Read all posts from June 2012

  • First Lady Michelle Obama at the African Methodist Episcopal Church's General Conference

    First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks at the African Methodist Episcopal Church's General Conference June 28, 2012. (Official White House Photo)

    What a pleasure it was to travel to Nashville, Tennessee with the First Lady as she addressed the 49th Quadrennial Session of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church's General Conference.  The AME Church is the nation's oldest African American denomination. Tracing its roots back to the time of slavery in the late 1700s, the minister who started the first AME church did so after his former church demanded African Americans worship in a segregated balcony. Since then the denomination – fueled by the strength, determination, and unflinching faith that sustained that early church – has been an engine for change in communities throughout American history. AME churches have been stops on the Underground Railroad, hosts of civil rights marches, and even, founders of universities.

    The First Lady drew upon this rich history in her remarks to encourage all Americans to get involved in the lives of our families, our neighborhoods, and our country. The lessons and the legacy of the AME Church are part of our story as Americans, and as citizens, we have inherited the responsibility to be active and engaged in our democracy. She also spoke about the quiet heroes whose names we might not know – individuals working behind the scenes, day after day without recognition, helping to make our communities stronger. "Time and again," Mrs. Obama said. "History has shown us that there is nothing more powerful than ordinary citizens coming together for a just cause."

    Seeing and hearing the spirited enthusiasm of the crowd, estimated at 10,000, was uplifting and energizing.  But one particularly special moment took place after the First Lady’s speech when she returned backstage. There, she greeted Dr. Jayme Coleman Williams, a woman she mentioned in her remarks that has worked tirelessly in the AME Church for decades.  Ninety-three years young, Dr. Williams was a bundle of energy and spoke passionately about encouraging young people to stay engaged and keep building on the work that others have started to move our nation forward. Watching the two hug and chat – one, a quiet hero and the other, the First Lady of the United States – was a poignant reminder of the extraordinary change that can happen when people get involved and make their voices heard.

    The First Lady’s remarks can be found here.

  • President Obama speaks to the American people from Colorado, where he toured areas impacted by the devastating Waldo Canyon fire and met with first responders as well as families affected by the fires. The President thanks the brave firefighters and countless volunteers who are providing food, water, and shelter to those in need, and makes clear that his administration will continue to bring all resources available to assist efforts to combat the fires.

    Transcript | Download mp4 | Download mp3

  • Today Congress took a major step in our efforts to restore the Gulf Coast and support the important communities that rely on it everyday. Earlier today, Congress enacted the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act (RESTORE Act).

    This Administration recognizes that a strong and vibrant ecosystem is the key to the Gulf’s future - that's why the President established the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force in 2010. As Chair of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force and a New Orleans native, I can tell you that a healthy ecosystem is vital to the economy and the way of life for the Gulf Coast. There’s a lot at stake in this region: the economies of the five Gulf States supported more than 19 million jobs and nearly $2.5 trillion of the U.S. GDP in 2008. In addition, millions of people visit the Gulf Coast each year – to vacation, to sail, to swim, to fish, and to enjoy this great waterbody. In 2008, national and international tourists spent about $145 billion in the 5 coastal states and around 1.7 million people were employed in travel and tourism.

    During the oil spill, we essentially “lost” the Gulf for a period of time, and natural resources in the Gulf were extensively damaged. We lost the use of valuable fishing grounds, incredible recreational opportunities and all of the other benefits of a thriving, vibrant ecosystem. That loss helped show folks who aren't from the Gulf Coast just how important it is to our nation.

    But our goal and commitment is not simply to address the damage caused by the spill - it is to ensure the long term improvement and restoration of the Gulf Coast and its unique ecosystems.

  • Here's a quick glimpse at what happened this week on

    Download Video: mp4 (207.8MB)

    Time to Move Forward:Yesterday the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act, ensuring that hard-working, middle class families will get the security they deserve and protecting every American from the worst insurance company abuses. This comprehensive reform enables young adults, seniors, small businesses, and families to better afford health care benefits.

