Other legal entities including state, county and city governments, political subdivisions, public authorities, public corporations, estates, trusts or any other legal or commercial entity.Edward Palonek Rothwell
Few things matter more to a community's well-being than the quality of its public education. You can see its long-range impact in virtually every aspect of daily life, from our employment rates to crime rates, from the number of houses being bought to the number of teen pregnancies. As a teen, I attended Westinghouse High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I began my professional career as a high school teacher. I know firsthand how important great teaching and quality education is to our future.
Here in Pennsylvania, we know that to have healthy and productive communities, education must be our Number 1 priority. That's especially true among low-income black students enrolled in the most at-risk, low-income schools.Since 2008, we've seen slow but steady strides made in closing the “achievement gap” between black and white students. One of the proudest occasions of my life was facilitating and witnessing the birth of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh Charter School in 1998, where the achievement gap between black and white students has virtually been eliminated.
For the past several decades, I have worked tirelessly to build diverse coalitions and to unite diverse leaders in Baltimore, New York, Hartford, and Pittsburgh to advocate for education reform and equity. As President and CEO at the Pittsburgh Urban League, I am called on to be a voice of reason and a coalition builder. To that end, three years ago I was asked to convene African American visionaries representing the region’s corporate, nonprofit, government, religious, civic, and community sectors to respond to the needs of low-performing students in Pittsburgh Public Schools and to affect a culture of academic achievement and success for the region’s African American youth. This group has evolved to be the African American Achievement Trust (AAAT.)Education Is The New Civil Rights Issue
Real median income declined by $777 to $50,054 in 2011. This decline in income is another example of why it was so important for Congress to pass the President’s payroll tax cut - which put $1,000 in the pocket of approximately 160 million working Americans last year, thus providing an important cushion for families that saw their pre-tax incomes decrease in 2011. More recent data available for 2012, including data on job growth, unemployment and wages, indicate that real median income is growing this year. In addition, data from the government’s Current Population Survey analyzed by Sentier Research indicate that median household income has grown $1,176 in the last 12 months; although these data are not as reliable as the comprehensive Census estimates, they are an indicator of more recent trends in income.
Still, too many Americans are feeling the effects of the crisis, which is why the President believes Congress must vote this month to extend the middle class tax cuts to ensure that 98 percent of Americans do not see a significant tax hike at the end of the year. If Congress fails to act, the typical middle class family will face a $2,200 tax increase. Middle class families need economic certainty and Republicans in Congress should not hold these middle class tax cuts hostage simply to preserve massive tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires. Moreover, if Congress is truly concerned about income levels, it should act this month to pass job creation proposals in the President’s American Jobs Act – which independent economists believe would create 1 million jobs and has been before Congress for over a year.
Today’s report also shows that thanks in part to the Affordable Care Act, 1.3 million fewer people were uninsured in 2011. Today’s report also shows that thanks in part to the Affordable Care Act, 3.6 million more people were covered by health insurance in 2011 and the percentage of the population without insurance declined from 16.3 percent in 2010 to 15.7 percent in 2011. In addition, the rate of private insurance coverage was essentially unchanged in 2011 for the first time in a decade.
The poverty rate fell from 15.1 percent in 2010 to 15.0 percent in 2011, with the number of people in poverty edging down from 46.3 million in 2010 to 46.2 million in 2011. President Obama believes in building an economy where those in the middle class and those fighting to get out of poverty have a fair shot. That’s why he’s fighting to help families stay in their homes, reform our education system, and get Americans the skills they need to compete. President Obama signed into law provisions that kept 7 million people out of poverty in 2010, increased the income of 32 million more and lifted millions more out of poverty in 2011. These include, for example, the expansion of the refundability of the child tax credit and the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit. It is also important to note that the official poverty number released today does not reflect the effects of tax credits like these and non-cash assistance to low income families. The Census Bureau calculated that 5.7 million fewer people would have been classified as in poverty in 2011 had the EITC been taken into account.
Further background on 2012 data that are consistent with growth in real median household incomes in 2012:
Throughout his distinguished career, Bob Herbert has helped shine a spotlight on the lives of Americans living in poverty – a group that is too often ignored. That was certainly true of his May 21st column, in which he told the story of 20 poor children from the Bronx who are growing up in truly appalling conditions. It was heartbreaking to hear about the children Mr. Herbert met: The girl who told him, “I never feel safe.” The child who said she felt there was no purpose to her existence. The stories they told about too many shootings, and too few jobs.
