The Obama administration on Thursday highlighted initiatives in housing, education, the workforce, and health care designed to help foster a better economic environment for African-Americans as the nation continues to emerge from the financial recession.
In the first week of Black History Month, the Obama administration seized the moment to reflect on its record of addressing economic disparities among African-Americans.
“During this administration, African Americans have made enormous strides in many of these areas,” reads a White House fact-sheet. “Even so, more work remains to further improve economic outcomes for African Americans and fight to rid our country of the long-term disparities that have put the African-American community at a disadvantage.”
Jason Furman, President Barack Obama‘s chief economist, said African-Americans bore the brunt of the recession, seeing their unemployment rate rise to 16.8 percent in March 2010. It dropped to 8.3 percent in December 2015, the lowest level since September 2007.
“When the president came into office the United States was in the midst of the most devastating recession since the Great Depression,” he said on a White House conference call. “The overall unemployment rate rose to 10 percent. The African-American community bore the brunt of that recession, seeing its unemployment rate rise to a high of 16.8 percent in March 2010.
“Thanks in part to the efforts of this administration, including the Economic Recovery Act, the auto rescue, housing infrastructure and a range of other policies, the overall economy has recovered strongly,” he continued. “Businesses have added jobs for 70 straight months — the longest streak on record — for a total of 14 million jobs.”
He noted that while the Black unemployment rate is below its pre-recession level more than any other racial or ethnic group, the nation has more work to do.
A White House fact sheet highlights other milestones designed to spur economic recovery for African-Americans:
Permanent Tax Cuts that Promote Work and Reduce Poverty: The president established and recently made permanent significant improvements to tax credits for working families. The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) were expanded to encourage work and help low-income parents afford the costs of raising a family, together providing about 16 million families a year with a tax cut averaging $900. These tax credit expansions provide about 2 million African American families a year with an average tax cut of about $1,000 each. Because of these improvements, a single parent working full-time, year-round at the federal minimum wage gets an additional CTC of more than $1,700; if the expansion were not in place, that parent would not receive any CTC.
Providing Additional Tax Relief for Working and Middle Class Families: In addition to the tax cuts already enacted, the president’s budget proposes additional tax relief for working and middle class families, including to triple the child care tax credit for children under 5, expand access to workplace savings opportunities, and enact a second earner tax credit to help married couples in which both spouses work. The president’s proposal to expand the EITC for workers without qualifying children, including non-custodial parents, would also promote and reward work, including those who experience difficulty connecting to the labor force. This proposal would directly reduce poverty and hardship for 13.2 million low-income workers—including about 2 million African-Americans. The president’s Budget would pay for these important reforms by eliminating the biggest loopholes that let the wealthy avoid paying their fair share and by imposing a fee on large financial institutions.
Making College More Accessible and Affordable: The president signed legislation increasing the maximum Pell Grant by more than $1,000 and total Pell Grant funding by 70 percent, helping millions of low- and moderate-income students afford college every year. He’s also taken steps to reduce student loan burdens, including ending student loan subsidies for private banks and shifting the savings back to students, reducing student loan interest rates to historic lows, and capping student loan payments at 10 percent of income for all students. The president also established and made permanent the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which provides a tax cut of up to $10,000 over four years for nearly 10 million working and middle-class families a year paying for college. The president’s Budget would build on this progress by simplifying and expanding education tax benefits, including an expanded AOTC that is available for five years and provides additional support to low-income students and families. The president’s Budget also supports America’s College Promise, which would make community college free for responsible students.
Getting more Americans into Better, Higher Paying Jobs: Last July, the Administration–with the leadership of Vice President Joe Biden–released a plan for our job-training and employment programs to be more responsive to the needs of employers in order to effectively place ready-to-work Americans in jobs that are available now or train them in the skills needed for better jobs. Since then we have awarded over 15 competitive job-training grants that total over $1.2 billion and more than $8 billion in non-competitive formula funding that incorporate the job-driven training elements such as stronger employer engagement, work-based learning approaches, better use of labor market information, and accountability for employment outcomes.
What do you think about the president’s progress in helping African-Americans through the recession? Let us know in the comments.
SOURCE: White House | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty | VIDEO CREDIT: Inform