    Jobs for Heroes and their Families: On Monday, Vice President Biden announced new Vets-to-Cops hiring grants for cities and counties across the nation, which will create approximately 600 law enforcement jobs for post-9/11 veterans. On Tuesday, First Lady Michelle Obama was in Chicago to announce that Illinois has signed the Military Family Licensing Act into law, making it easier for military spouses to transition jobs when they are forced to move by removing restrictions on the transfer of professional licenses.  Illinois became the 23rd state to adopt pro-military spouse license portability measures. 

    Do You Qualify? This week the White House released an interactive tool that helps homeowners determine if they would be eligible to refinance their mortgage. With interest rates at historic lows,  refinancing could mean an average saving of $3000 a year. President Obama is urging Congress to pass legislation that would allow homeowners who don’t have federally backed loans to cut through the bank’s red tape, avoid costly processing fees, and refinance even if their home is under water.

    We Come Together: This past week Colorado Springs has been dealing with some of the worst forest fires in Colorado’s history. The President traveled to the state today to see the devastation and commend firefighters and other first responders, “We’ve got to make sure that we have each other’s backs.  And that spirit is what you’re seeing in terms of volunteers, in terms of firefighters, in terms of government officials.  Everybody is pulling together to try to deal with this situation.”

  • Ed. note: This is cross-posted from

    Building strong, resilient communities starts with having a great team. In 2009, President Obama challenged us to improve how our agencies work together to help communities around the country better meet their housing, transportation, and environmental goals, laying the groundwork for an economy that provides good jobs now and creates a strong foundation for long-term prosperity.

    Americans have made it clear they are ready for a new vision for their communities – one that cleans up and reuses neglected brownfields for economic development, reduces traffic congestion, and provides affordable transportation and housing choices that have been missing during these tough times. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have forged a partnership to streamline resources, better collaborate with local stakeholders, and achieve superior results for communities. By coordinating federal investments and technical assistance, we are meeting economic, environmental, and community objectives with each dollar spent.

    For three years our agencies have been coordinating their work through the Partnership for Sustainable Communities. The Partnership has funded 744 projects in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico with approximately $3.7 billion in assistance. And demand for Partnership assistance has been extraordinary -- as of April 2012, Partnership agencies have received more than 7,700 applications requesting almost $102 billion in funding.

    These efforts are making a real difference in communities and neighborhoods. In Bridgeport, Connecticut, the Partnership agencies are working together to help meet sustainability goals. In 2010, Bridgeport received $11 million in TIGER multimodal transportation funding from DOT to upgrade roads around the East Side’s Steel Point Peninsula in preparation for redevelopment. These funds build on an EPA Environmental Justice Showcase Community Grant, which led to many improvements in Bridgeport’s distressed East End and East Side neighborhoods, including a new fishing pier and renewed access for residents who had been unable to get to the waterfront.

  • In September 2009, the President announced that—for the first time in history—White House visitor records would be made available to the public on an ongoing basis. Today, the White House releases visitor records that were generated in March 2012. Due to a technical constraint, additional records from March 2012 will be included in the July 27, 2012 disclosure. Today’s release brings the total number of records made public by this White House to more than 2.3 million—all of which can be viewed in our Disclosures section.

    Ed. note: For more information, check out

  • President Barack Obama Looks at a Map of Fires

    President Barack Obama looks at a map of the fires with officials at the Southeast Family Center YMCA in Colorado Springs, Colo., June 29, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)


    President Obama traveled to Colorado to view the devastation caused by one of the state's worst wildfires, which has been burning near Colorado Springs since Saturday. After touring some of the damaged areas, the President spoke to the press briefly at a local fire station:

    I think what you see here is an example of outstanding coordination and cooperation between federal, state and local agencies.  We have been putting everything we have into trying to deal with what’s one of the worst fires that we’ve seen here in Colorado.  And it’s still early in the fire season, and we still got a lot more work to do.  But because of the outstanding work that’s been done, because of not only the coordination but also some unprecedented arrangements that have been made with military resources combined with the civil resources, we’re starting to see progress.