Mr. Herbert expressed understandable frustration that our political discourse rarely focuses on the notion that the American dream is closed off to far too many of our citizens. But when Mr. Herbert suggested that President Obama has “given up” on the idea of opportunity and upward mobility, he was simply wrong.
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. I have worked in the White House since the day President Obama took office. At every juncture-every big decision, every major policy development, every negotiation -- I have seen President Obama fight for the things that help our country preserve that bargain for all Americans, rich or poor.
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. For some, it’s possible to get by without a job for a while. But for too many Americans working hard to be a part of the middle class, job loss means slipping into poverty. That’s why during his first months in office, President Obama took swift action to stop the hemorrhaging of jobs-giving tax cuts to working families, keeping teachers in the classroom, and keeping first responders on the streets.
For those Americans who fell on hard times and lost their jobs through no fault of their own, President Obama has acted to prevent millions from slipping into poverty and helped build a path to the middle class. To help families put food on the table and make ends meet, President Obama signed an expansion of the SNAP program and nine extensions of unemployment insurance. There are new opportunities for those on unemployment as well. Two months ago, in addition to extending benefits, President Obama signed unemployment insurance reforms to help job seekers develop the skills they need for their next job through apprenticeships and training programs.
Our country has been struggling with these issues for decades before the economic collapse in 2008. And while we won’t solve these problems overnight, President Obama believes the first step in the process is to invest in an education system that opens up opportunity to every hard working student.
President Obama has invested in early childhood education, including Head Start, Early Head Start, and child care assistance, benefiting more than 360,000 poor children. We have invested in new child nutrition programs, to make sure more young people have enough to eat, and have the chance to eat healthy food. The President has devoted more than $4 billion to turning around our lowest performing schools, many of which have already made double-digit gains in reading and math proficiency.
President Obama has also fought to make college more affordable. He has supported an expansion of Pell Grants to 3 million more students and raised the maximum Pell Grant award by nearly $1,000. In addition, President Obama established the American Opportunity Tax Credit, providing over nine million students and families with up to $10,000 for four years of higher education. Because of President Obama’s commitment, more children like the ones Mr. Herbert documented will be able to go to an early childhood education program, a high-performing public school, and a two-year or four-year college.
Of course, these are just a few of the initiatives the Obama
Administration has undertaken to help more Americans reach the middle
class. One of the first bills the President signed into law, the
expansion of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, has helped ensure
that millions of children have access to health care. In fact, the
number of uninsured children fell by one million between 2006 and 2010.
We have built on the success of not-for-profits such as Harlem Children’s Zone, and worked with partners in government, business, and the not-for-profit sector to introduce innovative new approaches to fighting poverty. This includes our Summer Jobs+ program, which will provide more than 250,000 poor youth with a pathway to employment this summer.
Over the last two years – time and time again -Republicans in Congress have sought to ignore, or harshly cut, the investments we need to create opportunity and pathways to the middle class. There’s no way to know what would have happened if President Obama didn’t act when the economy was on the brink of collapse, but to this day Republicans in Congress treat the Recovery Act like a political football. In fact, when tax relief for working families was scheduled to expire at the end of 2010 and 2011, President Obama stood up to Republicans attempts to block the extension. Today, a combined 17.6 million low-income working parents are still eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit because of the President’s leadership.
Almost every Republican lawmaker voted to reduce funding for the SNAP program by nearly 20 percent, and cut Medicaid by one third. Representative Paul Ryan, who authored the Republican budget, has said our social safety net is in danger of becoming a “hammock,” and argues it must be radically scaled back. As President Obama has publicly pointed out, this vision of America would hurt poor children, kids with disabilities, and students.
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. Republicans in Congress believe that everyone should be left to fend for themselves. The difference between these two positions could not be more clear.
The question we are debating in Washington today is simple: Will we meet our responsibilities to these children? Will we invest in their educations, or ignore their potential? Will we help rebuild their neighborhoods, or turn a blind eye to the difficulties they live with every day? Will we provide them with the tools they need to achieve the American dream, or will they fall further and further behind?
The outcome of the debates between the President and Republicans in Congress matters. The direction we choose will affect the lives of poor children in the Bronx and throughout our country. We owe it to them to be clear about the choices we face.
