By Ambassador Susan E. Rice
I don't know about you, but I'm feeling ?22.
The past year undoubtedly brought its share of daunting challenges-from Putin's brutal war in Ukraine, to devastating hurricanes along the Atlantic Coast and fires in the West, to stubbornly high inflation around the globe.
Yet, 2022 also yielded remarkable progress for the American people. Under President Biden's leadership, the economy continued its historic run, creating more than 10.5 million jobs since President Biden took office. Inflation has shown signs of moderating. Thanks to the landmark American Rescue Plan, we've continued to deploy $122 billion in funding to enable schools to hire teachers, combat pandemic-related learning loss, and support students' mental health. We expanded and strengthened the Affordable Care Act, making it possible for four out five people who sign up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act to find health care coverage for $10 a month or less and helping to drive the uninsured rate to 8 percent-the lowest ever.
It was a year of historic accomplishments. President Biden signed the landmark Inflation Reduction Act, making unprecedented investments in clean energy, finally allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, setting a $2,000 cap on out-of-pocket pharmacy costs, capping insulin in Medicare at $35 per prescription per month, and requiring rebates when drug prices increase faster than inflation. The President brought together Democrats and Republicans to pass the most significant gun safety legislation in nearly 30 years, securing hundreds of millions in funding to prevent, interrupt, and reduce gun crime, including unprecedented investments in community-led crime prevention and intervention. President Biden also signed into law the PACT Act, expanding access to health care and benefits related to toxic exposures for veterans and their survivors, as well as the CHIPS and Science Act to boost American manufacturing, strengthen supply chains, and create jobs.
There was the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. The announcement of up to $20,000 in debt relief for Pell Grant recipients and $10,000 for other borrowers whose incomes were under $125,000, a move that could help more than 40 million borrowers. The Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act to better protect our democracy. Capping off the year, thousands of Americans gathered on the White House South Lawn to celebrate as President Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act into law-a vital step forward for an Administration that has done more to advance LGBTQI+ equality than any before it.
It's an impressive list by any measure. But, that's only the tip of the iceberg. For every high-profile bill signing on the South Lawn, there have been dozens of other highly impactful executive actions, agency regulations, and notable initiatives centered on delivering opportunity for the American people. As we close out a remarkably productive year, here are 12 Biden-Harris Administration achievements you might have missed over the past 12 months:
- Continued implementing a historic Day 1 Executive Order advancing equity and racial justice across the entire federal government. This included releasing 90 agency equity action plans, containing over 300 commitments on issues ranging from maternal mortality to language access to environmental justice.
- Signed a historic executive order to advance safe, effective, and accountable community policing to build public trust and strengthen public safety by requiring federal law enforcement agencies to ban chokeholds, adopt stricter use-of-force policies, greatly restrict no-knock warrants, implement body-worn cameras, provide de-escalation and anti-racial profiling training, establish a national database of officer misconduct records, restrict military equipment transfers, and more. The order also directed federal agencies to provide training, technical assistance, and funding to support state and local law enforcement agencies in adopting the same measures.
- Made progress on the President's goal of increasing the share of federal contracting dollars awarded to small disadvantaged business (SDBs) by 50 percent by 2025. In 2021, the Administration awarded a record level of contracting dollars to SDBs, with 2022 expected to set a new record.
- Hosted the first White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health in more than 50 years and released a National Strategy to end hunger and reduce diet-related diseases by 2030. Over $8 billion in new private- and public-sector commitments were announced at the White House Conference.
- Launched the Rural Partners Network in 36 communities in 11 states and territories, advancing a whole-of-government initiative-led by the Department of Agriculture and supported by more than 20 federal agencies and regional commissions-that places full-time federal staff on the ground to help local leaders navigate and access federal resources.
- Made historic investments in Tribal Nations, including more than $32 billion in the American Rescue Plan, $13 billion in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and over $700 million in the Inflation Reduction Act specifically for Tribal Nations and Native communities. In addition, the Administration secured-for the first time in history- advance appropriations for the Indian Health Service, which will ensure a more predictable funding stream and improve health outcomes across Indian Country.
- Hosted a historic United We Stand Summit to combat hate-fueled violence, and announced a host of new federal and nonfederal deliverables, including the launch of the White House Initiative on Hate-Motivated Violence, the creation of an online clearinghouse of prevention resources, and over $1 billion in philanthropic commitments for unity-building activities.
- Addressed our failed approach to marijuana by pardoning all federal and D.C. simple marijuana possession offenses, urging governors to pardon state and local offenses, and starting the administrative process of the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services reviewing how marijuana is scheduled.
- Launched a whole-of-government mental health strategy to address our nation's mental health crisis and transform how we understand, access, and treat mental health in America, including the transition to the nationwide 988 suicide and crisis Lifeline. This includes increasing funding to community mental health organizations, school districts, and institutions of higher education to increase the number of school-based and community mental health professionals.
- Strengthened Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) by defending DACA in court against ongoing attacks, issuing a Presidential Memorandum to preserve and fortify DACA, and releasing a final rule codifying the 2012 DACA policy.
- Reunified and provided support services to more than 570 families who were separated under the previous administration's "zero-tolerance" policy. Of the children who remained separated when President Biden took office, more than 70 percent of their families have been contacted and offered the opportunity to reunify.
- Proposed rules to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars, which is projected to save as many as 654,000 lives, including up to 238,000 Black Americans.
Across the board, the Biden-Harris Year Two record is a record of results for the American people. It's a record of taking on some of our nation's toughest challenges and delivering. That's the spirit that drove our Administration to success during 2022, and it's the spirit we're carrying with us into 2023. Stay tuned.
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