    Obviously, as you saw in the some of these subdivisions, the devastation is enormous.  And our thoughts and prayers go out to all the families who have been affected.

    One of the things that I’ve tried to emphasize is that whether it’s fires in Colorado or flooding in the northern parts of Florida, when natural disasters like this hit, America comes together.  And we all recognize that there but for the grace of God, go I.  We’ve got to make sure that we have each other’s backs.  And that spirit is what you’re seeing in terms of volunteers, in terms of firefighters, in terms of government officials.  Everybody is pulling together to try to deal with this situation. 

     See a photo gallery from the President's visit to Colorado

  • Earlier this week, the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit affirmed – via a unanimous ruling – several important steps taken by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to protect the health of American families, save consumers money at the pump, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. 

    This was a landmark decision with several key components: 

    • The Court upheld EPA’s science-based finding that carbon pollution endangers the public’s health and welfare, noting the “substantial record evidence.” 
    • The Court protected the Administration’s historic fuel economy standards for cars and trucks, adding that EPA’s implementation of the Clean Air Act was “unambiguously correct.” 
    • Finally, the Court dismissed several petitions challenging a requirement for some of the nation’s largest polluters – starting with new power plants – to install widely-available and cost-effective pollution control technology, while shielding smaller emitters, arguing that “no petitioner had standing.” 

  • The Supreme Court’s decision this week to uphold the Affordable Care Act is a historic win for the nation’s 6 million small businesses and their 54 million employees who will see fewer administrative headaches, pay lower premiums, and receive help to make the cost of covering employees more affordable. Those who claim that the law will place new burdens on small employers misunderstand and misrepresent how it will actually work – putting small businesses on a more competitive footing with larger firms.

    Below are just some of the ways that the Affordable Care Act helps small businesses:

    • Tax credits for certain small businesses that choose to offer coverage.  Small businesses that have fewer than 25 employees and provide health insurance can qualify for a tax credit of up to 35 percent (up to 25 percent for non-profits) to offset the cost of insurance. This credit will increase in 2014 to 50 percent (35 percent for non-profits) for small businesses newly offering insurance through private insurance marketplaces called Exchanges. This will dramatically lower the cost of providing health insurance. These tax credits for small businesses are already helping cover an estimated two million workers at the approximately 360,000 small employers who received the credit in 2011.
      • For example, Louisa McQueeney, a small business owner in Florida, has already saved $7,400 thanks to the tax credits. You can watch Louisa tell her story here.
    • Lowering premiums by cutting red tape and increasing competition among insurers. The Congressional Budget Office  estimates the Affordable Care Act would cause premiums would fall up to 4 percent in the small group market, and up to 11 percent for firms receiving tax credits. Today, administrative costs run as high as 30 percent for small firms, compared with 7 percent for large employers.
      • CBO explains that these costs savings would be the result of cutting red tape and more competition: “[small group] policies would have lower administrative costs, on average, than the policies those firms would buy under current law, particularly for very small firms. The primary sources of administrative cost savings for small employers would be the economies of scale and relative standardization of benefits in the exchanges noted above..." 
    • Spurring entrepreneurship and increasing competition by giving talented workers flexibility to join a small businesses or startup. By making coverage more affordable, thelaw will help spur entrepreneurial activity by increasing the incentives for talented Americans to launch their own companies and help end the phenomenon of "job lock," in which workers are reluctant to leave a job with health insurance out of fear that they will not be able to find affordable coverage when they strike out on their own.
    • No insurance requirement for small businesses. Every small business with fewer than 50 employees is completely exempt from the law’s employer responsibility provisions. That means the overwhelming majority – 96 percent of all firms in the U.S. or 5.8 million out of 6 million total firms – of businesses in the country are exempt from the requirement to contribute to the coverage of their employees. Almost all (93 percent)of larger small businesses with 50-199 employees already offer coverage.


