2024 State of the Union Recap

By Laura Walling, Vice President of Government Affairs, Goodwill Industries International

President Biden recently delivered his State of the Union remarks before Congress. Among the special guests invited to attend the speech was Ariel Clarke who works as a Senate custodian through Goodwill of Greater Washington’s participation in the AbilityOne program. AbilityOne empowers nonprofit organizations, including many local Goodwill® organizations, to provide employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities to deliver a range of contract business services to government agencies. Clarke was the guest of Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA), marking the fifth time the Senator invited a Goodwill employee to accompany him.

During the speech, President Biden highlighted several specific areas of interest to Goodwill and the people we serve.

Job Creation: The President touted the creation of 15 million new jobs in 3 years, unemployment at a 50-year low, 16 million Americans starting small businesses, and 800,000 manufacturing jobs. Private companies are investing in semiconductor chip factories which according to his speech, are creating tens of thousands of jobs many of them paying over $100,000 a year and don’t require a college degree. Later in his remarks, the President said that he is connecting businesses and high schools, so students get hands-on experience and a path to a good-paying job whether they go to college or not. Biden also called for an increase in the federal minimum wage, and specifically a raise for public school teachers. In a document supporting the remarks, Congress is called upon to extend workforce development and incentive programs to address shortages in mental health providers. This summer the Administration will release a roadmap for growing and diversifying the workforce trained to address mental health and substance use issues.

Infrastructure: Biden stressed his Buy American guidance which ensures federal projects including building roads, bridges and highways will be made with American products built by American workers. Highlighting the Chips and Science Act, the U.S. is investing more in research and development, and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law led to the announcement of 46,000 new projects modernizing road, bridges, ports, airports, and public transit while also removing poisonous lead pipes. The President said that his policies have attracted $650 billion of private sector investments in clean energy and advanced manufacturing. Lastly there was a brief mention of broadband expansion, noting that policies have led to providing affordable highspeed internet for every American no matter where one lives.      

Housing: President Biden called on Congress to pass legislation to lower costs by providing a $10,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers and people who sell their starter homes; build and renovate more than 2 million homes; and lower rental costs.  President Biden also announced new steps to lower homebuying and refinancing closing costs and crack down on corporate actions that take advantage of renters. Biden states he wants to provide an annual tax credit that will give Americans $400 a month for the next two years as mortgage rates come down to put toward their mortgage when they buy a first home or trade up. Click here to learn more about the plan to lower housing costs.

Education: Biden remarked that to have the world’s strongest economy we need the world’s best education system. He wants to provide access to pre-school for 3-and 4-year-olds, and expand tutoring and summer learning time and ensure every child learns to read by third grade. College affordable was also mentioned with references to the need to continue to increase Pell Grants for working- and middle-class families and highlighted the success of fixing student loan programs.

Taxes: A tax credit that reportedly saved $800 per person per year by reducing health care premiums for millions of working families expires next year. The President said he wants to make the credit permanent. He wants to cut the federal deficit by $3 trillion by raising taxes on the wealthy (those making more than $400,000), imposing a minimum tax of 25% for billionaires, and raising the corporate minimum tax to at least 21%. Biden urged Congress to restore the Child Tax Credit which was instituted during the pandemic and cut child poverty in half.

Criminal Justice: Biden stated the American Rescue Plan made large investments in public safety, but more needs to be done to help localities invest in more policy officers, mental health workers, community violence intervention, and to tackle retail crime. He mentioned that he had directed a review of the federal classification of marijuana and expunged thousands of convictions for possession. Lastly, he pledged to increase federal enforcement of the Violence Against Women Act.

Climate Change: The President said he is cutting our carbon emissions in half by 2030, creating tens of thousands of clean energy jobs, installing 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations, and conserving 30% of America’s lands and waters by 2030. A Climate Corps modeled after the Peace Corps and Ameri Corps was launched to put 20,000 youth to work on our clean energy future, and he voted to triple that number this decade.

Other topics touched on included support for seniors, veterans, transgender individuals, women’s health, artificial intelligence, privacy, and voting rights. The speech was viewed by many as a launch of Biden’s reelection campaign, as he and key members of the administration will travel to swing states over the next several weeks.

Goodwill organizations contribute daily to making a positive impact on the labor market in their local communities. Federal support and funding play a critical role in the success of many skills training programs that Goodwill organizations operate and support. These programs assist various individuals we serve including veterans, older workers, low-income families, people with disabilities, and those impacted by the justice system.

Goodwill stands ready to serve as a partner and key community convener as these public initiatives are designed and implemented.  Strong job training programs and a skilled workforce will be vital for success.

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