Engage and Connect

President Obama is committed to making this the most open and participatory administration in history. That begins with taking your questions and comments, inviting you to join online events with White House officials, and giving you a way to engage with your government on the issues that matter the most.

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Latest News

  • President Obama on Student Loan Debt: “No Hardworking Young Person Should Be Priced Out of a Higher Education”

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted on The White House Blog. See the original post here.

    More students than ever before are relying on student loans to pay for their college education. 71 percent of students earning a bachelor's degree graduate with debt, averaging $29,400. While most students are able to repay their loans, many feel burdened by debt, especially as they seek to start a family, buy a home, launch a business, or save for retirement.

    That's why, as part of his year of action to expand opportunity for all Americans, President Obama is taking steps to make student loan debt more affordable and manageable to repay.

    The President signed a memorandum directing the Secretary of Education to propose regulations that would allow nearly 5 million federal direct student loan borrowers the opportunity to cap their student loan payments at 10 percent of their income. The memorandum also outlines new executive actions to support federal student loan borrowers, especially vulnerable borrowers who may be at greater risk of defaulting on their loans.

    But in his remarks at the signing, the President made clear that Congress needs to take action as well, saying that today's executive action will “make progress, but not enough.” He brought up the bill written by Sen. Elizabeth Warren that would allow students to refinance their student loans at today's lower interest rates, noting that “it pays for itself by closing loopholes that allow some millionaires to pay a lower tax rate than middle-class families.”

    The President then detoured briefly from his prepared remarks, explaining why it's a “no-brainer” for Congress to pass the bill: 

    You would think that if somebody like me has done really well in part because the country has invested in them, that they wouldn’t mind at least paying the same rate as a teacher or a nurse.  There’s not a good economic argument for it, that they should pay a lower rate.  It’s just clout, that’s all. So it’s bad enough that that’s already happening. It would be scandalous if we allowed those kinds of tax loopholes for the very, very fortunate to survive while students are having trouble just getting started in their lives. 

    So you’ve got a pretty straightforward bill here.  And this week, Congress will vote on that bill.  And I want Americans to pay attention to see where their lawmakers’ priorities lie here:  lower tax bills for millionaires, or lower student loan bills for the middle class.

    “This week, [Congress has] a chance to help millions of young people,” President Obama said. “I hope they do. ... And in the meantime, I’m going to take these actions today on behalf of all these young people here, and every striving young American who shares my belief that this is a place where you can still make it if you try.”

    Read the President's full remarks from the signing, and learn more about how the President is working to make college more affordable.

    You can watch the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mz5prW9iw14

  • The Changing Role of Fathers in the Workforce and Family

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted on the Council of Economic Advisers' blog. See the original post here.

    As part of the lead-up to the White House Summit on Working Families, we’ve been exploring policies and best practices that help both families and businesses manage the increasingly complicated interaction between work and family-life. Administration officials hosted a discussion—the first of its kind at the White House—on the state of working dads and how businesses can create a win-win culture to enable these fathers to be more involved parents and better employees.

    The need to rethink workplace policies to work better for parents is not just about working moms or women—working fathers are a key piece of the story as well. As the data compiled by the Council of Economic Advisers on “The Economics of Fatherhood and Work” show, the role of fatherhood has been changing with fathers taking a more hands-on approach to raising children. This change is both cultural and economic, with families responding to the reality of women’s increased role in the labor market. Nearly two-thirds of children now have either two working parents or a single parent who is working, contributing to the trend of father’s increasingly caring for children. Today, one in fourteen fathers with kids under 18 are single parents—a striking seven-fold increase since 1970—and dads are increasingly staying at home when their wives work.

    Yet most dads, like moms, are trying to balance work and their parenting responsibilities. One in five kids at daycare have a dad identified as the primary caregiver, and most of these dads are employed. Modern dads are spending more time on both childcare and housework while balancing a career. More dads today change diapers, do school pick-up, help with homework, and have to be able to pick up a sick kid from preschool. With more time spent on childcare and housework and little reduction in time spent in the workplace, fathers are increasingly reporting work-life conflict. In a reversal, today's fathers are more likely to report difficulties balancing work and family than mothers.

