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Jill Biden unveils next phase of military families program

Jill Biden unveils next phase of military families program
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First lady Jill BidenJill BidenBiden, Harris commend Mondale in paving the way for female VP The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - All US adults can get vaccine; decision Friday on J&J vax Bidens attend grandson's confirmation MORE on Wednesday laid out the next steps of the military families initiative she started during the Obama administration, previewing a major focus of her work in the White House over the next few years.

Biden said that through the initiative, called Joining Forces, the Biden administration will prioritize employment of military spouses, military child education and the health and well-being of those who have served in the U.S. military and their families.

“You may not wear a uniform, but you serve and you sacrifice for us all,” Biden told a virtual gathering of military family members, advocates and other stakeholders at the White House. “Military families are as critical to our national defense as a rudder is to a ship and we must always act to that truth.”

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Biden described plans for a whole-of-government effort to support military families, survivors and caregivers in various aspects of their lives. She described the initiative as one that has personal meaning for her, citing her father’s service in World War II and her late son Beau Biden's service in the Delaware Army National Guard.

“Without a doubt, being part of this military community has shaped who I am but that’s not why we’re here today. We are here because of you,” the first lady said. “You are the rudder that steers our military and supporting your physical, social and emotional health is a national security imperative.”

Biden, along with then-first lady Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaMinneapolis mayor on Floyd: 'Ultimately his life will have bettered our city' Obamas praise Floyd jury, urge more action: 'We cannot rest' Bush says he doesn't criticize other presidents to avoid risking friendship with Michelle Obama MORE, launched the initiative to support military and veteran families in 2011 and revived the initiative when she returned to the White House with President BidenJoe BidenBiden overruled Blinken, top officials on initial refugee cap decision: report Suicide bombing hits Afghan security forces Jim Jordan, Val Demings get in shouting match about police during hearing MORE in January.

Earlier this year, she named Rory Brosius, who served as deputy director of Joining Forces during the Obama administration, as the program’s new executive director.

The first lady has held virtual listening sessions with members of military families over the past few weeks, but Wednesday’s event represented the formal unveiling of the next phase of the program.

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Jill Biden said that the administration will work to ensure spouses of military members have access to employment opportunities and receive quality child care. Additionally, she said the initiative will be focused on partnering with educators to get military-connected children the tools they need to succeed in the classroom.

Finally, she said officials will support the health and well-being of service members and their families by bolstering access to mental health resources and ensuring they can put food on the table.

Jill Biden said she has already received commitments from the Pentagon and the Labor and Education departments to support Joining Forces and that she expects “every agency to step up and be part of it.”

Following her remarks, she is slated to tour a Military OneSource call center in Arlington, Va., that provides 24/7 support for military members, families and survivors and is funded by the Defense Department.

The first lady has in her first two months in office demonstrated plans to take a leading public role in the White House, drawing a contrast with her predecessor, Melania TrumpMelania TrumpFox News's Bret Baier posts vaccination selfie The Memo: Specter of vaccine hesitancy rises after J&J blow Trump says Prince Philip's death an 'irreplaceable loss' for UK MORE, who took less of a public role alongside former President TrumpDonald TrumpSt. Louis lawyer who pointed gun at Black Lives Matter protesters considering Senate run Chauvin found guilty as nation exhales US says Iran negotiations are 'positive' MORE.

In recent weeks, Jill Biden was a key advocate for President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill as it made its way through Congress, visiting schools across the country as they grappled with how to physically reopen in order to highlight the funding in the bill supporting schools.

While Joining Forces is a major focus of the new first lady’s portfolio, she is also using her time to raise awareness about cancer and focus on education opportunities, both of which were priorities for her as second lady in the Obama administration. She continues to teach at Northern Virginia Community College, work that her aides are keeping separate from her public White House work.