As a father and grandfather, I know that moms, dads, and grandparents want to do the best they can for their families. They want to work hard for a living wage that can buy groceries and put a strong roof overhead. They want to be able to give their kids an education and take them to the doctor when they’re sick.
Despite working long hours or tough jobs, too many families continue to struggle to get by, or get tripped up by unexpected circumstances that are thrust upon them by chance. When that happens, we must pull our resources together—as neighbors, as a community, as a government—and give our hard working families a hand up and make sure no family is left behind.
In order to make sure no one is left behind, we have to strengthen the policies that both build up working families and tackle income inequality. That means creating an environment where families have a place to live and nutritious food to eat. Where educational opportunities exist from early childhood through college and into the workforce. Where health care is viewed as a right for all, and not just the benefit of a privileged few.
These issues hit home with me from the first moments I arrived in Emmons, West Virginia, as a VISTA worker in 1964. I saw firsthand how families struggle to succeed without our best efforts at creating a level playing field for all.
That experience in rural West Virginia not only set my moral compass, it helped me understand that we could do more to lift up working families. It’s why I created and fought for federal programs that have become a lifeline for people across the country.
Friday in Charleston, I was surrounded by so many West Virginians who’ve championed these causes, and who’ve been trusted partners in my work to give all families a fair shot at a stable life.
I am so proud of all we’ve accomplished together. We have created and fought for federal programs that have become a lifeline for people across the country. Just a few examples of the work we’ve teamed up to do include:
· The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which has provided health care for more than 8 million children nationwide and 37,000 West Virginia kids;
· Medicaid, which not only provides health care for nearly a half a million West Virginians, but also nearly 20,000 jobs in the state;
· The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit, which I’ve consistently fought to protect and which puts more money back into working families’ pockets;
· Head Start, which provides early childhood education, nutrition, and health care for 7,500 children in West Virginia and sets kids on a path to success;
· Pell Grants and other programs that make college education more affordable. Higher education leads to better-paying jobs and a more rewarding life, and is among the best investments we can make.
But, for these programs to provide the opportunities that working families need to meet their goals and leave their own legacies, they must be kept strong. CHIP must be expanded this year; we must fight off cuts to Head Start; and we must strengthen the EITC and the Child Tax Credit. And, we know we need to do more to make college more affordable.
We’ve accomplished a lot over the past 50 years. But history will judge us on what we do for the next 50 years. We have a lot of work to do this year, but before I leave the United States Senate, I want to be absolutely sure that we are on a path to do all we can to keep our families strong.