    These changes suggest the need for policies and best practices, such as paid leave and workplace flexibility, which help mothers and fathers better balance the competing demands of work and caregiving. Research has shown that these policies can be good for business by helping to recruit talented workers; lowering worker turnover; and boosting morale, worker productivity, and profits. For example, although some businesses were initially concerned about California’s paid leave law before implementation, in a recent survey , more than 90 percent reported no negative effect or a positive effect of the law on profitability, turnover, productivity, and morale. And other studies have shown that flexibility can lead to improved productivity and is correlated with well managed businesses. Investors also see these policies as good for profitability—stock prices rise when businesses announce new family-friendly policies.

    At the event, we heard leading experts, working dads, business leaders, and Administration officials discuss their insights on modern fatherhood and how we can help men balance work and family demands. Our participants—employees and small, medium and large businesses—corroborated the research that shows that flexibility and paid leave policies can be good for business.

    In the run-up to the working families summit on June 23rd, we look forward to further engaging with experts, businesses, researchers, and other stakeholders to explore strategies that make full use of America’s talent and increase globally competitiveness while ensuring that both mothers and fathers can also be successful parents.

    Jason Furman is Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. Betsey Stevenson is a member of the Council of Economic Advisers.

  • Nominate a White House Champion of Change for Veteran Entrepreneurship

    Since taking office, President Obama has been committed to upholding our sacred trust with America’s veterans and wounded warriors. As the President stated in his last State of the Union address, “We’ll keep working to help all our veterans translate their skills and leadership into jobs here at home.  And we all continue to join forces to honor and support our remarkable military families.” Entrepreneurs and small businesses are a big driver of our national economy, and veterans offer our country a set of skills that make them uniquely well suited for success as entrepreneurs.  Research demonstrates that veterans are at least 45 percent more likely than those with no active-duty military experience to be self-employed and are twice as likely to succeed. According to the most recent U.S. census data, nearly one in 10 small businesses are veteran-owned.  These businesses generate over $1.2 trillion in receipts annually and employ nearly 5.8 million Americans.  It is in the best interest of our country to tap into this incredible resource of veterans and find ways to help them succeed as entrepreneurs who fuel job growth and expand opportunity for all Americans.

    Recognizing the need to fuel this entrepreneurial spirit in our service members, the President launched Boots to Business – an intensive entrepreneurship education program for transitioning service members to learn how to start a small business. To date, Boots to Business, delivered by the Small Business Administration, has trained more than 6,000 transitioning service members on how to start a business, while also informing them of the network of resources available to them, such as access to capital.

    However, this is only one step along the path to providing opportunities for veterans to become successful entrepreneurs. Therefore, the administration would like to honor those who have supported this effort by serving as examples and demonstrating their desire to help other veteran entrepreneurs.

    Today, we’re asking you to help us identify and honor veteran entrepreneurs and veteran spouses who are entrepreneurs or organizations that support veteran entrepreneurs by nominating a Champion of Change for Veteran Entrepreneurship by midnight on June 24th. Nominees may include:

    • Veterans who have started a for-profit or non-profit business.
    • Veteran spouses who have started their own business.
    • Organizations that support veteran entrepreneurs by providing them with skills, capital, or other necessary resources.

    Click on the link below to submit your nomination (be sure to choose Veteran Entrepreneurship in the "Theme of Service" field of the nomination form).

    Nominate a Veteran Entrepreneurship Champion of Change

    We are looking forward to hosting this event and to highlighting the achievements of the veteran entrepreneurship community.

    Robert McFarlin is a White House Fellow at the National Economic Council. 

  • Local Food, Local Places: A Federal Partnership to Help Rural America Use Local Food and Build Local Economies

    Today, the White House Rural Council Chairman USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Local Food, Local Places, a federal initiative providing direct technical support to rural communities to help them build strong local food systems as part of their community’s economic action plans. Under this effort, a team of agricultural, transportation, environmental, and regional economic experts will work directly with local communities to develop comprehensive strategies that use local food systems to meet a variety of needs.

