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New Jobs for America

September 1, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Over the next few weeks, as Congress returns and the discussion shifts to unemployment, I’ll be highlighting bills in Congress that have already been introduced to create jobs and help those who have been hurt by the crisis. Rather than focusing on the proposals that have been vaulted into the media spotlight by party leaders, I’ll be looking mainly at bills that represent alternative ideas that have been mostly ignored. Today, I’ll start with Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee’s [D, TX] New Jobs for America Act of 2011, which would create a jobs training program for the unemployed focused on helping people update their skills for emerging industries. It’s a simple, 2-page bill, so I’ll just post the full text below for you to read and comment on.

(a) Authorization- Subject to the availability of appropriations for such funds, the Secretary of Labor shall make grants to States, units of local government, and Indian tribes to carry out the activities described in subsection (b).

(b) Use of Funds- A recipient of a grant under this Act shall use the grant for the following purposes:

(1) To seek out unemployed individuals struggling financially whose prior training consisted of skills necessary for a faltering or dying industry.

(2) To create compensated training programs that offer training in emerging markets and industries (such as green technologies).

(3) To partner with historically Black colleges and universities and Hispanic serving colleges and universities along with local community college systems to create innovative retraining programs for minorities focused on retooling workers for jobs in the growth sectors of healthcare, biotech, and information technology.

(4) To partner with cities and non-profit organizations to provide apprenticeships and internships.

(5) To provide compensation to participants in training programs to temporarily aide in their financial distress.

(6) To provide access to public healthcare programs for participants.

(7) To create training programs for ex-offenders in an effort to reduce recidivism.

(8) To aide newly trained participants in securing employment within the field of their newly acquired expertise.

(c ) Conditions- As a condition of receiving a grant under this Act, a grant recipient shall—

(1) comply with nondiscrimination standards of the Civil Rights Act;

(2) allocate not less than 80 percent of the funding allocated under the grant to wages, benefits, and support activities, including child care services to individuals receiving compensated training under such a grant; and

Let me be the first to say it — this is never going to pass in the 112th Congress. Then again, neither is any other jobs plan, so it’s hardly an important point. Until there’s a vision and a movement outside of Washington, Washington is going to keep playing games on jobs and every other issue people actually care about. At this point, to follow what Washington does or does not do on jobs is to take the bait. For Congress and the Administration (and much of the media), it’s all a game of perception now. That’s why the debate over when the President should give his speech has been the dominant political news story for the past 36 hours. My advice to you is to ignore all that. Focus instead on the fact that the unemployment rate for people between the ages of 16 and 24 is 51%, the highest it has ever been. Or the fact that the unemployment in the black community is more than double the national average, and more than quadruple the national average in some cities. Then, once we’re looking at the real issues, we can start to look at real solutions. Washington these days would rather you look at neither.

Jackson-Lee is pictured above, in green.

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