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

  • LGBT Health Awareness Week: The Affordable Care Act Is Working for You

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' blog. See the original post here.

    Every day here at HHS, we work hard to ensure that all Americans have the building blocks to lead healthy and productive lives. That is especially important for groups that have unique health needs or have traditionally been underserved, like the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. This week is LGBT Health Awareness Week, and I wanted to take the opportunity to highlight the progress we’ve made in our work to ensure LGBT Americans have the same rights and protections as other Americans.

    Over the last few months, we’ve been focused on getting people signed up through the Health Insurance Marketplace. After another successful Open Enrollment period, millions have gained access to health care coverage – some for the very first time. While there is more to be done, the evidence is clear – the Affordable Care Act is working and delivering access, affordability and quality. Since several of the Affordable Care Act’s coverage provisions began to take effect in 2010, about 16.4 million uninsured people have received coverage. That’s the largest reduction of the uninsured in four decades.

    So what does all this mean for those in the LGBT community?

    We know that, on average, LGBT Americans suffer from higher rates of cancer, obesity, tobacco use, HIV/AIDS and mental illness than the rest of the nation. Five years after the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, we know we’ve made real progress.

  • American Indians and Alaska Natives: How to Use Your New Health Insurance

    Since many American Indians and Alaska Natives have used the Indian Health Service all their lives for health care, using health insurance can be an unfamiliar challenge. You can still use it when you visit IHS, and you can use it to access health services with other providers and facilities.   

    If you now have access to health insurance, through the Affordable Care Act, your job or your Tribe, using your coverage for the first time can be confusing.  The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in the Department of Health and Human Services has developed a great brochure entitled From Coverage to Care and has even developed a Tribal version of this document that:

    • Contains information and tips on how to understand and use your health insurance
    • Serves as a very helpful roadmap with suggestions on how to choose providers and how to prepare for your health care appointment
    • And is also tailored to provide you information on special benefits and resources for American Indians and Alaska Natives 

    For more information, go to www.healthcare.gov or https://marketplace.cms.gov/outreach-and-education/special-populations.html

    Yvette Roubideaux, M.D., M.P.H., is Senior Advisor to the Secretary for American Indians and Alaska Natives at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

  • Creative Entrepreneurial Energy, Smart Economic Development, and Cutting Edge Innovation at the Reservation Economic Summit

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted on the U.S. Small Business Administration's blog. See the original post here.

    In my position at the U.S. Small Business Administration, I have the honor of serving the American people and enjoy meeting thousands of individuals around the United States on an annual basis. I am fortunate to work for a President and an SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet, who both have as a pillar of their domestic agenda making our collective and individual prosperity more broadly shared. Principally this means promoting accessibility in every sense of the word in every field of endeavor, geography, affinity, and focus. Our economic engine is fueled by entrepreneurial drive, individual ambition, creativity and broad economic participation.

    With that backdrop provided, I wish to share my experience this week at the National Reservation Economic Summit (RES) in Las Vegas. Along with my colleagues Chris James and John Shoraka, we discussed economic and small business issues with tribal leaders and Native American-owned small businesses. We emphasized our commitment to providing tools and resources to our American Indian, Alaskan Native, and Native Hawaiian communities through business development, entrepreneurial development, lending, and procurement programs. We also launched the American Supplier Initiative which facilitated over 400 meetings between small business owners and federal/private company buyers during our first event held March 9, 2015, which was held at the conference.

  • The White House Launches the “Generation Indigenous Tribal Leader Challenge”

    The White House is announcing the next step in the Generation Indigenous (Gen-I) initiative with a Gen-I Tribal Leader Challenge. This challenge comes on the tail of the February 12 launch of the Generation Indigenous Native Youth Challenge and is part of a series of challenges that encourage youth, individuals, tribal leaders, organizations, and other groups to support opportunity for Native youth.  

    The White House is inviting tribal leaders to take concrete steps to engage with Native youth in their communities and help them complete the Gen-I Native Youth Challenge. To accept this challenge, visit www.cnay.org/Challenge.html, to sign up for the challenge and become a part of the National Tribal Network, a collaboration between the White House, The Aspen Institute’s Center for Native American Youth (CNAY), and the Department of the Interior. Then, take one or all of the following steps within the next 30 days:

    1. Work with youth in your community to create a youth council.
    2. Host a joint meeting between youth and tribal leaders in your community.
    3. Partner with youth to plan a program to support positive change in their community.

    Remember, by accepting the Gen-I Challenge, signing up for CNAY’s National Native Youth Network, and helping youth in your community complete the Native Youth Challenge, the youth in your community may be invited to attend the first-ever White House Tribal Youth Gathering in Washington, D.C., in the summer of 2015!

