Reflections on the State of the Union 2016

By Rae Tamblyn, Research and Communications Analyst

In his final State of the Union, President Barack Obama reflected on the major achievements of his administration, and highlighted areas that will continue to challenge us to do better.

Access to Economic Opportunity:

While no longer devastated by a major recession, it is essential that “we give everyone a fair shot at opportunity and security in this new economy,” and that we build an economic foundation that works for the middle class and for those fighting to join it.

Community Action Agencies (CAAs) provide supportive, innovative, and localized programs, services, and strategies that help restore the link between hard work and access to opportunity, and assist millions of families and individuals in low income communities around the nation. In FY14, Community Action Agencies provided services to 15.9 million individuals and nearly 6.9 million families with low-incomes and achieved 33.3 million indicators of progress towards economic stability and self-sufficiency. Some of the programs and strategies include those referenced by the President, such as support for the formerly incarcerated, tax programs, increasing access to the Internet, and employment programs and job training.

Energy Efficiency:

The President is committed to taking concrete steps to address climate change, promote clean and efficient energy, and ensure a more stable environment for future generations. The Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), funded by DOE, provides critical upgrades and support to qualifying households to reduce their energy burden. In the 39 years of the programs existence, over 7 million homes have been weatherized. The CSBG Network provided energy services to approximately 4.4 million low-income individuals through a combination of WAP, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), and other energy programs in FY14 alone. Low-income individuals’ homes were made healthier, safer, and more energy-efficient, which will decrease utility payments and positively impact the environment for years to come. The Weatherization program helps families reduce their energy bills, which lets families focus resources on other essentials, like housing, food, or medical costs.

President Obama reflected on his actions to accelerate the transition to cleaner sources of energy and cut energy waste. In the coming years, the Weatherization Network will continue to expand opportunities to install energy saving technologies in households, particularly those that need it most, and drive the development of low-cost clean energy technologies for tomorrow. NASCSP’s members and the wider WAP and CSBG Networks will continue to promote the use and development of smart, simple, low-cost technologies to help households save on their energy bills.

Health Care Reform:

President Obama has been a vocal and proactive leader in the push to improve health care.  His Administration reflects our own acute awareness that poverty and related social issues such as housing conditions, instability, hunger, and interpersonal violence affect the health of individuals over time. Through actions like the Affordable Care Act and the recent Accountable Health Communities initiative, President Obama has combined aspects of program efficiency, health care delivery, and a recognition of the social elements affecting health.

Already serving the most vulnerable populations, hundreds of CAAs nationwide were ideally positioned to become Navigators, and connect and guide people through the Health Insurance Marketplace and process to ensure they get the best care for the best price. In FY14 alone, the CSBG Network made health care more accessible to over 694,000 low-income individuals.  Like President Obama and HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell, we recognize that “keeping people healthy is about more than what happens inside a doctor’s office.” For example, the benefits of WAP go beyond reducing energy bills, with proven major health benefits, such as alleviating symptoms of asthma.

NASCSP works with administrators of the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) and the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) to respond to poverty issues in their state and to reduce barriers facing low-income families working towards self-sufficiency through training and technical assistancequality data collection and analysis, and the creation and distribution of cutting edge research and resources. We are excited to work with the CSBG and WAP Networks to effectively leverage our years of experience and innovative approaches to offer the leadership and responsiveness our country needs. As we look to the next year, we will focus our tools, resources, and expertise to respond to these pressing needs. We look forward continuing to support the great work of the CSBG and WAP Networks in connecting people, services, and opportunities across the nation to ensure that families have access to healthier, safer, more energy efficient homes, that individuals and families with low-incomes can achieve economic stability and security, and that communities where people with low-incomes live are healthy and offer economic opportunity.