Valerie Jarrett is Senior Advisor to President Obama, Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls and she oversees the Offices of Intergovernmental Affairs, Public Engagement, and Urban Affairs.
Building upon last month’s announcement of $142 million in awards for distressed communities – the single largest round of awards in the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund’s history – yesterday, I had the privilege of meeting with a national gathering of Native CDFIs in Honolulu, HI where I announced an additional $11.85 million in awards expressly for financial institutions serving Native American, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian communities.
That money, made under the fiscal year 2011 round of Treasury’s Native American CDFI Assistance Program (NACA Program), will go to 35 organizations with a primary mission of serving low-income and distressed Native communities in 17 states (pdf), the majority of them in rural areas. Of the 35, seven organizations serving Native Hawaiian communities will receive awards that will allow them to increase lending services, start new microloan programs and increase their capacity to serve their target markets.
Native American, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian communities throughout the United States have always faced a unique set of challenges and opportunities when it comes to community development. The NACA Program awards have been tailored to address that unique situation, and to enable these organizations to expand their operations and lending to serve Native communities in need. These grants mean that Native CDFIs now have additional critical resources to aid them as they work to fight poverty and increase economic development.
I was joined by Senator Daniel K. Inouye, Representative Colleen Hanabusa and Native CDFIs from across the country to announce the awards, which capped off a trip focused on Native community development issues in Hawaii. During the trip, I had the opportunity to tour CDFI projects in several distressed communities and participate in a roundtable discussion on economic development hosted by the U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee. On the big island of Hawaii, I had the privilege of traveling off the main roads and deep into the Waipio Valley to see firsthand the needs of remote Native Hawaiians. There I met with several Native CDFI leaders providing financing to build new housing developments for families without adequate shelter, create new charter schools to provide a better education for young Native Hawaiians and make available loans to support small businesses that create local jobs. Their work was inspiring and will be greatly assisted by the awards Treasury announced yesterday.
The CDFI Fund has been actively addressing Native CDFI-specific capacity issues for nearly a decade under the NACA Program, and yesterday’s awards announcement is a testament to the positive work we’ve been able to do in Native communities over that time. You can learn more about the NACA Program and our other Native initiatives on the CDFI Fund’s website.
Donna Gambrell is Director of the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund.
We now face a make-or-break moment for the middle class and those trying to reach it. After decades of eroding middle-class security as those at the very top saw their incomes rise as never before and after a historic recession that plunged our economy into a crisis from which we are still fighting to recover, it is time to construct an economy that is built to last. The President’s 2013 Budget is built around the idea that our country does best when everyone gets a fair shot, does their fair share, and plays by the same rules. We must transform our economy from one focused on speculating, spending, and borrowing to one constructed on the solid foundation of educating, innovating, and building. That begins with putting the Nation on a path to living within our means – by cutting wasteful spending, asking all Americans to shoulder their fair share, and making tough choices on some things we cannot afford, while keeping the investments we need to grow the economy and create jobs. The Budget targets scarce federal resources to the areas critical to growing the economy and restoring middle-class security: education and skills for American workers, innovation and manufacturing, clean energy, and infrastructure. The Budget is a blueprint for how we can rebuild an economy where hard work pays off and responsibility is rewarded.
To give a hand up to low-income families, the 2013 Budget will:
Extend Expanded Tax Cuts for Lower-Income Families. The Budget permanently extends expansions of the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit that were passed in the Recovery Act and continued as part of the bipartisan Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act that the President negotiated and signed into law in December of 2010. The expanded refundability of the Child Tax Credit provides a larger credit to 11.8 million families with 21.3 million children. The expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit is worth up to $655 for families with three or more children, benefitting 5.8 million families with 12.5 million children.
Preserve a Strong Unemployment Insurance Safety Net. Particularly during this time of high unemployment, the Administration believes it is critical to provide both a helping hand and a viable path back to employment. Over the past several years, UI benefits have helped American families stay afloat, keeping 3.2 million individuals – including nearly 1 million children – from falling into poverty in 2010. The American Jobs Act proposed an extension of federally funded benefits as well as the Reemployment NOW program, which includes a number of reforms to help UI claimants get back to work quickly. The Budget continues this support for extending federally funded benefits through December 2012, and instituting innovative approaches to better connect UI claimants with job opportunities.