  • The Supreme Court's decision to uphold President Obama's health reform law, the Affordable Care Act, ensures hard-working, middle class families will get the security they deserve and protects every American from the worst insurance company abuses. In fact, many Americans are already seeing benefits from the Affordable Care Act, from mothers who no longer have to worry about their children with pre-existing conditions losing their health coverage, to young adults who can stay on their parent's insurance plans until age 26, to seniors who are saving money on their prescription drugs.

    Check out the videos below to hear from people all over the country who are benefitting from health reform.

    Women & Families  |  Young AdultsSeniors  |  Small Business Owners

    Women and Families

    The protections and reforms in the Affordable Care Act have given families across the country peace of mind. In addition to offering free preventative services, insurance companies can no longer impose a lifetime cap on the amount of care they cover, and young adults under age 26 can stay on their parents’ plan. In these videos, women talk about the relief from stress and crippling expenses that health reform has brought their families. Read more about the benefits of the Affordable Care Act for women and their families.

    JudyCare: Focusing on Fighting Cancer, Without Fear of Lifetime Insurance Caps

    Watch Judy's story here:

    Judy Lamb from Colorado is an inspiration. Despite fighting breast cancer that has spread to her bones and liver and undergoing weekly chemotherapy, she has a positive outlook on life. She is able to maintain her positive attitude partly because the Affordable Care Act has removed a tremendous burden: the fear that her health plan would stop paying for her treatments.

    More videos:

    Read more about the benefits of the Affordable Care Act for women and their families

  • This week, the President spoke at the annual NALEO conference, hosted the Congressional Picnic and addressed the nation on the Supreme Court's decision on the Affordable Care Act, while his administration announced grants for cities hiring veterans as police officers, and spoke with students about college affordability.

    Watch the West Wing Week here.

  • Natoma Canfield Letter

    A letter from Natoma Canfield, a woman from Ohio that President Barack Obama met who didn’t have health insurance, hangs on the wall in the hall between the Oval Office and the President's Private Office in the West Wing. June 28, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

    In his remarks on the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act, President Obama spoke about a letter from a woman named Natoma Canfield. The letter, sent to the President during the health care debate, still hangs in his office as a reminder of what the Affordable Care Act means for Americans around the country.

    Today, the President told Natoma's story and explained why he carried it with him every day of the fight to pass this law:

    For years and years, Natoma did everything right.  She bought health insurance.  She paid her premiums on time.  But 18 years ago, Natoma was diagnosed with cancer.  And even though she’d been cancer-free for more than a decade, her insurance company kept jacking up her rates, year after year.  And despite her desire to keep her coverage -- despite her fears that she would get sick again -- she had to surrender her health insurance, and was forced to hang her fortunes on chance.
    I carried Natoma’s story with me every day of the fight to pass this law.  It reminded me of all the Americans, all across the country, who have had to worry not only about getting sick, but about the cost of getting well.
    Natoma is well today.  And because of this law, there are other Americans -- other sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers -- who will not have to hang their fortunes on chance.  These are the Americans for whom we passed this law.

  • Note: This live session of Office Hours has concluded. View the full question and answer session below or at

    Today, the Supreme Court announced its decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act ensuring that hard-working, middle class families will get the security they deserve and protecting every American from the worst insurance company abuses.

    The fact of the matter is the Affordable Care Act is already helping millions of Americans just like you, by ensuring that insurance companies no longer have unchecked power to cancel your policy, deny you coverage, or charge women more than men, that no American will ever again be denied care or charged more due to a pre-existing condition, and allowing for 6.6 million young adults to stay on their family’s plan until they’re 26.

