Obama's Economic Aid for the Middle Class

By Julie Pace, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) — Previewing key elements of his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama is announcing on Monday a series of initiatives aimed at calming some of the economic fears of struggling middle class families.

The proposals to be unveiled by Obama and Vice President Joe Biden at the White House, and which the president will push in his Wednesday night speech, include a doubling of the child care tax credit for families earning less than $85,000; an increase in federal funding for child care programs of $1.6 billion; capping student loan payments to 10% of income above "a basic living allowance;" expanding tax credits to match retirement savings; and increasing aid for families taking care of elderly relatives. The plan would also require all employers to provide the option of a workplace-based retirement savings plan.

The proposals are the result of the work of a middle class task force that Biden had headed. A White House official says they are aimed at the "sandwich generation" — Americans that are struggling to care for both their children and their parents. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the speech has not been finalized.

The official said that creating jobs, addressing the deficit, changing Washington and helping middle class families are the main themes of Obama's first State of the Union address. He'll also discuss his bid to take on the financial industry, energy, education and immigration — all issues the president has said fit into his plan to rebuild the economy.

White House advisers see the speech as a key opportunity for Obama to recalibrate his message to better connect with the public and reset his presidency after stinging setbacks.

Obama has promised a sharper focus on jobs and the economy as the dust settles from the punishing loss of the late Edward M. Kennedy's Senate seat in Massachusetts. Republican Scott Brown's victory put the seat in the hands of Republicans for the first time in decades and took away Democrats' 60-vote majority in the Senate.

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