President Joe Biden traveled to Pennsylvania on Friday, Jan. 12, 2024 to visit small businesses and discuss his economic agenda. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
President Joe Biden visited the Lehigh Valley on Friday, in his second visit to Pennsylvania since the year began, to showcase small businesses he said were examples of his administration’s economic agenda at work.
The president made stops at shops in Emmaus, including Emmaus Run Inn, a running shoe and athletic gear store owned by Sean Linehan; South Mountain Cycle, owned by Emmaus Borough Council member Chad Balliet, and Nowhere Coffee Company.
According to the White House, Nowhere Coffee owners Juan and Lauren Vargas started the cafe in 2021 with help of two Small Business Administration (SBA) loans they received under the Biden administration. Their first location opened in February 2022 in Allentown, with the Emmaus location opening six months later.
“Starting a new business is an act of hope,” the president told reporters near the end of his visit. “And if the middle class does well, everybody does well.”
Small businesses like the ones I dropped by in the Allentown area today employ nearly half of private sector workers in America.
Hardworking communities deserve real investment. And on my watch, that's what you're getting. pic.twitter.com/i6YF5PDfU6
— President Biden (@POTUS) January 13, 2024
Gov. Josh Shapiro, who along with Sen. Bob Casey and U.S. Rep. Susan Wild (D-7th District), accompanied Biden on his trip to the region, told reporters the small business owners in Emmaus were “psyched” to meet the president.
“I think it is important to obviously be showing up to towns like Emmaus, making sure folks know they’re not forgotten,” Shapiro said, “highlighting the important work the President’s done to reduce costs and invest in infrastructure, and of course prosecuting the case against Donald Trump on democracy and freedom.”
He said Pennsylvanians rejected former President Donald Trump’s style of chaos and extremism in 2020 and have continued to do so, pointing to his own race for governor in 2022, where he defeated Republican Doug Mastriano by 14 points. Mastriano was Trump’s endorsed candidate.
“They got shellacked in the election,” Shapiro said.
Casey said a lot of the challenges that Pennsylvanians faced during the early years of Biden’s first term would have been much more challenging without the American Rescue Plan. “Just think about it this way: We’re in Lehigh County. This county alone had 70,000 families benefited by the child tax credit,” Casey said.
“Throughout our state, more than 80% of families with children benefited from the child tax credit. So that help for families, that help for small businesses that came from the American Rescue Plan, the investments here from infrastructure — whether it’s roads or bridges or high speed internet,” he added.
After leaving Emmaus on Friday, the president next visited the Allentown Fire Training Academy, which opened last summer. Allentown received $57 million in funding from the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund, part of the American Rescue Plan, and invested more than $2.3 million to build the training academy for professional fire personnel.
Speaking to a gathering of reporters at the fire academy, Biden was asked about the U.S. bombing of Houthi rebels in Yemen, and if the bombing strikes would continue. “We will make sure that we respond to the Houthis if they continue this outrageous behavior, along with our allies,” Biden said.
Biden said in a statement Friday morning that the Houthis had carried out “unprecedented” attacks against international maritime vessels in the Red Sea that had endangered “freedom of navigation in one of the world’s most vital waterways.”
He also addressed, for the first time, questions about Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who failed to inform the White House of his prostate cancer diagnosis and recent surgery and hospitalization. On Wednesday, Pennsylvania U.S. Rep. Chris Deluzio (D-17th District), a Navy veteran, called for Austin to step down.
Biden said Friday that he had confidence in Austin, but asked if it was a lapse in judgment for him not to inform the president earlier, Biden said “Yes.”
Biden said meeting with the small business owners on Friday he felt a sense of optimism. “I came away from this really reassured that what we’ve done has had an impact.”
The Biden administration has struggled to convince a large swath of Americans that “Bidenomics” is having a positive effect, and a reporter asked Biden Friday what he planned to do to turn things around.
“If you notice, they’re feeling much better,” Biden said. “The consumer confidence measures are way up across the board. Everybody’s doing better and they believe it, they know it, and it’s just beginning to sink in.”
Lehigh County is widely considered a key swing district in the swing state of Pennsylvania, because if a candidate wins Lehigh County, they typically perform well statewide. Biden won Lehigh County by 8 points over former Trump in 2020, and in 2022, Shapiro won it by 19 points.
Before Biden had even departed the Lehigh Valley on Friday, the White House confirmed he’ll return to Pennsylvania for his third visit of the new year on Monday, when he will visit a food bank in Philadelphia to volunteer on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
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