Take Immediate Action to Support Growth and Job Creation. While we have made progress in restarting job creation – with 3.7 million private sector jobs created over the past 23 months – the President believes much more needs to be done to put Americans back to work. Building off the provisions he proposed in the American Jobs Act, the President is calling for immediate steps to support job creation this year. These steps include extending the payroll tax cut through the end of the year – ensuring that 160 million workers do not see their taxes go up – providing aid to states and localities to hire and retain teachers and first responders, extending Unemployment Insurance, and making a $50 billion up-front investment in infrastructure.
Help States Provide Paid Family Leave to Workers. Too many families must make the painful choice between the care of their families and a paycheck they desperately need. The Family and Medical Leave Act allows workers to take job-protected unpaid time off, but millions of families can’t afford to use unpaid leave. A handful of States have enacted policies to offer paid family leave, but more States should have the chance. The Budget supports a $5 million State Paid Leave Fund within the Department of Labor that will provide technical assistance and support to States that want to establish paid-leave programs.
Reform Child Welfare. The Budget includes $2.5 billion over 10 years in new mandatory funding for incentive payments to States that demonstrate real, meaningful improvements on measures of child outcomes such as child abuse and neglect and service quality. These incentives would help States finance innovative services and encourage continuous improvement in the child welfare system.
Prevent Hunger and Improve Nutrition. At a time of continued need, the Budget provides full funding to support the 9.1 million individuals expected to participate in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants and Children (WIC) program, which is critical to the health of pregnant women, new mothers, and their infants. The Budget also supports continued implementation of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which is strengthening the child nutrition programs and increasing children's access to healthy meals and snacks. In addition, the Budget re-proposes to extend certain temporary Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. SNAP is the cornerstone of our Nation’s food assistance safety net and touches the lives of millions of Americans, half of them children. Finally, in order to combat food deserts, the Departments of Agriculture, Health and Human Services, and Treasury have partnered to make available approximately $400 million in financing to community development financial institutions, other nonprofits, public agencies, and businesses with sound strategies for addressing the healthy food needs of underserved communities.
Fund the Strategic Plan to End Homelessness. The Budget continues to make progress toward the goals of the Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, which was released by the President in June 2010. The Budget includes over $2.2 billion for HUD’s Homeless Assistance Grants, which will maintain existing units and expand prevention, rapid re-housing, and permanent supportive housing. In addition, the Budget provides $75 million in HUD funds for new housing vouchers for homeless veterans who receive health care and other services through the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Adjust LIHEAP for Expected Winter Fuel Costs. The President’s Budget provides $3 billion for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to help struggling families make ends meet by offsetting some of their home heating and cooling costs. While the cost of natural gas -- which is the heating fuel most LIHEAP households use -- has not risen in recent years, the price of heating oil has been on the rise. The additional $450 million over the 2012 request reflects expected home heating costs for winter 2012-2013.
Give Every American a Fair Shot at Success by Improving and Reforming K-12 Education. The Administration has jump-started landmark reforms in our education system by rewarding excellence and promoting innovation. To build on this success, the Budget will:
Expand Access to College. To boost the number of college graduates, we need to make it easier for students to afford a postsecondary education and increase the number of students who complete their degree. The Administration has already taken significant strides to improve access to college. Today, nearly 10 million students receive Pell Grants, and more than 13 million students receive low-cost loans, with new affordable repayment options based on their income after leaving school. To help more young Americans go to college, the Budget will:
Equip American Workers for Good-Paying Jobs Today and in the Future. In this increasingly interconnected global economy, it is important that we give American workers the capabilities and American businesses the tools to compete and win in the global economy. To improve the capabilities of our workforce and expand lifelong learning opportunities, the Budget will:
Promote Fatherhood and Modernize Child Support. The Budget modernizes the child support program, which touches the lives of more than half of poor children as well as many middle-class families. These policy changes will encourage fathers to take responsibility for the emotional and financial well-being of their children and strengthen the child support program. The Budget includes $1.37 billion over ten years to increase financial support for States that pass through child support payments to families rather than retaining them and end the federal expectation of reimbursement for payments that are distributed to families receiving assistance through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. The Budget also includes $530 million over ten years for States to provide access and visitation services, which can strengthen a father’s relationship with his children and facilitate the payment of child support. The Budget also provides for $75 million in Responsible Fatherhood grants and $75 million in Healthy Marriage grants in FY 2013.
