The White House Task Force on the Middle Class today announced several initiatives it says will help middle-class families afford soaring child care costs, care for their aging relatives, cope with the challenge of saving for retirement and pay for their childrenâ€™s college tuition.
President Obama says the measures will help â€śease the burdens on middle-class families who are struggling in this economy, and provide the help they need to get ahead.â€ť The White House says Obama will discuss these and other vital middle-class issues, including job creation and health care in his State of the Union address Wednesday.
The Task Force chairman, Vice President Joe Biden, says the initiatives were developed after a series of meetings during the past year with working families around the country and at the White House.
Every day, middle-class families go to work and help make this country great. Â For a year, our Task Force has been hearing that they are struggling with soaring costs and squeezed family budgets. These common sense initiatives will help these families cope with these challenges.
The initiatives include:
â€˘ Nearly doubling the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit for middle-class families making under $85,000 a year and a $1.6 billion increase in child care funding for families struggling to enter the middle class.
â€˘ Limiting a studentâ€™s federal loan payments to 10 percent of his or her income above a basic living allowance.
â€˘ Creating a system of automatic workplace IRAs, requiring all employers to give the option for employees to enroll in a direct-deposit IRA.
â€˘ Expanding tax credits to match retirement savings and enacting new safeguards to protect retirement savings.
â€˘ Expanding support for families balancing work with caring for elderly relatives.
Click here for a fact sheet with more detailed information on each initiative.
The Task Force has given working families and union leaders the opportunity to outline their concerns and offer recommendations on ways to make the economy work for working families.
United Steelworkers President Leo W. Gerard emphasized the need for creation of good green jobs. Members of Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 730 in St. Cloud. Minn., told Biden and the Task Force that the Employee Free Choice Act was vital to allow workers to bargain for jobs with good wages and benefits. AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler urged the Task Force to make fixing manufacturing a priority in building a stronger economy.
Visit the White House Task Force on the Middle Class website here.
*This article originally appeared in the AFL-CIO blog on January 25, 2009. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Mike Hall is a former West Virginia newspaper reporter, staff writer for theÂ United Mine Workers JournalÂ and managing editor of theÂ Seafarers Log. I came to the AFL- CIO in 1989 and have written for several federation publications, focusing on legislation and politics, especially grassroots mobilization and workplace safety. When my collar was still blue, I carried union cards from the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers, American Flint Glass Workers and Teamsters for jobs in a chemical plant, a mining equipment manufacturing plant and a warehouse. Iâ€™ve also worked as roadie for a small-time country-rock band, sold my blood plasma and played an occasional game of poker to help pay the rent. You may have seen me at one of several hundred Grateful Dead shows. I was the one with longhair and the tie-dye. Still have the shirts, lost the hair.