During the White House briefing on Tuesday, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre responded to questions about D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s call to have more federal employees return to full-time office work, or convert the unused federal office space to residential or other local uses. Jean-Pierre said the Biden administration has made no changes to its work-from-home policy for federal workers.
- Thanks, Karine. DC Mayor Bowser, in her inaugural speech, called on President Biden to end work-from-home for federal government employees or turn over vacant government buildings. She said, "We need decisive action by the White House to get most federal workers back to the office most of the time or re-align their vast property holdings for use by the local government, nonprofits, businesses." Or, she said, "any user willing to revitalize it." Does the White House have a response to Mayor Bowser? And has anybody spoken to her about this proposal that she wants?
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: So it just-- this was yesterday. So I haven't checked with the team to see if anybody has talked to her about this or connected about this. But increasing the supply of affordable housing is a priority of this administration, as you know. We've talked about it many times over this past two years. That's why the president put forth the Housing Supply Action Plan. And that was to ease the burden of housing costs over time by using a mix of administrative and legislative actions to boost the supply of quality housing in every community.
So you know, I don't have any announcement to make from here or to-- any response really to Mayor Bowser. But clearly, this has been a priority for this president, which is why he put forth this plan, this action plan.
- But specifically on the issue of federal workers. In his Christmas speech on December 23, the president said, "Things are getting better. COVID no longer controls our lives. Our kids are back in school. People are back to work."
What does he see as the future of federal work in DC, for the federal workforce in terms of employees working at home versus working in the office, given the large numbers of employees and the large numbers of buildings that they work in, in this city, and what that means for the downtown area here?
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: You know, very good question. Don't have an announcement to make at this point. Look, we-- you know, we listen to the experts, right? We certainly follow the science and listen to the experts. Just don't have anything to announce today on any changes to that-- you know, to that particular, you know, as it relates to federal buildings and federal workers.
But, look, just to reiterate what the president said, we are in a different place than we were when he walked into this administration. He put together a comprehensive-- a comprehensive COVID, you know, vaccination plan that made a difference, that helped put our economy back on its feet.
And look at us today. I remember-- you guys, some of you were here for Jen's first briefing. There were 14 of you masked up. And look where we are two years later, we are in a different place. And so I think that's important to note.
We are going to continue to, you know, share our message with the American people to get that new vaccine. It is important. It will help-- it will help continue to get us back into a place where it doesn't disturb our lives the way it did two years ago.
We know the tools that work. We know what we need to do. And so we need to make sure that we continue to communicate with the comm-- with the American people on getting that vaccine. And so, we'll continue to have that conversation.