    These are just a few of the ways the Affordable Care Act means a more secure future for millions of Americans. For a comprehensive overview of the Affordable Care Act, visit and

    Have questions about what the Affordable Care Act means for you and your family?  Today, Thursday, June 28th at 4:30 p.m. EDT, we're holding a special session of White House Office Hours on Twitter with Jeanne Lambrew, Deputy Assistant to the President for Health Policy who will answer your questions.

    Here's how it work:

    • Ask your questions now and during the live event on Twitter with the hashtag #WHChat
    • Follow the Q&A live through the @WHLive Twitter account
    • If you miss the live session, the full session will be posted on and

    To learn more about what the Affordable Care Act means for you visit, then join us for Office Hours today at 4:30 p.m. EDT with Jeanne Lambrew.

    Be sure to follow @WhiteHouse for the latest updates and more opportunities to engage.

  • Watch the President speak on Health Reform:

    Questions about what the decision means for you? Check out an infographic showing how the Affordable Care Act benefits Americans 

    Today, the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act ensures hard-working, middle class families will get the security they deserve and protects every American from the worst insurance company abuses. The Court has issued a clear and final ruling on this law.

    For a comprehensive overview of the Affordable Care Act, visit and

    Let’s take a look at what today’s ruling means for the middle class:

    A major impact of the Court's decision is the 129 million people with pre-existing conditions and millions of middle class families who will have the security of affordable health coverage. 

    We should also remember that under today’s ruling, having health insurance is and will continue to be a choice. If you can’t afford insurance or you’re a small business that wants to provide affordable insurance to your employees, you’ll get tax credits that make coverage affordable. But if you can afford insurance and you choose not to purchase it, the taxpayers will no longer subsidize your care for free.

  • An emerging issue for the national historic preservation community has particular relevance to Indian tribes. That issue is: how do we balance the need for alternative energy and other development with the preservation of traditional cultural landscapes and other large-scale historic places?

    This challenge is not new to preservation but the scale of alternative energy development, and associated transmission corridors, poses new and considerable challenges to the preservation of traditional cultural landscapes of importance to Indian tribes. In order for federal agencies to make informed decisions, it is critical to involve tribes as early as possible in planning and before project sites are selected.

    In 2009, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) initiated discussions with Indian tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations about how to address these issues. Under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (the Section 106 process is overseen by the ACHP) any federal undertaking that may adversely affect a historic property on or eligible for listing on, the National Register of Historic Places must consider how to avoid, minimize, or mitigate adverse effects to historic properties, including cultural landscapes. Unfortunately, these kinds of historic properties have not always been recognized or understood by federal agencies and the preservation community.

  • Since the State of the Union, President Obama has been calling on Congress to keep interest rates low so that every hardworking student gets a fair shot at the skills and training needed to get a good job in today's economy. Thousands of you have also raised your voices to prevent student loan interest rates from doubling with the hashtag #DontDoubleMyRate.

    Today, as we approach the July 1 deadline for passing legislation before rates double, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan joined us for a special session of White House Office Hours to answer your questions on college affordability and the administration’s education policies and priorities. 

    During the chat, he addressed a wide variety of topics, including the role Income Based Repayment (IBR) plans can play in helping former students manage their debt, the importance of higher education, from four-year universities to community colleges and technical and vocational training, and the vital role of public education.

    Check out the full Q&A below, or on Storify, and continue to the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #DontDoubleMyRate.

  • As of this week, more than 100 public and private sector partners have come together through President Obama’s Better Buildings Challenge which supports job creation by catalyzing private sector investment in commercial and industrial building energy. Just yesterday, 36 new States, local governments, and school districts joined the growing list of partnerships that are proving how modernizing our country’s buildings to become more energy efficient creates jobs, cuts energy costs, and reduces pollution. Combined, these commitments bring the total square footage of buildings enrolled in this public-private partnership to 2 billion, the equivalent of more than 34,000 football fields.

    This announcement also adds $300 million in new estimated investments in building energy upgrades to the nearly $4 billion in public and private sector financial commitments that were announced in December 2011.