Continue Critical Funding for Health Centers. Health centers are a key component of the Nation’s health care safety net. These sites offer comprehensive, high quality, primary and preventive health care services to all Americans regardless of ability to pay. To ensure that health centers continue to provide critical access and services to millions of Americans in 2013 and for many years to come, the Budget promotes a policy of steady and sustainable health center growth by distributing Affordable Care Act resources over the long-term, including in years after 2015. In addition, the Budget provides sufficient funding to open new health centers in areas in the country where they do not currently exist, through 2015 and beyond. The Budget invests $3.1 billion for health center services in 2013 to support the creation of new health center sites across the country. The Budget will also continue support for the over 200 new health center sites created in 2012. In 2013, health centers are estimated to serve nearly 21 million patients.
Ensure that Workers Receive the Pay and Benefits to which they are Entitled. When employees are misclassified as independent contractors, they are deprived of benefits and protections to which they are legally entitled, such as overtime and unemployment benefits. Misclassification also costs taxpayers money in lost funds for the Treasury and in the Social Security, Medicare, and Unemployment Insurance Trust Funds. The Budget includes $13.8 million to combat misclassification, including $10 million for grants to states to identify misclassification and recover unpaid taxes and $3.8 million for additional Wage and Hour Division personnel to investigate misclassification. The Budget also provides an additional $6 million for the Wage and Hour Division for increased enforcement of the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act, which ensure that workers receive appropriate wages, overtime pay, and the right to take job-protected leave for family and medical purposes.
Preserve Affordable Rental Opportunities. The Budget requests $19.1 billion for the Housing Choice Voucher program to help more than two million extremely low- to low-income families with rental assistance live in decent housing in neighborhoods of their choice. The Budget funds all existing mainstream vouchers and provides new vouchers targeted to homeless veterans. The Administration remains committed to working with the Congress to improve the management and budgeting for the Housing Choice Voucher program, including reducing inefficiencies, and re-allocating Public Housing Authority reserves based on need and performance. This year the Administration extended the $15 billion Treasury Housing Finance Agencies Initiative that helped support development of more than 25,000 affordable rental properties over the past 2 years. The Budget also provides: (1) $8.7 billion for Project-Based Rental Assistance to preserve approximately 1.2 million affordable units through funding for contracts with private owners of multifamily properties; and (2) a total of $6.6 billion for the Public Housing program, which provides decent, safe, and sanitary housing to 1.1 million extremely low- to low-income families. In addition, the Budget proposes $1 billion in mandatory funding to finance the development, rehabilitation, and preservation of affordable housing for extremely low-income families through the Housing Trust Fund.
Preserve Funding for HUD’s Largest Block Grants. The Budget provides $2.9 billion in flexible Community Development Block Grant funds, equal to 2012 enacted levels. Funding is distributed to 1,200 State and local governments to address infrastructure, affordable housing, and economic development needs in their communities. In addition, the Budget also provides $1 billion in HOME Investment Partnerships program. These funds are used to increase the supply of affordable housing for low-income families. Preserving these funding levels reflect the Administration’s commitment to State and local governments during challenging fiscal conditions.
Expand the Promise Neighborhoods Program to Prepare More Students for College. The Budget includes $100 million in dedicated support for Promise Neighborhoods, modeled after the Harlem Children’s Zone, which aims to improve college going rates by combining a rigorous K-12 education with a full network of supportive services in an entire neighborhood. This initiative would support comprehensive programs that address the needs of children and youth in a targeted area from before the time they are born to their attendance in college.
Revitalize Distressed Urban Neighborhoods. The Budget reflects an integrated and performance-driven approach to distressed urban neighborhoods, where the challenges tied to jobs, education, public safety, and other needs intersect and compound each other. The Budget provides $150 million for the Choice Neighborhoods initiative to continue transformative investments in high-poverty neighborhoods where distressed HUD-assisted public and privately owned housing is located, a $30 million increase from 2012 enacted level. The Budget will reach 4 to 6 neighborhoods with grants that primarily fund the preservation, rehabilitation and transformation of HUD-assisted public and privately-owned multifamily housing, and will also engage local governments, nonprofits, and for-profit developers in partnerships to improve surrounding communities. The Budget also maintains funding for the Department of Labor’s YouthBuild program, which helps low-income young people ages 16-24 finish high school and learn job skills by building affordable housing in their communities. In addition, the Budget includes $15 billion for Project Rebuild, which invests in proven strategies that leverage private capital and expertise to rehabilitate hundreds of thousands of properties in communities across the country.