    The following tribes have already accepted the Gen-I challenge and we hope you will too!

    • Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Tribes of Alaska
    • Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians
    • Gila River Indian Community
    • Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin
    • Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians
    • Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians
    • Three Affiliated Tribes

    Jodi Gillette is Special Assistant to the President for Native American Affairs in the White House Domestic Policy Council. Raina Thiele is Associate Director of White House Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement.

  • Making Native Communities Safer

    When President Obama signed the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act on March 7, 2013 (VAWA 2013), he stated that “tribal governments have an inherent right to protect their people, and all women deserve the right to live free from fear.” 

    Two years later, we have reached a significant milestone.  As of March 7, 2015, all tribes that meet certain criteria are now eligible, under VAWA 2013, to investigate and prosecute certain non-Indian defendants who commit acts of domestic violence or dating violence, or violate certain protection orders in Indian Country.  This is an important step to address the overall public-safety challenges in Indian Country.

  • Investing in a secure, stable Central America

    In an op-ed published in The Hill and Univision.com, the Vice President outlines the Administration’s commitment to prosperity and security in Central America. The op-ed can be found HERE (The Hill) and HERE (Univision.com).

    Earlier this month, I spent two days in Guatemala meeting with Central American leaders about our mutual efforts to tackle one of the most significant and urgent challenges facing the Western Hemisphere: bringing stability to this impoverished and violent region.

    The President and I are determined to address conditions in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras and help these countries on their path to economic prosperity. To that end, we requested $1 billion in next year’s budget to help Central America’s leaders make the difficult reforms and investments required to put the region on a more stable and sustainable path.

    But we are just as determined to see these countries make their own commitments to depart from business as usual and embark on a serious new effort to deliver opportunity and security to their long-suffering people.

    As I told these leaders back in June — and I reiterated earlier this month — as long as you are on the path to meaningful and lasting change, the United States will be there with you.

    What we have seen since then has not been business as usual in Central America. With our support, the leaders of the region have committed themselves to a joint plan with the Inter-American Development Bank called the Alliance for Prosperity. It includes reforms of the police systems, the expansion of community centers to create the conditions we know prevent migration, measures to reduce poverty, steps to attract foreign investment and the continuation of our successful efforts to target smuggling networks.

    These are challenges the region has long faced but lacked the political will necessary to address. Even before my recent visit, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras had quickly taken steps to start implementing the Alliance for Prosperity. Honduras signed an agreement with an international nongovernmental organization to increase governmental transparency. Guatemala has added new law enforcement officers and reassigned others to areas most in need, helping to reduce Guatemala’s murder rate by one-third. El Salvador passed a law providing new protections for investors.

    And during my visit, the region’s leaders signed on to time frames, benchmarks and a first set of measurable commitments. For example, they committed to:

    Create independent governmental auditing mechanisms by the end of 2015 to ensure their citizens’ tax dollars — and U.S. assistance — are used as effectively as possible;

    Update regulations to promote a regional electricity market and complete the construction of a gas pipeline from Mexico to Central America, making energy more affordable for consumers;

    Train additional police officers and expand centers in high-crime neighborhoods for at-risk youth; and

    Develop programs to address domestic violence and promote women’s domestic empowerment by 2016, and to send experts to help.

    A great deal of work lies ahead.  We have requested $1 billion for Central America in 2016 because Central America cannot do it alone. If the United States is not present, these reforms will falter. But the combination of Central American political will and international support can be transformative, especially since the three governments have committed to match or exceed international assistance to their countries. We intend to focus our assistance in three areas.

    • First, improvements in security are essential. El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras have three of the five highest per capita murder rates in the world. But some communities in Guatemala and El Salvador are already seeing reductions in violence from well-proven U.S.-sponsored programs in community policing, specialized training, and youth centers similar to the Boys and Girls Clubs.  We want to help their governments extend these programs to help stabilize neighborhoods and eradicate transnational criminal networks that threaten Central America’s communities and our own.
       
    • Second, in the 21st century, good governance is essential to attracting jobs and investment. Court systems, government contracting and tax collection are not widely perceived as fair or transparent. The countries of Central America have some of the lowest effective tax rates in the Americas. Central American countries need to do a better job collecting and managing revenues to invest in their own futures. We will assist in these efforts.
       
    • Third, we are ready to offer technical expertise to help Central American countries attract significantly greater private investment. It’s no secret what is required: clear and streamlined rules and regulations, protections for investors, curbs on corruption, courts that adjudicate disputes fairly, and protections for intellectual property.

