FACT SHEET: Obama’s Agenda for Creating Economic Opportunity for Millennials
Last week, President Obama put forth his vision for continuing to build on the foundation we’ve laid for a strong, durable economy with secure middle class jobs. Thanks to the hard work and grit of the American people, we’re moving forward again and one generation in particular – Millennials – will shape our economy for decades to come.
Millennials came of age during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. In the face of these challenges, President Obama acted quickly to rebuild opportunity for all hardworking Americans, including Millennials. Together, we kept more teachers on the job to improve the quality of education for kids at our local schools. We cut subsidies to big banks so that we could make college more affordable by increasing Pell Grants. And we expanded health care coverage so that no one, including young people just getting their start, would go broke if they get sick.
There are still challenges to meet, but no generation has been better equipped to overcome them than Millennials. They’re skilled with technology and more educated than any previous generation. Today’s White House report details some of the key characteristics of the Millennial Generation as well as the impact that the Administration’s policies have had on them.
To build on this progress, there is also a path forward. Acting with Congress and on his own where he can, President Obama will continue to invest in our teachers and schools, cut student loan debt, build on our technology boom, expand health coverage and homeownership, and train every hardworking American with the skills they need to find a good job that pays good wages.
Making Higher Education More Affordable for Millennials: While college is more important than ever before, it is also more expensive. President Obama has taken steps to make college more affordable and increase financial aid – while Republicans have called for rolling back these expansions of student aid and opposed efforts to allow students to refinance student loans.
- Increasing federal financial support for higher education. Higher education can be a pathway to the middle class for many people, but we have to ensure that students are able to afford this investment.
- Creating the American Opportunity Tax Credit worth up to $10,000 over four years of college.
- Increasing Pell Grant scholarships by $1,000 a year, while reaching millions more students each year.
- Eliminating wasteful bank subsidies and passing along those savings to help more Americans afford college.
- Making student loan payments more affordable. President Obama created a new repayment plan allowing students to cap their student loan payments at 10 percent of their discretionary income. In June 2014, the President directed the Department of Education to make this plan available to every direct student loan borrower, benefiting nearly 5 million current and former students. The President has also supported Congressional efforts to allow student loan borrowers to refinance their loans, saving thousands in interest costs, which Republicans in Congress have blocked.
Supporting Innovation: Millennials are more connected to technology than previous generations, both in school and in work, and their innovations in this area have the potential to impact all workers through our economy for years to come. The President’s policies have supported innovation that helps students learn and entrepreneurs create new businesses.
- Digital Literacy for the Tech Generation. The President’s policies are creating new opportunity for a nation where life and livelihood will demand digital literacy. The ConnectED Initiative is transforming education by connecting every school to high-speed broadband and wireless, with over $4 billion in public and private funding announced since 2013.
- Empowering Innovation: The President has been actively working to make sure that patent trolls, who use vague and misleading threats of lawsuits to extort money from young companies, do not strangle American technological innovation. He is driving an agenda that has reformed how and when the government issues patents to improve their quality, limited abuse of certain trade courts to hold up new innovations, and continues to call on Congress to pass comprehensive reform to curtail patent trolls.
- Unlocking Consumer Choice: The President is also working to make sure that consumers have real flexibility when it comes to choosing technologies, and how they use them — like unlocking cell phones to use them with the mobile network that meets your needs. The Administration called last year to restore and safeguard this common-sense freedom, and this August, signed that bill into law.
Creating Opportunity and Supporting Good-Paying Middle-Class Jobs: Upon taking office, President Obama immediately took action to put Americans back to work. But while the unemployment rate for workers ages 18 to 34 has come down 5.1 percentage points, there is still work to do. The unemployment rate remains elevated, and wage growth for young workers has not kept pace with the past. The President is committed to taking steps to support stronger growth today and a stronger economy going forward:
- Supporting Equal Pay. The disparity in pay between women and men doesn’t just affect women’s financial well-being; it affects families and the nation’s overall economic health. The first bill President Obama signed into law in 2009 was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. In 2014 he took executive actions to advance the cause of equal pay by requiring federal contractors to submit data on employee compensation, and to prohibit retaliation when an employee of a federal contractor reveals his or her pay. These are all commonsense steps that move us down the road toward economic equality, even as Congress continues to debate the Paycheck Fairness Act, which the President strongly supports.
- Increasing the Minimum Wage: President Obama has called on Congress to raise the national minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour, which would provide 28 million workers with a raise, benefiting millions of lower- and middle-class families. But while Republicans in Congress have blocked this effort, progress is being made across the country: 13 states and D.C. have raised their minimum wage since the beginning of 2013 – benefitting over 7 million workers – and cities and businesses are also taking action on their own to raise wages. The President also signed an executive order to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 for workers on federal contracts.
- Expanding Tax Relief for Working Families: President Obama has expanded the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit, benefitting 16 million families a year – and has proposed permanently extending these expansions. The President has also proposed expanding the EITC for workers without dependent children, including the 3.3 million young workers ages 21-24 who are currently ineligible for the credit.
- Supporting Immigrants and Creating an Immigration System that Works: Millennials are more likely to be foreign-born than the previous two generations. The President has been fighting for a fair, effective and common sense immigration reform that lives up to our heritage as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. As that effort continues, the Administration is implementing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) which has benefitted some 600,000 young people who were brought to this country as children by their parents, and for whom the United States is home. Though DACA is an exercise of enforcement authority that does not provide permanent status, it has enabled young people to work without fear of deportation, to get new jobs, open their first bank accounts, and obtain drivers licenses.
