Generations United Response to President Biden’s State of the Union Address
In 2021, when President Biden gave his first joint address to Congress, the focus was on the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, while Biden, like most presidents, wanted to use his address to focus on his domestic agenda, Russia decided to invade Ukraine.
Despite the address’ heavy dose of foreign policy in response to Putin’s invasion, which is causing chaos and uncertainty in Europe, Biden calmly reassured a now, almost completely COVID-19 mask-free Senate chamber audience and the country, “we’re going to be okay.”
His reassurance to Americans expanded to several intergenerational issues:
Biden asked Congress to pass an extension of the 2021 American Rescue Plan’s child tax credit along with universal Pre-Kindergarten for three and four-year-olds.
He said, “I was a single dad for five years raising two kids. I had a lot of help though. I had a mom, a dad, a brother and sister that really helped.”
Yes, Mr. President, we agree that helped. The re-authorization of the Older Americans Act includes intergenerational provisions that lay the groundwork for a more robust national response to supporting the varied types of family caregivers nationwide. Caregiving for children and elders is the reason 34% of Americans form multigenerational families. Generation United’s report, Family Matters: Multigenerational Living is Rising and Here to Stay, reveals how multigenerational living has nearly quadrupled in the past decade, with the pandemic playing a key role.
President Biden called for immigration reform as “not only the right thing to do — but the economically smart thing to do.”
Generations United believes that immigration reform should recognize the critical role of immigrant grandfamilies. Our report, Love Without Border: Grandfamilies and Immigration, highlights the additional hurdles faced by grandfamilies who come together because of a parent’s detention or deportation. Those hurdles include restricted access to support and services to help meet the children’s needs, language barriers, and fear of government agencies.
Our policy and program recommendations include advocating against policies to discourage relatives from stepping forward to care for children of parents who were detained or deported.
Biden’s new plan includes a minimum staffing requirement, new safety measures, boosted inspections and large fines for poorly operated nursing homes.
People in communities should not live segregated into age-graded silos. A 2018 Generations United survey of adults in the U.S. found that 88% wanted the federal government to invest in the wellbeing of both children and elders and 78% believed that the federal government should invest in programs that bring together young and old Americans.
Intergenerational programs make sense by reducing social isolation and providing child and elder care. We urge the Biden Administration to prioritize and promote shared sites where children, youth, and older adults participate in services or programs at the same site or campus.
Addressing the opioid epidemic
As part of Biden’s four-part Unity plan, he proposed addressing substance use and the opioid epidemic by increasing funding for prevention, treatment, harm reduction and recovery.
Children who are removed from their parents’ care by the child welfare system because of substance use and put in foster care are now more likely to be placed with relatives than non-relatives according to Generations United’s report, Raising the Children of the Opioid Epidemic: Solutions and Support for Grandfamilies. The report highlights the sharp increase in drug overdose death rates among adults of childbearing age with increases of 29 percent among 25- to 34-year-olds and 24 percent among 35- to 44-year-olds – often leaving grandparents and other kin to raise children.
The president ended his remarks by saying, “We are stronger than we were a year ago. And we will be stronger a year from now than we are today. This is our moment to meet and overcome the challenges of our time.”
We agree, Mr. President. We’re going to be okay. We will overcome these challenges because we are stronger together.