    As we request $1 billion from the United States Congress to empower Central American leaders to address each of these challenges, our own government needs to move quickly to show results and hold ourselves accountable as well. That means rigorously evaluating our programs to build on what works and eliminate what doesn’t deliver the impact we need. The process is already underway, and we look forward to working closely with Congress to craft the most effective assistance package.

    This level of support is nearly three times what we have provided to Central America in the recent past. But the cost of investing now in a Central America where young people can thrive in their own communities pales in comparison to the costs of another generation of violence, poverty, desperation and emigration.

    The challenges ahead are formidable. Solving them will take years. But Central America’s leaders have now laid out a shared plan to move their region forward and taken the first steps to make it a reality. If they can deliver, Central America can become the next great success story of the Western Hemisphere.

    We seek Congress’s help to make it so. 

     

  • Employers of National Service and AmeriCorps VISTA Champions of Change

    On September 12, 2014, President Obama announced Employers of National Service in conjunction with the 20th anniversary of AmeriCorps. The President said, “If you’re an employer who wants to hire talented, dedicated, patriotic, skilled, tireless, energetic workers, look to AmeriCorps, look to the Peace Corps… Citizens who perform national service are special. You want them on your team.” 

    Since the announcement, hundreds of employers have answered the President’s call. And now, in 2015, we have another opportunity to recognize individuals and employers who reflect how national service creates a pipeline of employment opportunities. This year, we mark the 50th anniversary of the AmeriCorps VISTA program. VISTA started as part of the War on Poverty in 1965, and today remains a strong, innovative anti-poverty program that helps communities expand their capacity to address their most pressing challenges.

    We are combining the AmeriCorps VISTA anniversary and Employers of National Service to recognize the impact of this program and how those who serve continue to make a difference in their communities.

    We are inviting you to help us identify outstanding individuals and organizations (e.g. corporations, nonprofits, cities, schools) in the following categories:

    • Individual Leader:  Do you have a story about an outstanding AmeriCorps VISTA alum who built on his or her service by starting an organization or becoming an outstanding employee of a group that is fighting poverty? Help us shine a light on his or her story.
       
    • Legacy Leader: Do you know a VISTA alum who served before 1993 and is still making a difference in alleviating poverty? Is he or she a leader at nonprofit, corporation, or other group? Nominate him or her.  We want to have a mini-reunion with some of this program’s most amazing alumni.
       
    • Employer of Distinction: Do you know of or work for an employer that has hired national service alumni and thus created opportunities for those employees to continue to improve their communities? Nominate that organization.

    Please submit your nomination by Midnight on Monday, March 23.

    Click on the link below to submit your nomination (be sure to choose Employers of National Service and AmeriCorps VISTA Champions of Change in the "Theme of Service" field of the nomination form,

    Nominate an Employers of National Service and AmeriCorps VISTA Champion of Change.

    Liza Heyman works in the Office of Public Engagement.

  • Investing in Rural Kids Is an Investment in Our Future

    Latta Groundbreaking

    State Director Vernita F. Dore, and Tammye Treviño, Administrator for Housing and Community Facilities Programs at the Latta Groundbreaking. The schoolchildren pictured above will be the first class in the new pre-kindergarten through second-grade facility in Latta, South Carolina. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)

    "Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we build an economy where everyone who works hard has a chance to get ahead? ... This country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules."

    -- President Obama, January 31, 2015

    The American Dream is a dream of opportunity for a better future. Who better represents this opportunity than our country’s children? As parents and as leaders, we owe it to our kids to provide them access to education, housing and health care, and most importantly, an opportunity to succeed so they can help our nation compete in a 21st century economy.

    In small towns and rural communities, kids living in poverty often miss out on these opportunities. They are often isolated and have limited access to support services. School may be miles away, the health care clinic miles in the other direction and the nearest grocery store in yet another direction. Public transportation options are limited, and the family car may be in the shop. Rent might be hard to meet and college might seem to be only a dream.

    Our kids are the most important assets we have for building the future economy, and it is essential to make sure rural kids growing up in poverty can reach their full potential. Investing in rural children and their families is critical not just to the long-term success of our rural communities, but to our global competitiveness. Studies indicate that we spend an estimated $500 billion each year on expenses related to child poverty. Imagine if we could use even a fraction of that in smarter ways to serve our children.

    Since President Obama convened the White House Rural Council four years ago, we have made tremendous progress in creating new opportunities for rural businesses and communities to thrive and grow. As these opportunities expand, we now need to ensure that they are available to everyone. To that end, the White House Rural Council convened last week to explore how the Administration can better coordinate and target efforts so that rural families living in poverty have the best chance to climb into the middle class.