On Wednesday, June 25th, President Obama addressed the National Urban League and discussed his Administration’s work strengthening our communities by investing in manufacturers and small businesses, cutting taxes for middle-class families, reforming education by raising standards, and ensuring millions more Americans have access to quality, affordable health care.
As the President has said many times, there’s a basic bargain in America. It says that no matter who you are or where you’re from, if you’re willing to work hard and play by the rules you should be able to find a good job, feel secure in your community, and support a family. There are times when this bargain is tested. Economic crisis is one of those times. When President Obama took office, the United States economy was losing over 800,000 jobs a month. That’s why during his first months in office, President Obama took swift action to stop the rapid loss of jobs--giving tax cuts to working families, keeping teachers in the classroom, and investing in clean energy and manufacturing.
President Obama has acted to prevent millions from slipping into poverty and helped build a path to the middle class. There is more work to do, but President Obama is moving our country forward. He believes that your success should not be determined by your background or your zip code; that everyone should get a fair shot, everyone should do their fair share, and everyone should play by the same set of rules.
The President’s Commitment to Strong Communities that Attract Jobs and
Promote Economic Growth
•Providing tax relief for all Americans, with refundable tax credits focused on working families. The Recovery Act expanded the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC). The EITC expansion allowed families with three or more children to receive up to $640 more than they otherwise would this year. The expansion of the CTC gave many families access to thousands of dollars in additional tax benefits that would have otherwise been lost. As part of the 2010 tax deal these expansions were extended through the end of 2012. An estimated 2.2 million African American families are benefiting from the expansion of the EITC and CTC. These credits help roughly 4.7 million African American children or almost half of all African American children. In his budget the President has called for making these expansions permanent.
•Creating opportunity and mobility for children by reforming K-12 and early education. The President has devoted more than $4 billion to turning around our lowest performing schools, and some of them are making encouraging gains in reading and math proficiency. And the President has invested in early childhood education, including Head Start, Early Head Start, and child care assistance, benefiting tens of thousands of low income children. The Administration also has invested in new child nutrition programs, to make sure fewer young people go hungry.
•Putting the cost of college within reach for more families, including the largest investment in higher education since the G.I. Bill. Since the beginning of the Administration, the President has dramatically increased Pell Grant funding, helping make college affordable for an additional 200,000 African American students, created the American Opportunity Tax Credit to ease college costs for over 9 million families, and championed bold and comprehensive reform of student loans that will save taxpayers $68 billion over the next decade. Together, these represent the largest investments in higher education since the G.I. Bill. The Administration has also dramatically increased investments in historically black colleges and universities.
•Secure, affordable health care coverage. Within a month of taking office, the President signed the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act into law, expanding health coverage to more than 4 million children who would otherwise go uninsured. And the historic Affordable Care Act will extend coverage to millions of uninsured African Americans by 2016, and prevent insurance companies from charging women more than men and discriminating against those with preexisting conditions such as diabetes or cancer.
•Helping responsible homeowners feel secure in the homes. The Administration’s programs, both through their direct and indirect impact on the market, have helped more than 4 million families permanently modify their mortgages so they can stay in their homes. And the President, as part of the American Jobs Act, has proposed a $15 billion investment in Project Rebuild, which would put construction workers back on the job repurposing and rehabilitating vacant properties.
•Creating Pathways Back to Work. Through the Recovery Act, over 260,000 low-income adults and youth were placed in subsidized jobs and an additional 367,000 low-income youth received summer employment. Building on these successful strategies, the President has proposed a new Pathways Back to Work Fund to support summer and year-round employment opportunities for low-income youth and adults and for the long-term unemployed. In addition, recognizing that we can’t wait for Congress to act, President Obama has announced nearly 300,000 summer jobs and other employment opportunities for youth and new online tools to help youth access opportunities.
•Building stronger cities and communities. Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) is an interagency pilot initiative to strengthen the capacity of local governments by partnering with them to execute their economic visions. The Obama Administration has deployed interagency teams of Federal officials to work with the Mayor’s office in six pilot cities – Fresno, Memphis, Detroit, New Orleans, Chester, and Cleveland – helping to leverage Federal investments, advance specific economic development projects and build collaboration to encourage economic growth. In addition to SC2, the Obama Administration has created the Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative, which has invested more than $345 million in the nation’s persistent pockets of poverty since 2009—reaching 68 communities with an interdisciplinary, place-based, and data-driven approach to holistic community change.