Expand Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit. The Budget would make the child and dependent care tax credit more generous to middle class families. Eligible families may claim the credit for up to 35 percent of up to $3,000 in eligible expenses for one child and up to $6,000 for two or more children. The percentage of expenses for which a credit may be taken decreases by one percentage point for every $2,000 of adjusted gross income over $15,000 until the percentage of expenses reaches 20 percent at incomes above $43,000. There are no further income limits. The proposals would increase the beginning of the phasedown to $75,000 (and thus, the end of the phasedown range would be $103,000).
Promote Better Outcomes for Disconnected Youth. The Budget requests $10 million— $5 million each in the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services—to support interagency strategies designed to strengthen the impact of Federal programs serving disconnected youth, identify opportunities to eliminate barriers to delivering effective services, and promote collaboration. This funding will be closely coordinated with $10 million provided for youth-focused strategies in the Department of Labor’s Workforce Innovation Fund.
Expand Low income Legal Assistance. The 2013 Budget provides $402 million for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), an increase of $54 million, or 16 percent, above the FY 2012 enacted level. LSC is the largest single funder of civil legal aid to low-income Americans, supporting 135 local legal aid programs across the country. These programs are helping low-income citizens avoid foreclosures, escape domestic violence, deal with consumer fraud and veterans’ benefits, as well as other critical civil matters. The drop in LSC funding in FY 2012 and decline in other important funding sources have led to significant reductions in attorneys, paralegals, and support staff at LSC-funded programs across the country. At the same time, legal aid organizations are seeing an increasing demand for their services.
Certain risk factors may make the female population vulnerable to substance abuse. A three-year study on women and young girls (aged 8–22) revealed that girls and young women use substances for different reasons than boys and young men. The study found that risk factors such as low self-esteem, peer pressure, and depression make girls and young women more vulnerable to substance use as well as addiction, in that females become dependent faster and suffer the consequences sooner, compared to males. (National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, The Formative Years: Pathways to Substance Abuse Among Girls and Young Women Ages 8–22 (PDF) , February 2003).
Substance use is a growing problem among females. The 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reported that approximately 6.6% of women aged 12 and older reported past month use of an illicit drug. (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), September 2010).
Women in the criminal justice system display an even higher rate of substance use. According to data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, approximately 59.3% of state and 47.6% of Federal female prisoners surveyed in 2004 indicated that they had used drugs in the month prior to their offense. Additionally, approximately 60.2% of state and 42.8% of Federal female prisoners surveyed in 2004 met drug dependence or abuse criteria.
"I want every service member who's deployed to know that when you're over there taking care of the country that you love, your country is back here taking care of the families that you love. I want every military wife and husband to know that we're going to help you keep your family strong and secure. I want every military kid to know that we're going to be there for you, too, to help you grow and to live your dreams."
—President Obama, January 24th, 2011
On January 24, 2011, President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Dr. Jill Biden put forward nearly 50 commitments by Federal agencies responding to the President's directive to establish a coordinated and comprehensive Federal approach to supporting military families. These commitments, detailed in the Strengthening Our Military Families: Meeting America's Commitment report, represent the work of Cabinet Secretaries and other agency heads who have come together find better ways to provide our military families with the support they deserve.
The Office of National Drug Control Policy stands with the President and our fellow agencies in furthering our commitment to the dedicated military families and veterans who serve our Nation. Far too many brave men and women who have risked their lives in service to our country are now suffering from physical, mental health, and substance abuse problems. We have an obligation to care for our military families and veterans and to improve their lives by increasing access to vital treatment services specifically geared toward our military heroes.
The Obama Administration has a renewed emphasis on expanding access to drug treatment for active duty military and veterans.
This effort comes at a vital time. According to a recent survey conducted by the Department of Defense, one in eight active duty military personnel are current users of illicit drugs. This is largely driven by prescription drug abuse, reported by one in nine service members—more than double the rate of the civilian population.
Additionally, a survey of incarcerated veterans conducted by the Department of Justice found that an estimated 60% of the 140,000 veterans in Federal and state prisons were struggling with a substance use disorder, while approximately 25% reported being under the influence of drugs at the time of their offense. Many of these issues can be connected to the trauma of combat and other service-related experiences and, for this reason, require appropriate measures to address them.
