Good morning. This weekend we not only celebrate the first Christmas of the new millennium; we also celebrate an America blessed with the gift of unprecedented prosperity and progress.
We're in the midst of the longest economic expansion in our Nation's history, with record surpluses, more than 22 million new jobs, the lowest unemployment in history, and the lowest Hispanic- and African-American unemployment ever recorded.
We have strengthened the cornerstone of the American dream along the way: the chance to own a home. Today, we have the highest homeownership in our Nation's history with record levels of minority homeownership. And more Americans than ever are celebrating that gift this holiday season.
Over the last 8 years, Vice President Gore and I have worked hard to give nearly 10 million more families the opportunity to own their own homes by cutting redtape, speeding up loans, making financing available for families who were too often locked out of the market, creating more opportunity and choice for families who live in assisted housing.
In the last 3 years, our administration has secured nearly 200,000 new housing vouchers to help hard-pressed families find decent and affordable housing. I want to especially thank our HUD Secretary, Andrew Cuomo, for his extraordinary commitment to making affordable housing accessible to citizens who need it most.
Today we're introducing new measures to more fully integrate public housing, so families from different social and economic walks of life have the chance to live in diverse communities. In addition to expanding opportunity for more Americans, this will also help to break down destructive barriers of race and class.
We're also taking action to increase loan limits from the Federal Housing Administration by nearly 9 percent to help more working families to own their first home. Since 1993, the FHA program has given more than 4 million Americans that chance. We have made real progress.
But too many Americans still will be spending this Christmas without a roof over their heads. That's why we've helped to move thousands of families off the street. Yet, there still are more than a half million men, women, and children whose only home every night is a neighborhood shelter or a park bench.
In this time of unparalleled prosperity, we must do more to help them. Today I'm pleased to announce $1 billion in new grants to help more than 200,000 homeless people along the path to self-sufficiency. This is the largest amount ever dedicated to helping homeless Americans rebuild their lives.
The grants will fund proven successful programs like Continuum of Care, which helps homeless families with transitional and permanent housing, drug treatment and medication, job training, and child care. It also funds efforts like the Emergency Shelter Grants program, which provides for transitional housing and helps communities maintain emergency shelters.
Taken together, these grants are a gift that will give back to us in many ways. They will empower communities to employ innovative solutions to helping homeless adults and their children, people like Juanita Price, a recovering drug addict who once spent her nights in abandoned buildings and hollowed-out cars. Thanks to the Continuum of Care program, Juanita found the support she needed and turned her life around. Today, she's got a steady job, an apartment, and she's studying to be a nurse at Howard University here in Washington, DC.
There are lots and lots of people like Juanita who could use a helping hand. Today we're lending that hand by giving more homeless Americans the tools they need to succeed, so that this Christmas they can find warmth inside a home, not from the top of a steam grate.
It is said in the Scripture: "I will appoint a place for my people so they may dwell in a place of their own and move no more." Today, in this season of hope and giving, we should redouble our efforts to ensure that every American can have a place of his or her own.
The steps we're taking now will create new opportunity for the homeless, for hard-pressed working families, and for those struggling to buy their first home. I can't think of any better way to celebrate this holiday season.
Thanks for listening.