On January 28th, President Obama gave his fifth State of the Union address. Since he took office in 2009, the nation has undergone a number of changes and challenges – some new, but some that have existed for generations. Over that time, the attention of the American people has been fixed on the numerous problems the country was facing: skyrocketing unemployment, debt, home foreclosures, and health care costs–just to name a few. But as we start 2014 there are signs of improvement as the Affordable Care Act takes effect, unemployment rates drop, and a stable (if less than generous) budget promises fewer unproductive fights in Congress.
So what does that mean for this year’s State of Union? We are hopeful the President will heed the call of groups like United Way Worldwide and Opportunity Nation to address the issues that matter most to average Americans. Early childhood education, affordable child care, housing, and food, access to higher education and job training, cost-effective transportation, and quality elder care are all issues that need to be addressed so that families have the ability to be financially self-sufficient, productive, and healthy.
As the dust settles after the President’s 2014 speech, we’re reminding the President and Congress that, while we face many challenges in these areas, there is much that can be done by our government to support a responsible path to prosperity. We hope the President and Congress will use 2014 to:
- Promote the development of children and youth by supporting successful strategies that boost early childhood development, quality pre-K-12 education, out-of-school time activities, physical and mental health, and develop and support integrated systems of care for children who have experienced abuse, disconnection, and related trauma.
- Ensure older adults are valued, fulfilled, and able to age with dignity. This can be done by reauthorizing the Older Americans Act, protecting and improving Medicaid, Medicare, and other health infrastructure, expanding the Senior Community Service Employment program (SCSEP), and fully funding federal programs that allow people to remind in their communities or homes.
- Assist Americans with disabilities’ efforts to reach their full potential as participants in society. By protecting federal funding for the Developmental Disabilities Act Programs, maintaining funding for key programs authorized by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, support of federal funding for the Administrative Budget of the Society Security Administration, and protecting the Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities program, the USA can ensure individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities are defined by their strengths and inherent value.
- Maximize outcomes for America’s most vulnerable families through re-authorization of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), increasing access and enrollment of homeless families in mainstream federal programs such as Medicaid, SNAP, TANF, and WIC, promoting increased support and services for grandfamilies and other relative caregivers, and passing the Behavioral Health Information Technology Act.
This is a time of opportunity, as much as a time of challenge.