President Trump delivered his first official State of the Union (SOTU) address, although he previously spoke to a joint session of Congress in the weeks following his inauguration. Among the very special guests in the Chamber to witness the event included, Calvin Franklin a young man who is employed as a custodian in the Senate office buildings through the Goodwill of Greater Washington’s AbilityOne Program®. The AbilityOne Program is among the nation’s largest providers of jobs for people who are blind or have significant disabilities. The AbilityOne Program uses the purchasing power of the Federal Government to buy products and services from participating, community-based nonprofit agencies nationwide, including nearly 60 local Goodwill® organizations.
Calvin was a guest of Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) who noted in a news release, “I am proud to take Calvin as my guest to the State of the Union. He works hard behind the scenes at the U.S. Senate and deserves a front row seat to history unfolding. I’m excited that he will be able to enjoy this moment.”
While the speech did not include much substantive detail around the proposals put forth, the President did touch upon a number of specific areas of interest to Goodwill and the people we serve.
Workforce Development/Job-Training/Vocational Rehabilitation
The President called on Congress to “invest in workforce development and job training” and “open great vocational schools.” “We can lift our citizens from welfare to work, from dependence to independence and from poverty to prosperity,” Trump said. “Let us invest in workforce development and job training. Let us open great vocational schools so our future workers can learn a craft and realize their full potential.” Unfortunately, the President’s proposed budget for FY18 included deep cuts to the workforce system. As we look for the FY19 budget proposal to be released, we hope to see increased investment in workforce development and job-training programs.
As North America’s leading nonprofit provider of employment training, job placement services and other community programs for people who have a disability, lack education or job experience, or are facing economic challenges, Goodwill advocates for training and employment opportunities that individuals find jobs and careers, thus this is an area that is critical to our mission.
Criminal Justice Reform
Local Goodwill organizations provided services to nearly 140,000 people with criminal backgrounds last year. Goodwill Industries International is supportive of the Second Chance Act and was pleased to hear the President state, “As America regains its strength, this opportunity must be extended to all citizens. That is why this year we will embark on reforming our prisons to help former inmates who have served their time get a second chance.”
Providing employment opportunities is an important part of the solution to reducing recidivism, and strengthening families and communities that are disproportionately affected by it. Goodwill seeks solutions that provide people with a criminal record with the skills and the tools they need to find work, launch careers and rebuild their lives.
During his remarks, the President discussed his four-point immigration framework: 1.) pathway to citizenship for nearly 2 million “Dreamers”; 2.) $25 billion for border wall); 3.) ending the diversity visa lottery; 4.) cuts to family-based immigration. Goodwill Industries International joins a number of organizations, employers, and social service-providers that are supportive of the DREAM Act in urging Congress to pass a permanent bipartisan legislative solution to enable Dreamers who are currently living, working, and contributing to our communities to continue doing so.
The President asked Congress in his speech “to produce a bill that generates at least $1.5 trillion” for infrastructure, although lawmakers are concerned with the costs and have wondered where the funding will come from. Goodwill Industries International believes that any successful infrastructure program will have to include investments in job-training programs so workers can develop the skills they need for the jobs and employers can find the talent that they require.
As a Goodwill advocate, you can have a role to play as well. Our Legislative Action Center provides a vehicle for you to stay actively engaged. Register for updates and alerts, share the alerts and updates with your own networks and educate other stakeholders how the acts of Congress will affect Goodwill. In a moment of unity during his remarks, when discussing Americans the President reminded lawmakers, “Our task is to respect them, to listen to them, to serve them, to protect them, and to always be worthy of them.” It’s your job to speak up for the issues that matter to you, educate lawmakers, and hold them accountable.