1 of 5 | President Joe Biden speaks during the National League of Cities Congressional City Conference held at Marriott Marquis in Washington, D.C., on Monday. Photo by Oliver Contreras/UPI | License Photo
March 14 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden touted his American Rescue Plan and addressed concerns for rising gas prices and inflation during a speech to the National League of Cities Congressional City Conference in Washington, D.C., on Monday afternoon.
"Look, we have an incredible opportunity ahead of us. But despite the progress we've made, we know that families are still struggling with higher prices," Biden said during the speech.
Gas prices in the United States decreased Monday after reaching an all-time high late last week. According to AAA, the average cost for regular gasoline nationwide is about $4.32 per gallon, down from a record $4.33 on Friday.
"Let's be absolutely clear about why prices are high now. They're high for two reasons. One was COVID-19," Biden said.
He said "a ripple effect" on supply chains that slowed down automobile manufacturing in Detroit started when Taiwan shut down the manufacturing of computer chips during the pandemic.
"The second big reason for inflation is Vladimir Putin and gas prices. It's not a joke," Biden said. "We've seen the price of gas go up by over a dollar just since he put his troops on the border of Ukraine."
Biden said that gas prices went up by $1.05 since Putin put his troops along the border before invading Ukraine.
"Make no mistake, the current spike in gas prices is largely the fault of Vladimir Putin. It has nothing to do with the American Rescue Plan," Biden said.
Biden said that he would expand Made in America laws to promote increased manufacturing in the United States to combat inflation and help with job growth.
"If 55% of a product was made in America, it was thought to be made in America. I'm changing that," Biden said. "It has to be minimum of 75% to be made in America."
Biden said that Omar Ishrak, the chairman of the board of Intel, visited with him and said the company would invest $20 billion to build a factory in Ohio to manufacture computer chips, which will "bring down the cost of automobiles, appliances, and so much more."
"Semiconductors will power the world and our everyday lives," Biden said. "And they're prepared to increase that $20 billion investment to $100 billion in the suburbs of Cleveland."
He added that he had "long discussions" with General Motors and Ford, which announced plans on Monday to sell more than 600,000 electric vehicles in Europe by 2026 and increase its global production of electric vehicles to more than 2 million vehicles per year.
During the speech, Biden said that Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg had announced $409 million in new grants for projects in 39 states to modernize and electrify city buses.
"These grants will help people in communities large and small get to work, get to school, and access the services they need," Buttigieg said in a statement ahead of Biden's speech.
"Everyone deserves access to safe, reliable, clean public transportation -- and thanks to the President's historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we are bringing modern buses to communities across America."
Biden said that the new grants will help people across the country "get to work and get to school."
"It's now time for cities and towns to get ready. ... You're going to need more welders, pipefitters, advanced manufacturers and it takes training to get the job done well," Biden said.
"By the way, when people talk about an apprenticeship program, we're talking like going to four years in college. That's four years. That's why they're the best workers in the world when they're finished. Projects are cheaper because they last longer and they're better."
Biden also said that his American Rescue Plan has helped 41 million Americans "put food on the table for the better part of a year" and helped "keep a roof over 4 million people's heads."
"A whole lot of young people saw their futures dim from the previous recession. They never got back on their feet. That's what economists call economic scarring, chronic pain when the economy comes back but some folks are still left behind, trapped in long-term unemployment, eviction and foreclosure," Biden said.
"Research shows that when you're stuck in that cycle, it has the worst impact on your emotional health than the loss of a family member which sounds excessive but it's true, and it's serious. When I came to office in the midst of this crisis, I was determined not to let that happen again."
Biden said that the American Rescue Plan provided for $130 billion in funds that were given directly to state and local governments and urged them to use the funds to reduce crime.
"I urge you all to use the flexibility we built into the law to spend these funds wisely, to reduce violence in your communities like members are doing in Baton Rouge and Baltimore and New York City," Biden said.
"To address homelessness and affordable housing like members are doing Tacoma and New York City. To expand internet like in Brownsville, Texas, or to train people for good-paying jobs like you're doing in Oklahoma City."
Biden said his administration has worked to spend billions to provide high-speed internet across the United States. Last month, Vice President Kamala Harris announced that more than 10 million homes nationwide had signed up for the Affordable Connectivity Program.
"We can't be a country where a mother has to take her kid to a McDonald's parking lot to do their homework on the internet," Biden said. "This is the United States of America, for God's sake."