The State of the Union always reflects on how America has progressed in the past year and what work remains. President Joe Biden addressed the nation on March 1 to do just that, and his speech referenced the country’s recent successes and promised many things for the future. These are just a few of the State of the Union promises I hope to see come true while this administration remains in power.
If you didn’t get a chance to watch the speech live or catch up by watching clips, you can access the transcript here to read the promises in the president’s own words.
1. An infrastructure decade in the U.S.
Infrastructure affects your daily life more than you might realize. It covers the crumbling highways and potholes that make your commute challenging. It also includes the limited choice in telecommunication networks and water suppliers where you live.
President Biden promised that the next decade will be an overwhelming success for infrastructure because the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed in November of 2021. Specifically, he said 65,000 miles of highway and 1,500 bridges in disrepair will receive repairs starting this year.
Everyone hopes to see this come true because the repairs and upgrades would increase the quality of life for all people. The administration announced over 4,000 projects totaling $150 billion worth of investments to improve infrastructure by working alongside states, Tribes, territories and local governments. Although it will take years to see the projects through, it’s a significant step forward that looks promising.
2. Expanded mental health care access
President Biden’s State of the Union speech also included a promise to expand access to mental health care professionals and facilities. Some viewers may have remembered the Mental Health Parity Act (MHPA) passed in 1996, which required insurance companies to provide the same dollar limits of physical health care to mental health care. Unfortunately, it did not address the financial inaccessibility of the insurance plans that included mental wellness coverage.
The Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA) required more insurance companies to cooperate under the MHPA and include low-cost policies, but it also lacked enforcement rules and capabilities. Now, the Biden administration pledged to enforce this act by outlining rules like:
- Companies must provide supporting evidence for excluding policies from mental health care coverage.
- Companies must demonstrate compliance practices that follow the MHPAEA coverage rules.
- Companies must submit an analysis that shows each policyholder has equal coverage for mental health care access as they do for medical and surgical benefits.
With time, the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and non-federal plan sponsors will quickly review each policy’s current coverage and history. As they do, more people will achieve the insurance they need to get affordable mental health care.
3. Electric vehicle charging stations becoming common
Since his campaign began, reducing America’s carbon footprint has been one of President Biden’s foundational promises. Burning fossil fuels is one of the most significant ways the country intensifies global warming, so it’s a substantial focus of the Biden administration.
A 2019 report found that CO2 emissions created 80% of America’s greenhouse gas emissions from sources like gas-reliant vehicles. The cost of electric vehicles (EVs) is becoming more economical due to battery manufacturing costs decreasing, but many Americans can’t access charging stations in their communities.
In February, the Biden administration announced a $5 billion investment to kickstart the EV charging station construction. It’s part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and will make it easier for people who don’t own homes or live in major cities to drive EVs. The sooner this project finishes, the less America will contribute to global warming.
4. Federal projects using American resources
People on both sides of the political aisle recognize that America would be better off with more manufacturing capabilities. Throughout the last few decades, corporations and investors took their manufacturing plants and contracts overseas to minimize production costs and make more extensive profits after selling the products back in the U.S. and elsewhere.
That business practice prevents companies from creating jobs and investing in American manufacturing suppliers. To address this issue, President Biden promised to direct federal funding from the Bipartisan Innovation Act to American manufacturing and emerging technologies production companies.
The act hasn’t passed yet, but the investment would make a significant difference. Companies would create new jobs, hire more people and boost the economy with their ongoing investments. It would reduce the current unemployment rate of 4% and experts predict slow economic growth over the next year. American investments would speed that growth and help the country reach more stable ground comparable to pre-pandemic conditions.
5. More protections for LGBTQ+ and minority populations
Biden also pledged to stand behind trans youth and renewed a call to pass the LGBTQ Equality Act. The Equality Act is meant to prohibit discrimination due to sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, workplaces, housing and other public accommodations.
2021 was a particularly bad year when it comes to anti-LGBTQ legislation. 34 states introduced upwards of 100 bills in the past year to impose restrictions on and limit the rights of LGBTQ folks. Many have called on the Biden administration to do more to protect this vulnerable population, and to put more pressure on Congress to pass the Equality Act.
Americans could have a brighter future
If these State of the Union promises come true, the country will take some practical steps forward to a brighter future. More access to all forms of health care, electric vehicle resources, modernized infrastructure and better protection for vulnerable minority populations will help keep people safe and provided for as America makes progress for future generations.