- Investing in Infrastructure, Research and Manufacturing to Support Middle-Class Jobs: The President has proposed targeted investments in areas such as infrastructure, research and manufacturing that will both help create jobs today and lay the groundwork for stronger long-run growth. By contrast, the House Republican-passed budget would require deep cuts to early education, research, job training, clean energy and other areas that support a stronger economy.
Connecting Students and Workers with the Skills They Need for College and Career: The Administration has worked to make sure that more Millennials get the training they need for today’s jobs, including by better linking secondary and post-secondary education with industry to determine skills needed and design curriculum.
- Providing Every Child with a Complete and Competitive Education: As they begin planning families of their own, the Administration is committed to building the high-quality education system Millennials and their children deserve by incentivizing investment and improvement. With Race to the Top, the Administration has brought significant change to our education system by encouraging states to raise standards and aligning policies that promote college and career readiness, improve teacher effectiveness, use data effectively in the classroom, and adopt new strategies to help struggling schools.
- Redesigning High Schools: Earlier this year, the Administration awarded $100 million in grants this year to redesign high schools to more fully prepare youth with the knowledge, skills, and industry-relevant education needed to get on the pathway to a successful career.
- Better Training Students through Community Colleges and Connecting Job-Seekers to Work: To support the 7.7 million community college students across the country who represent 45 percent of all undergraduates, the Administration has awarded nearly $2 billion of competitive grants since 2011 to community colleges to partner with employers to expand and improve their ability to help job seekers get the skills they need for in-demand jobs. The Administration is also taking steps to connect the long-term unemployed to jobs, including by working with employers to spread best practices for recruiting and hiring the long-term unemployed.
- Expanding Access to Apprenticeships: The Administration has also been encouraging the expansion of apprenticeships as pathways to help young adults get into middle-class jobs. The Department of Labor will also soon be releasing an application for $100 million to create apprenticeship opportunities in high-growth fields and that award college credit.
- Working to “Upskill” Youth Early in Their Careers: To support youth who are starting out in their careers, the Administration has kicked off a new public-private effort – working with employers, educators, tech innovators, unions, training providers, cities, states, and non-profits – to help turn low-wage and entry-level jobs across the country into stepping stones to the middle class.
Increasing Access to Affordable Health Care: In addition to the direct economic consequences of the Great Recession, millions of Millennials were at risk of poor health outcomes exacerbated by unaffordable or unattainable insurance. The Affordable Care Act expanded coverage, helping millions of Americans obtain quality insurance. Yet House Republicans have voted on dozens of occasions to gut the law.
- Expanding Coverage to Age 26. Before the President signed the Affordable Care Act into law, most health plans kicked young people off when they turned 19 or graduated from college, leaving many college graduates and others with no insurance. Now, most health plans that cover children must make coverage available up to age 26, making it easier and more affordable for young adults to get coverage.
- Providing Preventive Care for Free. The Affordable Care Act requires most insurers to cover preventive care services without copays and deductibles. This means that, for the first time, important preventive services – including birth control – are available at no cost to millions of consumers who have private health insurance.
- Providing Affordable Health Care Coverage. Young Americans often have the least access to employer sponsored health care plans, which previously left many without any reasonably priced insurance opportunities. The Health Insurance Marketplace lets consumers choose a private health insurance plan that fits their health needs and consumers can also qualify for financial assistance. In fact, most people who shop in the Marketplace pay an average of $69 per month for their coverage.
Supporting Access to Credit for First-Time Homebuyers and Affordable Rental Housing and Putting in Place New Protections for Consumers: As the economy has recovered, the housing market has improved and more families are purchasing homes. But with Millennials becoming homeowners at lower rates than prior generations, the Administration is committed to taking steps to ensure more Americans have access to credit to buy a first home and the ability to find affordable rental housing.
- Making It Easier For Americans to Obtain Affordable Mortgage Financing Payments through the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). Today, the credit score that the typical borrower needs to get a government-guaranteed loan is significantly higher than in the past – and higher than we would expect given economic fundamentals. This leaves many responsible borrowers unable to find lenders willing to give them a mortgage at an affordable rate. In response, the Administration has launched a “Quality Assurance” framework to provide mortgage lenders with greater confidence to lend, while reducing FHA premiums for homeowners who obtain housing counseling. The Administration is also exploring additional reforms to drive progress and strengthen our housing market today.
- Supporting Affordable Rental Housing. In June, the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced an initiative to help provide low-cost financing to state and local housing finance agencies that provide multifamily mortgage loans insured by FHA. This will reduce interest rates for affordable housing, savings that will be passed on to renters. The Administration continues to explore administrative and legislative reforms to promote access to affordable rental housing for middle class families and those aspiring to be.
- Protecting the Financial Well-Being of Consumers through Wall Street Reform. Through Wall Street Reform, the Administration has created the strongest consumer protections in history while reducing American taxpayer exposure to future crises. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has finalized rules and simplified disclosures to protect consumers from irresponsible mortgage lending, secured billions of dollars in relief for millions of consumers who were wronged, and launched a consumer response center to give people in need a place to turn. Efforts to undermine the CFPB by imposing structural or funding limitations – as supported by Republicans in Congress – would weaken important consumer protections and leave the economy more vulnerable to another devastating financial crisis.
From the White House Press Office: A copy of the related report released by the President’s Council of Economic Advisors is available online HERE.