Issue Position: Strengthening Families And Communities
Strong families raise successful children and keep communities together. While Senator Obama does not believe that we can simply legislate healthy families, good parenting skills or economic success, he does believe we can eliminate roadblocks that parents face and provide tools to help them succeed. A husband and father of two, Senator Obama has promoted strong families in the Senate.
Promoting Responsible Fatherhood
Since 1960, the number of American children without fathers has quadrupled, from 6 million to more than 24 million. A healthy relationship between children and their fathers is important to good development. Children without fathers in their lives are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime, nine times more likely to drop out of school, and 20 times more likely to end up in prison. Senator Obama introduced the Responsible Fatherhood and Healthy Families Act with Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN) to remove some of the government penalties on married families and support fathers already trying to do the right thing, while also cracking down on men trying to avoid their parental responsibilities. The bill provides fathers with an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit. It also would increase child support enforcement and strengthen domestic violence prevention services.
A New Approach to Fatherhood
"U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) preached with grace and gratitude about fatherhood to a crowd of 4,000 at Christ Universal Temple, an important church in Chicago's African-American community. . . . Obama's tone Sunday was respectful, his words colorblind. . . . Pressed on why he risked this sermon, with its potential for backlash from African-Americans, Obama said he knew his audience understood that many fathers make enormous sacrifices. . . . His words did, though, apply to many more people than those seated before him in church: fathers of all races, senators and laborers alike."
-Chicago Tribune, Editorial, June 22, 2005
Helping Low-Income Workers Climb the Job Market
Transitional jobs are a promising way to help chronically unemployed people break into the workplace. This approach places participants into temporary, subsidized wage-paying jobs. It also offers mentoring and social services designed to address work-blocking problems like personal and family conflicts. Once they find entry-level work, low-income workers often are unable to break into middle-class jobs. Bridge programs can help by partnering the federal government with employers and community-based organizations to identify job opportunities, develop customized training programs, and place low-income employees in better jobs. Senator Obama introduced legislation to devote $50 million for transitional and bridge employment programs for hard-to-employ groups like homeless veterans, children aging out of foster care, and people returning to communities after a time in prison.
Supporting Low-Income Families
The Child Tax Credit allows parents to receive $1,000 per child and has been an important financial resource for working families. Unfortunately, the credit is skewed so that many families who need it the most cannot get it. Because of artificially high income limits that are indexed to inflation every year, parents that work full time at minimum wage are not eligible for the credit. As a result, nearly 17 million low-income children get less than the full credit. Senator Obama worked with Senator Olympia Snowe (R-WA) to introduce legislation lowering the income limit so that 600,000 more families can benefit. Senator Obama also introduced legislation to temporarily expand the Child Tax Credit for low-income parents affected by Hurricane Katrina. Senator Obama succeeded in passing legislation to extend tax credits for military families by allowing service members deployed to war zones to apply their non-taxable combat pay toward the Earned Income Tax Credit.
The FBI is predicting that mortgage fraud may become a criminal epidemic. In these elaborate schemes, criminals use identity theft or face-to-face scams to gain control of victims' homes. The offenders then apply for hefty mortgage loans, take the cash, then disappear, robbing homeowners of their property and threatening the financial health of the most vulnerable members of society. Senator Obama introduced the first federal bill to combat mortgage fraud. The STOP FRAUD Act criminalizes mortgage fraud, authorizes $10 million more for anti-mortgage fraud programs and requires the FBI to update bankers on fraudulent activity in a formal, systematic way. The bill also would authorize increased federal funding for mortgage counseling.
"We can thank Sen. Obama for raising the consciousness of Congress. . . . . (The STOP FRAUD Act) will act as a deterrent, encourage settlements and allow consumers a private right of action."
-Arthur Prieston, Founder, Mortgage Bankers Association.