongly.  So important to job creation and the rest.  But it is not the totality of the vision of Joe Biden and the Congressional Democrats.  If we have to do this much bipartisan, okay.  But that is not the vision.  The vision is to Build Back Better.  And Build Back Better has many of the components that I mentioned earlier about women in the workplace – and dads too, but families being able to participate more fully, because the homefront is covered.  And many other things that make it greener and more family-centric.

So, I have said that until we see – no, I'm not taking up that.  I mean, people want me to take it up.  ‘Oh, take it up.’  No.  I think we were able to get support for the bigger package – the $3.5 trillion – because there was the other bipartisan package, I think we were able to get the bipartisan package, because he has the $3.5 trillion.  So, they are, shall we say, compatible in my view.

So, we will – we are not – they passed it, but until we see the budget – it goes to the Senate first, then it comes to the House.  And then, we send it back as a reconciliation.  And reconciliation will be a fuller reflection of our values to Build Back Better.

Q:  You have some opposition in the House right now, given the Senate bills.  And in fact, in your House, there are people who want to see more, people who want to see less.  You’ve tied it to the budget bill.  How is this all going to work?  Was it a mistake to tie it to the budget bill at this point, given the dynamic?

Speaker Pelosi.  Would I what?

Q:  Was it a mistake, right now, to tie it to the budget bill?

Speaker Pelosi.  No, absolutely not, positively.  It is the path.  It is the path to see the vision.  This is what I do.  And we are not going forward unless we bring many more people in our country forward.

The infrastructure bill is a good bill.  I think we have to be more in this century than the last century.  Infrastructure has always been bipartisan.  It's always been bipartisan. And thank heavens it still is.  But it's not the end of the story.  It is not a reflection of the assault – the challenge that we have to preserve the planet.  It is not transformative in deciding who can participate.

There's a big – I want you to – don't tell anybody I told you this.  This is about equity.  This is about equity.  And too many times these things – ‘Well we have to have it.  It’s bipartisan.’  We have to have it have equity.  We're spending this money.  Are we perpetuating a system or are we opening it up in a different way?  So, we have to think in a more for-the-future way about how we go forward.  And that is what we're doing.  And we hoped that it would be bipartisan, but we're doing it on reconciliation because we only need 51 votes in the Senate.

Now to your first point, somewhat more, somewhat less.  That's called the legislative process.  But whatever we get is going to be so much more than ever was imagined, proposed or successfully enacted.  And that's because of the election of Joe Biden and the Democratic Congress.  Joe Biden has been so remarkable, so just, ‘I want to do bipartisanship, but I'm not abandoning my vision.’  And we're not either.  Thank you.  

Q:  Madam Speaker, one recall question – were you surprised how close this recall has seemingly become for Governor Newsom?  And do you see it – how do you feel about the recall? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, Governor Newsom has been a great governor of California.  I'm very, very proud of his leadership.  I brag about him all over the country and in the Congress, because many of the initiatives here in California – as well as in San Francisco – are really models for the country.  They are of national significance in terms of their grasp of the need and their – again, what is your vision?  What is your knowledge?  What is your plan?  He has all of that.

So, we just have to make sure.  My understanding is that the other side is enthusiastic and our side thinks, ‘Well, it’s probably not going to happen.’  But we have to make sure that everybody knows that we have to get out.  We have to vote.  And we have to reject the recall.  It has a – I’m trying think of the right word – purpose.  Not a very wholesome – I cleaned it up – purpose.

[Laughter]

Speaker Pelosi.  Purpose.  And we just have to get on with it.  And it's just a few weeks.  So, I would just say, recognize that it's happening because people – these elections that happen not at the regular election time do not always pull out the vote.  But everybody should know that a recall is really a bad thing for them personally.  If we're talking about rental assistance.  If we're talking about wanting free lunch for every child in California's public school system.  That's a breakthrough.  If we're talking about how we can have more people have access to quality, affordable care, Gavin Newsom has been on the forefront of that in a historic way – really groundbreaking.  He breaks ground.  He doesn't leave it broken.  He proceeds, whether it's health, education, hunger – all of these issues.  He's been a great governor.  And I'd like to see this, shall we say, nuisance – but it's part of what you can do, so we respect that.  But we have to also get out the vote.  Reject the recall.  It's not good for you.  It's not good for children or other living things.

Thank you all.  Bye bye.