Earlier this morning, Bob and I were honored to join Vice President Biden in personally welcoming back to work our fellow, dedicated public servants. The Vice President brought muffins, shared hugs, and listened to the stories of so many folks who are excited to be back on the job serving our country.
Over the past few weeks during the government shutdown, I heard those stories too. I had the chance to call a handful of our great staff who were managing to keep their spirits up, but also anxious for this day to come. From almost every program and region, I heard from courageous single parents whose families depend on their paycheck and young people retaining their belief in public service. I also spoke to furloughed employees who volunteered in their communities, in food banks and shelters, still finding a way to give back.
These are the dedicated people that make up this Agency—and I couldn’t more proud in the way they handled themselves in this very difficult time for our country. During the government shutdown, 94% of EPA staff was unable to do the important work that Americans depend on for a clean and healthy environment. Our scientists and inspectors were prevented from keeping our air and water safe to breathe and drink. Vehicle certifications couldn’t be completed, industrial chemicals and pesticides couldn’t be evaluated, and hazardous waste sites couldn’t be cleaned. Small business couldn’t receive our assistance in learning about grants and loans to continue building our clean energy economy. And on a personal level, our employees and their families made tremendous sacrifices just to get by.
The past couple of weeks have been tough for our country and our economy. But now we can get back to work on behalf of the American people and reaffirm their trust in the vital work that our Agency does each day. I’m certainly looking forward to it, and I know the world-class staff at EPA is looking forward to it too.
That’s why I echo what President Obama said today at the White House in speaking about public servants across the federal government: Thank you for your service. What you do is important. It matters.
And even though Vice President Biden won’t be delivering muffins to EPA each morning—the enthusiasm our employees showed him makes me so proud to welcome back the incredible EPA team as we continue pushing forward on the important work ahead.