Jobs Bill a Critical Step Forward, But More Targeted Interventions Needed

Dec 18, 2009

By Evelyn Ganzglass

The Jobs for Main Street Act passed by the U.S. House on December 16 is not a panacea for the nation's wide-reaching jobs crisis, but it is a much-needed step forward.

The $154 billion measure includes provisions that are critical for low-income working families, such as extending unemployment insurance, providing $2 billion for various hiring and training programs, and making the Child Tax Credit available to low-income working families.

The bill recognizes that the nation needs short- and long-term solutions: Unemployed workers need a safety net that will help them make ends meet during this tough economic time, and workers need to acquire the skills necessary to access good jobs. This bill addresses these core issues, but it does not go far enough to create job opportunities for low-skill and low-income youth and adults.

The harsh reality is that many communities suffered an employment crisis long before this economic recession. Workers without a high school diploma and a disproportionate share of blacks and Latinos, have been hit much harder by the troubled economy. These groups historically have had unemployment rates higher than the national average, and the nation's continual shedding of jobs has only made it worse. 

Indeed, Jobs for Main Street includes provisions that will help these workers and their families. But to truly provide long-term opportunity for all American workers, especially low-skill workers, youth, and other populations who have suffered the greatest job losses, the nation's jobs strategy must include more targeted interventions.

Earlier this month, CLASP released a set of recommendations, Jobs Creation: Creating Work and Learning Opportunities for Low-Income Americans, which outlines targeted strategies for low-income workers. These strategies include subsidized employment and on-the-job training opportunities, year-round youth jobs programs, jobs programs for populations with barriers to employment, and wage subsidies. Such strategies begin to address some of the underlying reasons for high unemployment in some communities, including lack of training and skills.

We must take this opportunity to not only to create jobs, but to ensure more Americans are equipped with the skills, education and training they need to contribute to the nation's economy.

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