    The announcement, made during the White House Rural Council’s first live-streamed meeting, included Vilsack, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Environmental Protection Agency Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe, Appalachian Regional Commission Federal Co-Chairman Earl Gohl, and Delta Regional Authority Federal Co-Chairman Chris Masingill.

  • Rural-Made Goes Worldwide

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's blog. See the original post here.

    This week, I visited Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, a small city outside of my hometown of Pittsburgh, to kick off the first of five Made in Rural America forums designed to help rural small businesses access the information they need to grow through exports.

    The global appetite for high-quality, American-made products is well established. Over the past five years, rural America has achieved record agricultural exports, but the rural economy is diverse. Last fiscal year, agricultural exports reached a record $140.9 billion, and we are on track for another record year, with fiscal year 2014 agricultural exports projected to reach $149.5 billion. Last year was also the fourth-straight record-setting year for U.S. exports as a whole, reaching $2.3 trillion.

    Yet few American companies today have capitalized on this demand — just one percent of U.S. companies export. At the same time, the vast majority — 95 percent — of the world's consumers live outside the borders of the United States, creating significant opportunities for our exporters, particularly rural businesses.

  • Telling All of America’s Story: The National Park Service Announces LGBT Theme Study

    The National Park Service Announces LGBT Theme Study

    Ed. note: This was originally posted on the Department of the Interior website. See the original post here.

    The men and women who serve in the National Park Service joined our organization to be part of something special, and all of us, no matter what our role, help bring America’s stories to life for our visitors. One of my priorities as we look toward the Service’s centennial year in 2016 has been to ensure that the stories we tell represent the diversity of the American experience and share stories that are relevant to all Americans. To help meet that goal, we have developed a series of heritage initiatives to explore ways that we can increase recognition of underrepresented groups in the National Park System through our interpretation and education programs and expand their inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places and the National Historic Landmarks Program. There is a wealth of information about NPS Heritage Initiatives available here.

    Today, Secretary Jewell announced the latest NPS heritage initiative, which will focus on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans. The announcement took place outside the Stonewall Inn in New York City, which was the site of a riot in 1969 that is widely recognized as a catalyst for the civil rights movement in the LGBT community. The Secretary was joined by Tim Gill, founder of the Gill Foundation. The Gill Foundation's generous donation through the National Park Foundation provides major funding the LGBT theme study, which will form the cornerstone of the heritage initiative. As with our prior heritage initiatives focused on Asian American Pacific Islanders, American Latinos, and women’s history, the LGBT Heritage Initiative will focus on one of the primary story lines that the National Park Service tells – the American struggle for civil rights.

    Following on today’s announcement, we will host a meeting on June 10 in Washington, DC to develop a framework and focus for the LGBT theme study with a group of more than a dozen of the nation’s most respected researchers and preservationists who have expertise on LGBT history and culture. There will be a public component of this meeting, too, allowing interested members of the public to hear about the initiative and share their thoughts about it.

    The National Park Service has a responsibility to protect, preserve and tell the stories of some of our nation’s most iconic places, and as part of that responsibility, it is our job to be sure that Americans never forget where we’ve been, where we are, and what we aspire to be as a nation. I am excited to see how the outcomes of the LGBT Heritage Initiative and theme study will allow us to share a more inclusive version of our uniquely American experience.

    Jon B. Jarvis is the Director of the National Park Service.

  • Nominate a White House Champion of Change for Raising the Wage

    In his 2014 State of the Union, President Obama announced, “It’s time to give Americans a raise.” President Obama called on Congress to raise the national minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour and index it to inflation. The President has also made clear that even as he continues to try to work with Congress, he won’t wait for them to act. That’s why, in the meantime, the President has worked with business leaders, governors, mayors, and activists to find ways to raise wages for millions of working Americans.

    As part of the White House Year of Action, the President has signed an Executive Order to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 for individuals working on new federal service contracts, introduced a new rule to expand access to overtime pay, and two new Executive Orders protecting workers from retaliation and encouraging equal and fair pay.

