03/15/21: Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki

CITY OF WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 15, 2021)—today Press Secretary Jen Psaki held the White House Daily press briefing.

Highlights:

  • President is launching his “Help Is Here” tour to communicate directly with Americans about how the Rescue Plan is helping them and their families. The tour will make clear that help is here and that we are on the path towards crushing the virus and rebuilding our economy.
  • President will travel to Delaware County, Pennsylvania, to highlight how the Rescue Plan invests in small businesses — a key component of the package — including minority-owned businesses, so they can rehire and retain workers while keeping them safe. 
  • The Vice President and Second Gentleman will be in Denver, also meeting with small-business owners. That will be a big piece we’re highlighting tomorrow.
  • First Lady will travel to Concord, New Hampshire, to underscore how the Rescue Plan provides $130 billion to help schools reopen. The Second Gentleman will convene a listening session in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with working women, including teachers. And Education Secretary Cardona will do a remote local media tour to talk about school reopenings.
  • On Thursday, the administration will showcase how the American Rescue Plan provides emergency aid to cover back rent, to help homeowners catch up on their payments, and provide funding for families recovering from homelessness.
  • on Friday, President Biden and Vice President Harris will travel to Georgia, as you all already know, to underscore how they and congressional Democrats fulfilled their promise in delivering $1,400 checks to finish the job of $2,000 in direct relief to millions of Americans.
  • Gene Sperling will be joining the team here to run point on the implementation of the Rescue Plan.
  • Millions of Americans started to receive direct deposit checks over the weekend.

Questions and Responses:

Q—-The Vatican today said it would not bless same-sex unions. The President is a devout Catholic. Does he have a personal response to that?

A–I don’t think he has a personal response to the Vatican, no. He continues to believe and support same-sex unions, as you know, and he’s long had that position.

Q–And then, finally, does the President — the President is the head of the Democratic Party. What message is he sending by not calling on the New York Governor to resign, number one?

And, number two, tomorrow’s the usual weekly call with governors. Governor Cuomo is still the head of the National Governors Association; usually he attends. Is he still welcome on the White House-convened call?

A–Well, let me first say that, like everyone who continues to read stories, new developments seem to happen every day. We find them troubling. The President finds them troubling, hard to read. And every woman who steps forward needs to be treated with dignity and respect.

The New York Attorney General is pursuing of course an independent investigation against Governor Cuomo, and that is appropriate. And the President believes that’s appropriate, as does the Vice President. The investigation needs to be both quick and thorough, consistent with how serious these allegations are.

And of course, our objective, though, here continues to be to get the COVID pandemic under control, and we don’t want the people of New York or any state to be impacted negatively. We will continue to work with a range of governors — including Governor Cuomo, who I would expect to join the call tomorrow; we’ll leave that up to him, but — but in order to continue to coordinate on getting the pandemic under control and economic assistance out the door.

Q–Thanks. Just two quick ones, Jen. Given how fast moving the situation has been, does the President believe that his administration has a handle on what’s happening on the southern border right now?

A—We certainly do. And let me just give you a bit of an update on a couple of the steps that we’re taking. You know, first, let me say that, like COVID — obviously a different issue, but we recognize this is a big problem — the last administration left us a dismantled and unworkable system. And like any other problem, we are going to do everything we can to solve it.

So our focus here is on solutions. Let me just walk you through a couple of the steps — and we’ve done this a little bit, but there’s always, of course, developments on considerations that are underway.

So, first, we’ve updated — or we have not, but CDC has updated guidelines to return to full capacity. This will help expand capacity to move children more quickly out of CBP facilities. That’s an important step. The implementation of that is of course ongoing.

We are — there has — there is now an embedding, at the President’s ask, of HHS and ORR with CBP, which will allow government to more quickly I.D., vet, confirm sponsors and family members of the unaccompanied minors and will lead to quicker placement. Because, as you know — as all of you know, big issues here are expediting what’s happening at the border. None of these Border Patrol facilities are made for children, and we want to move them as quickly as possible into shelters and then into homes.

FEMA — this was an announcement over the weekend — is now supporting — providing support at the border, adding extra capacity to HHS for quick processing to avoid overcrowding. This will hope — we hope this will help quickly get children into HHS and ORR facilities, and placed with vetted sponsors and families. The President is very focused on expediting what’s happening at the border at every step in the process.

And then this happened on Friday, but it didn’t receive a lot of — there was a lot going on, so I just wanted to highlight: We rescinded the 2018 MOU between DHS and HHS, which we believe will encourage families and sponsors to come forward without fear of additional immigration enforcement. And we’ve seen this as an issue, where family members or even sponsor families are worried that this will mean they will be tracked. And this over- — rescinds that.

We’re also looking for additional facilities, and this remains a focus.

So, we recognize this as a problem. We’re focused on addressing it. That’s just five steps we’re taking, and we’re continuing to evaluate what additional steps can be taken to address the situation at the border.

Q—And, secondly, on North Korea: Have you reached out to them and tried to engage in dialogue? And have they responded in any way?

A— I know there were some reports over the weekend on exactly that. And so I can confirm that we have reached out. We obviously have a main — a series of — a number of channels, as we always have had, that we can reach out through.

We also are focused on consulting with many former government officials who have been involved in North Korea policy, including from several prior administrations. And we have and will continue to engage with other Japanese and South Korean allies to solicit input, explore fresh approaches. We’ve listened carefully to their ideas, including through trilateral consultations. Our goal is — of course, diplomacy is always our goal. Our goal is to reduce the risk of escalation. But, to date, we have not received any response.

Source: White House

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