President Biden clocked his first State of the Union address last night, and while major focus was placed on the current Russian invasion of Ukraine and the call for widespread support of the Ukrainian people, the President made it known that he also still has parents and families on his mind as he enters the second year of his presidency — one in which he hasn’t yet delivered on many of his key promises to families, like affordable child care, paid family and medical leave, and more.
But, despite setbacks in his domestic agenda, Biden appeared to attempt to reset the clock on making sure that he at least improves some aspects of the social safety net for American families. Here are five key takeaways for parents and families from this year’s State of the Union.
A Plan on Inflation
Americans are facing astronomical inflation these days, and Biden said combatting it is one of his “top priorities.”
“But with all the bright spots in our economy including record job growth, higher wages, too many families are struggling to keep up with the bills,” said the President. “Inflation is robbing them of the gains they thought otherwise they would be able to feel. I get it. That’s why my top priority is getting prices under control.”
To do so, he outlined a multi-pronged approach that would tackle skyrocketing prescription drug prices, create manufacturing and infrastructure jobs, addresses high oceanic shipping costs, and fight corporate consolidation that drives up prices.
A Reiteration of the Need for The Child Tax Credit and Minimum Wage Increase
While mention of the Build Back Better Plan, the Biden administration’s landmark, multitrillion-dollar pandemic recovery bill, was noticeably absent, the President did discuss a few of the BBB’s points, namely extending the Child Tax Credit that lapsed at the beginning of 2022.
In December, the BBB act stalled in the Senate, making an extension of the monthly CTC payments impossible, leaving millions of American families to fall right back into the poverty they had just narrowly pulled themselves out of with the payments, and increasing the federal minimum wage.
The BBB also included mandates for increasing the federal minimum wage from $7.50 per hour, where it’s been since 2009, to $15 per hour, meaning more parents would earn closer to a living wage, and not have to work multiple jobs to provide necessities for their families.
A Promise on Paid Leave
Though he only mentioned it in passing during last night’s SOTU, introducing more expansive paid leave was a large part of the Build Back Better Plan.
In his plan, all workers, even the self-employed, would receive 20 working days of paid leave to care for themselves or a family member. The only stipulation is that workers would have had to earn at least $2,000 in the two years prior to the leave request, which would be handled through the Social Security Administration.
If introduced as part of a different bill or as a standalone bill, we can assume the structure would remain similar to the language included in the BBB.
If successful, it would mean that instead of depending on the Family Medical Leave Act, which provides up to six weeks of unpaid leave, new parents, those caring for family members with disabilities or severe illnesses, and adult children providing care for aging parents would be guaranteed a paycheck during eligible time off and not have to choose between providing care and paying bills.
Reigning in Social Media
President Biden said he would ask Congress to ban targeted ads to children and that social media platforms “should be required to prioritize and ensure” the safety of kids. This is increasingly important as more and more children are online, playing open-world games, and even beginning to use VR.
Social media platforms like Facebook have come under fire over the last year after documents leaked that executives were aware that the platform was harmful to the mental health of teenagers.
Child Care Costs and Access
Child care costs have soared over the last 20 years, increasing in cost well past the rate of inflation and costing many families as much as $14,000 per year. During his speech last night, President Biden briefly outlined a plan to cut child care costs and lessen the financial burden of care for working families.
“Middle-class and working folks shouldn’t have to pay more than 7 percent of their income to care for their young children,” he explained. “My plan would cut the cost in half for most families and help parents, including millions of women, who left the workforce during the pandemic because they couldn’t afford child care, to be able to get back to work. Generating economic growth.”
He also added that his plan included universal pre-kindergarten for three- and four-year-olds.
A Plan to Protect Trans Kids — And Their Parents
President Biden encouraged Congress to pass The Equality Act, which passed through the House of Representatives on March 1, 2021 and has languished in the Senate since. The Equality Act, if passed, would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include a prohibition on discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity in education, employment, housing, federally funded programs, and other areas.
The President’s mention of the Equality Act is timely considering the rash of anti-trans legislation currently being argued across the country and especially in light of the recent call by Texas Governor Greg Abbott to investigate the parents of many trans children for child abuse. The passage of the Equality Act would ensure fair and legal treatment of trans youth and adults, who are among the most marginalized and at-risk groups in our society.