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Civil rights leaders and economists say that Senate jobs bill must do more to tackle minority unemployment

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, February 5, 2010

[NCLR]

Contact:
Catherine Singley
Sherria Cotton
(202) 785-1670

Washington, DC—Leading economists and civil rights figures reacted to the Senate’s latest proposal to create jobs in light of new unemployment numbers from the Department of Labor. The legislation, introduced by Senators Reid (D–NV), Durbin (D–IL), Dorgan (D–ND), Baucus (D–MT), and Schumer (D–NY), is a good first step toward creating jobs immediately. However, major improvements are needed to effectively tackle the high unemployment rate among minority workers, according to NCLR (National Council of La Raza), the largest national Latino civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States. Unemployment data released today confirms that minorities continue to suffer disproportionately from joblessness. In January, the unemployment rate was 16.5% for Blacks and 12.6 % for Latinos, compared to 9.7% nationwide.

NCLR recommends creating jobs in minority communities through incentives to hire local residents, with a special emphasis on funding projects to rebuild neighborhoods with high rates of foreclosure. Nonprofit organizations, in their role as employers and service providers, must also be seen as critical to rapid job creation and economic recovery.

“Latinos, like all Americans, are looking to Congress to tackle unemployment in the hardest-hit areas first,” said Janet Murguía, NCLR President and CEO. “The Senate should not rest until this legislation guarantees that employment opportunities reach distressed communities of color.”

“Congressional action on jobs is welcome, but the level of investment they are offering is inadequate measured against the scale of the problem. This should be considered the first of what will need to be more substantial efforts to give unemployed Americans what they want and deserve, the dignity that comes from having a job with fair pay,” said Christian Dorsey, Director of External and Government Affairs at the Economic Policy Institute.

“Job creation needs to be priority number one for Congress and the president. You cannot simultaneously restore America’s prosperity and rebuild the middle class without rescuing those who strive to be in the middle class. Many Americans live on Main Street, but many more Americans live on Back Street,” stated NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. “This bill is a step in the right direction; investing in small business and transportation are vital, but more needs to be done. We applaud the Senate for moving so quickly and our hope is that this process continues to be expedited so that America’s families can begin to move out of financial hardship.”

“We should applaud lawmakers in the Senate for attempting to reverse the unemployment trend through a new jobs package,” said David Madland, Director of the American Worker Project at the Center for American Progress. “However, we also need to ensure that job creation programs be robust, well funded, and benefit all Americans.”

“While we rescued Wall Street from self-inflicted wounds, the greatest threat to America’s stability is economic stagnation and slow job growth,” said Deepak Bhargava, Executive Director of Center for Community Change. “Congress must do more to promote job growth. Now is not the time to shrink deficits on the backs of America’s workers, not when persistently high unemployment rates continue to weigh down economic growth, ravage lower- and middle-class Americans’ earnings, and force long-lasting damage on our economy.”

“The Leadership Conference commends the Senate for taking a first step toward addressing the jobs crisis. With nearly 16 million people out of work and looking for a job, the first thing we must do is care for the casualties by extending unemployment insurance and COBRA benefits through the end of the year. Along with ensuring that the most vulnerable survive this crisis, these extensions will help maintain the consumer demand that is critical to kick-starting an economic recovery. American workers have kept their end of the bargain as the most productive workers in the world. It’s time to help them get back on their feet,” said Wade Henderson, President of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

“The United States Students Association (USSA) applauds the effort to create more jobs and stimulate the economy. However, students are calling on Congress to ensure that support for young workers is included in job creation legislation,” stated Greg Cendana, President of USSA. “The majority of college graduates are leaving school with an average of $23,200 in debt as they enter a job market with the highest unemployment rate on record for graduates aged 20–24. Job creation legislation should offer support for college graduates and ensure that they can achieve the financial stability necessary to grow the economy.”

“Migrant and seasonal farmworkers have been particularly vulnerable in the existing economic climate,” said David Strauss, Executive Director of The Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs. “The Senate jobs bill offers renewed hope for the restoration of the American Dream, and while the bill is not the end-all solution, it does offer a starting point to end the staggering unemployment rates currently plaguing the country.”

Find detailed proposals of NCLR’s recommendations to Congress at www.nclr.org/JobsNow.

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