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Everything You Need to Know about President Obama's Plan to Ensure Hard Work Leads to a Decent Living

In his State of the Union Address, President Obama laid out a plan to build on the progress we’ve made over the last four years to expand opportunity for every American and every community willing to do the work to lift themselves up.

"America is not a place where the chance of birth or circumstance should decide our destiny.  And that’s why we need to build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class for all who are willing to climb them." President Barack Obama, State of the Union, February 12, 2013

In his State of the Union Address, President Obama laid out a plan to build on the progress we’ve made over the last four years to expand opportunity for every American and every community willing to do the work to lift themselves up.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the challenges we face, and It will take a collaborative effort—between business and federal, state, and local officials; faith-based and non-profit organizations; kids and parents—to ensure that hard work leads to a decent living for every American.

Read more about the President's plan below.

Reward hard work by raising the minimum wage

The President believes that no one who works full time should have to raise their family in poverty. Right now, a full-time minimum wage worker makes $14,500 a year – which leaves too many families struggling to make ends meet. A family of four supported by a minimum wage worker still living below the poverty line, even counting tax credits for working families. 

That’s why the President is calling on Congress to raise the Federal minimum wage to $9.00 and index it to inflation thereafter, so that working families can keep up with rising costs.

Raising the minimum wage to $9 would directly boost the wages of about 15 million workers by the end of 2015, and a range of economic studies show that raising the minimum wage increases earnings and reduces poverty without jeopardizing employment.

For a working family earning $20,000 - $30,000, the extra $3,500 per year from raising the minimum wage would cover:

  • The family’s spending on groceries for a year
  • The family’s spending on utilities for a year
  • The family’s spending on gasoline and clothing for a year
  • Six months of housing

Read more about President Obama's plan to raise the minimum wage here.

Helping communities rebuild and put people back to work

Working with local leadership, the President is proposing to align a number of existing initiatives to make sure federal programs and resources are focused intensely on 20 communities hardest hit by the recession.  

These targeted investments can help transform high-poverty communities into places of opportunity that can attract private investment, improve education, and create jobs.  For example, leveraging Department of Housing and Urban Development grants in high-poverty neighborhoods can help attract private investment to tear down distressed public housing and build new mixed income homes, while ensuring that low-income residents do not get displaced. Using Department of Education funding to expand early education, after school and summer instructional time can help make sure students in these communities graduate high school prepared to enter the workforce or start college.

Additionally, President Obama’s proposal would provide tax credits for businesses that hire or invest in targeted communities can help stimulate growth, white helping local leader navigate federal programs can make sure they are able to use federal resources more effectively.

Creating pathways to jobs

The President’s plan helps low-income youth find summer and year-round jobs, teaches our kids the real world skills they need to find a job, and offers incentives to companies that hire the long-term unemployed. This includes supporting job and work-based training opportunities for long term unemployed and low-income adults, as well as summer and year-round jobs for low-in­come youth.

President Obama also recognizes that the opportunity to acquire the skills to get and keep a good job starts early and through education, which is why he’s announcing a new competition to redesign our nation’s high schools to emphasize real-world learning. His plan rewards schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus on technology, science, engineering, and other skills today’s employers are demanding to fill jobs open now and in the future.

Providing high-quality early education

For America to succeed in the 21st century, we must have the most dynamic, educated workforce in the world, and that education has to start early in life. But today, most four-year-olds aren’t in a high-quality public preschool program. That’s why, in his State of the Union address, President Obama called on Congress to make high-quality preschool available for every child, while incentivizing states to expand access to full-day kindergarten. Read more about his plan for early education here.

Strengthening Families

The President will also continue his commitment to support healthy marriages for all families, including removing deterrents for low-income couples to get married and supporting the critical role that fathers play in enhancing the intellectual, emotional, and financial well-being of their sons and daughters.