    Last year, commercial buildings consumed roughly 20 percent of all the energy used by the U.S. economy. With the help of former President Clinton and the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, President Obama’s Better Building’s Challenge will help make America’s buildings 20 percent more efficient over the next decade, while reducing energy costs for American businesses by nearly $40 billion.

    The Federal government is also committed to creating jobs and cutting costs by investing in energy efficiency in Federal buildings. Since President Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum last December directing Federal agencies to invest at least $2 billion in two years in building energy efficiency, agencies have identified $2.1 billion in such projects – all paid for with savings through energy savings performance contracts with no up-front cost to taxpayers.

  • We've been talking to you about President Obama's plan to cut through the red tape keeping millions of responsible homeowners from refinancing their mortgages, but we want to make sure your friends get the message, too.

    So we've put together a graphic that boils the President's proposal down to the five things that everyone should know, and the information is all right here.

    Will you share it online or forward this email to your friends?


    Five things you should know about the President's Refi Plan

    If Congress passes President Obama's plan, millions of people will get some important relief. But too many people don't know what's at stake. And that's where you come in.

    Share the message today:

  • President Obama signed the health care law – the Affordable Care Act – into law on March 23, 2010 and it’s already making a positive difference in the lives of millions of Americans. We are already holding insurance companies accountable and ensuring middle class families have secure, affordable health insurance.

    Thanks to the health care law: 

    • Preventive care --including mammograms for women and wellness visits – are available at no charge for everyone on Medicare.
    • 54 million Americans gained better preventive service coverage through their private health insurance plans. 
    • By August 1, 12.8 million Americans will benefit from rebates provided by their insurance company because the company spent too much of their premium dollars on administrative costs or CEO bonuses. 
    • 6.6. million young adults were able to sign up for coverage on their parents’ plans, including 3.1 million young adults who would have been uninsured without the law. 
    • 5.3 million people with Medicare who hit the prescription drug donut hole saved $3.7 billion on their prescription drugs. 
    • Insurance companies can’t drop your coverage because you got sick and made a mistake on your application.  Nearly 16 million Americans who purchase insurance in the individual market are no longer at risk of losing their insurance. 
    • Insurance companies can no longer limit the amount of coverage you can receive in a lifetime.  Nearly 105 million privately insured American can now live with the security of knowing that their coverage will be there when they need it the most. 

    These are just some of the ways the law is already making a positive difference for the American people. And now, you can see the latest data about how the law is helping your state by visiting There, you’ll find a map with links to state-by-state data and facts about how the law is improving our health care system.

  • To locate an HIV testing site near you, text your Zip Code to “KNOWIT” (566948), visit, or call 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636). To find local HIV resources, including testing, housing, substance abuse treatment, mental health services, and family planning, visit the HIV/AIDS Prevention and Services Provider Locator tool.

    Ed. note: This is crossposted from

    Despite many continuing challenges, this is a time of exciting progress and hope in the fight against HIV/AIDS. A record number of Americans living with HIV know their HIV status. According to recently released data, nearly 82 percent of the more than 1.1 million people living with HIV in the United States are aware of their infection. Knowing your HIV status is a critical first step to getting life-saving treatment and care. Importantly, people who know they have HIV are much less likely to spread their infection to others.

    However, we still face considerable challenges—18 percent of Americans with HIV don’t know they are infected.  That’s more than 200,000 people.  To achieve the goals of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, we must ensure that people get tested and that those who are HIV-positive are linked to timely and effective care.

    To do this, it is imperative that we increase the number of people who are routinely tested for HIV in health care settings, and also make it easier for people to get tested in community settings.

    I’d like to highlight just one example of what we’re doing to make it easier for people to get tested for HIV. For the 2012 observance of National HIV Testing Day, June 27, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced a new pilot project to train pharmacists and retail store clinic staff at 12 rural and 12 urban sites to provide voluntary, confidential, rapid HIV testing. The goal is to extend HIV testing and counseling and make it much more easily accessible in the communities where people live.