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President Joe Biden offered words of support to a California woman who lost her job in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic while detailing his economic relief plans in his inaugural “weekly conversation” with Americans.
The White House posted a video to its social media platforms on Sunday that told the story of a woman named Michele Voelkert in California, who said she was laid off after her company reorganised due to the pandemic.
Ms Voelkert says in the video she wrote to Mr Biden about her financial hardships and later received a call from him, as he spoke to her from behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office.
“I’ve been saying a long time, the idea that we think we can keep businesses open and moving and thriving without dealing with this pandemic is just a nonstarter,” he says on the call, as Ms Voelkert can be seen listening from her home. He adds: “We’re putting together a plan that provides for emergency relief to people who are desperate now.”
Millions of Americans like Michele have been laid off due to COVID and are in need of direct relief. She wrote a letter to President Biden to share her story. He called to check in. pic.twitter.com/mBuhmWltml
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) February 6, 2021
With “A Weekly Conversation,” Mr Biden is reinstating a presidential tradition dating back to 1933, when former President Franklin D Roosevelt began hosting his evening “fireside chats,” which ended under the previous administration.
With Mr Biden’s inaugural regular address to the public, it was clear the administration intended to use the weekly conversations to further its agenda and highlight support for the president’s legislative priorities.
Mr Biden describes how his sweeping $1.9 trillion economic relief plan provides “everything from mortgage payments, to unemployment insurance, to rental subsidies, to food security for children” while speaking to Ms Voelkert.
The new “weekly conversation” comes just after Senate Democrats voted to advance the relief proposal through budget reconciliation, a move that could allow the majority to pass the plan without any Republican votes. Mr Biden has met with both Republicans and Democrats at the White House in recent weeks as his advisers have suggested the Republicans’ counter $600 billion proposal does not adequately address the crisis.
Former President Barack Obama delivered near-weekly addresses that were aired on YouTube, and his predecessors held theirs on various other platforms. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki previously announced the president was planning on relaunching the weekly addresses.
"This is a time-honoured tradition in the country of hearing from the president in this way," she said. “President Biden will continue that tradition, and we expect it to take on a variety of forms."