The Obama Administration has requested significant resources to assist in strengthening military families. The President's FY 2012 Budget request includes nearly $9.0 Billion in Federal funding for early intervention and treatment services – an increase of $99 million over FY2010. This includes $541.7 million – an increase of $33.8 million dollars over FY 2010 enacted – in direct support of veterans' treatment programs that provide effective, safe, efficient, recovery-oriented, and compassionate care for veterans with substance abuse disorders and mental illness.
As Americans, we must keep in mind the enduring debt we owe our country's military veterans. While news accounts remind us daily of the dangers our military men and women confront in combat, the serious challenges facing our veterans when they return home, particularly substance abuse and psychological health problems, often go untreated. Sadly, these challenges can sometimes lead to criminal or other destructive behaviors.
Veterans Treatment Courts seek to treat veterans suffering from a substance abuse and/or mental health disorder, while helping ensure public safety. These special courts combine rigorous treatment and personal accountability, with the goal of breaking the cycle of drug use and criminal behavior. Veterans Courts promote sobriety, recovery, and stability through a coordinated response involving the traditional partners found in drug courts and mental health courts, as well as the Department of Veterans Affairs healthcare networks, the Veterans Benefits Administration, State Departments of Veterans Affairs, volunteer veteran mentors, and veterans family support organizations.
First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden joined forces with Sears Holding's Heroes at Home program and the Rebuilding Together nonprofit organization today to put the final touches on the 1,000th home that they have rebuilt for veterans since 2007.
The home belongs to Army Sergent Johnny Agbi who served in the Army’s 10th Mountain Division and deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. While serving as an Army medic in Afghanistan, his helicopter transport was shot down and he suffered injuries that have required him to use a wheelchair and join a comprehensive rehabilitation program. Along with fifty volunteers, the First Lady, Dr. Biden, Sears and Rebuilding Together completed a retrofit of Army Sergent Johnny Agbi’s home to make it wheelchair accessible.
The Joining Forces initiative is all about honoring and supporting America’s service members and their families, and the work of the Heroes at Home program and Rebuilding Together is an amazing example of how companies, organizations and individuals can help. They work to improve the lives of American military families by making necessary repairs, improvements or modifications to the homes of veterans and wounded warriors.
Following the build, Dr. Jill Biden thanked Sergeant Johnny Agbi for welcoming the team to his home:
Sergeant Agbi, I know I speak for everyone here today when I say, you are a true hero. You and all of your fellow veterans and service members from across the country show us every day what words like "strength" and "courage" mean. And, of course, we're also grateful to your family members for their service to our country.
Projects like today's build represent some of the incredible ways that communities are coming together to support our veterans and military families all across the United States. And these projects, and all the partners and volunteers who make them possible, embody the spirit of the Joining Forces Initiative that the First Lady and I launched earlier this year.
First Lady Michelle Obama also had a message for everyone who joined forces to make the day possible:
One of our goals with Joining Forces is really to use what we have to shine a light not only on the incredible service of America’s military families who give our nation so much, but also on those Americans -- like all of you -- who are stepping up in so many important ways to give something back to these men and women and their families.
And that’s exactly what’s happening here today with these two wonderful announcements. First, we’re marking the 1,000th home that Sears and Rebuilding Together have refitted for our wounded warriors through the Heroes at Home Project. And that is a very impressive accomplishment and you all should be just so proud -- 1,000 homes.
And on top of that, Sears Holdings is pledging to increase the number of military family members in its workforce by 10 percent. I mean, that’s incredible. That's exactly what we're hoping to see happen. It means that more than 30,000 troops, veterans, and military spouses will be working at Sears. And it’s only the latest commitment that the Sears team has made. They have been working with us at Joining Forces since the very beginning. And we look forward to working with them even more, but more importantly, for them to serve as an example of how America’s businesses can look out for our heroes, particularly during these tough economic times.
And all of this is just amazing. It represents the best that our country has to offer. And just think about what those kind of numbers actually mean. Just think about the lives that are changed. Think about the renewed sense of security that each family feels because mom or dad just got hired; how the wounded warrior whose life is transformed by a refurbished home. Just think about what that new front door, that broader, wider front door means -- it's no longer an obstacle; the stairway that is no longer an adversary; the building that’s no longer just a house, but it's now become a home.