    The reality for too many Americans is that they are working harder and longer and still struggling to get by. No American should be working 40 hours a week and still have to live or raise a family in poverty. The face of the minimum wage has changed; nearly 90 percent of the workers who would benefit from raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour are 20 years old or older, and the average age is 35 years old. More than a third are married, and over a quarter are parents. In fact, nearly 16 million children have at least one parent whose paycheck would increase as a result of passing this legislation.

    Raising the minimum wage nationwide will increase earnings for millions of workers, giving them more money to spend in the community, and boost the bottom lines of businesses across the country. 

    Today, we’re asking you to help us identify and honor local leaders and ordinary Americans taking initiative, often at great personal sacrifice to raise wages for working women and men around the country. Nominate a Champion of Change for Raising the Wage by midnight on Wednesday, June 11. Nominees may include:

    • Community leaders who worked to raise wages in their city or state
    • Citizens who have raised wages at their own business
    • Advocates who fought for better pay and benefits on the job
    • Community leaders who helped to organize grassroots efforts around this issue
    • Citizens who created innovative tactics to engage the public to support raising wages

    Click on the link below to submit your nomination (be sure to choose Raising the Wage in the "Theme of Service" field of the nomination form):

    http://www.whitehouse.gov/champions/nominate/

    We are looking forward to hosting this event and to highlighting the great work communities across the country are doing to advance fairness, opportunity, and stability for America’s working families.

    Carri Twigg Is Associate Director of the Office of Public Engagement.

  • Acting on Climate: Asthma in the Latino Community

    Ed. Note: This blog was cross posted from the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

    Leading up to Asthma awareness month I participated in a #LatinoHealth Twitter chat with League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). We were excited to expand the virtual conversation about air pollution and asthma, issues that seriously affect Latino health. It is scary that so many forms of pollution are hidden in plain sight, such as air pollution and toxic chemicals, which are often part of our everyday lives. But it was also inspiring to be part of such an enthusiastic conversation with concerned community members from Utah to North Carolina, Georgia to New Jersey.

    Many of the questions raised in the chat were concerned with the direct link between air quality and asthma. The truth is, lots of chemicals found at home or in the workplace have been linked to the development of asthma. And common outdoor pollutants, like smog and ozone, also contribute to the development of asthma or more severe symptoms. Today, over 3.6 million Latinos in the US are living with this condition, including one in every ten Latino children.

    There’s no known cure for asthma, but understanding how indoor and outdoor air pollutants can trigger an asthma attack or episode is an important step in managing this condition. That’s why EDF and LULAC developed bilingual fact sheets to help raise awareness about these issues, and will be launching an education initiative to highlight the serious and underreported environmental threats that disproportionately affect Latino communities around the country.

    But we can’t stop there. Tackling hazardous indoor and outdoor air pollution is critical to healthy communities, particularly for Latinos. 39% of Latinos live within 30 miles of a power plant and almost 1 in 2 Latinos in the U.S. live in counties with unhealthy levels of ozone pollution. These pollutants often come from sources that also emit carbon pollution, which contributes to climate change. That warming, in turn, creates longer allergy seasons, higher rates of asthma, and even more smog. In short, unless we limit carbon pollution, our children are going to face more asthma attacks in the future.

    Fortunately, President Obama’s Climate Action Plan lays out commonsense steps to cut carbon pollution from power plants and ultimately build climate resilience. If we can begin to reduce this pollution, all Americans will benefit – but the positive impact on Latino health will be especially pronounced.

    When organizations like LULAC and EDF build partnerships to battle health threats, and individuals come together to address these challenges in their communities, it is a big step in the right direction. At EPA, we also know it’s our responsibility to play our role in protecting the environment and minimizing these hazards to public health. That’s exactly what we’re doing when we act to support President Obama’s Climate Action Plan. A big thanks to everyone who participated in the #LatinoHealth Twitter chat – here’s looking forward to another productive conversation in the future!

    Gina McCarthy is the Administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.