Sunday, February 3, 2008

NJFAC Open Letter to Members of the Congress

January 27, 2008

As the U.S. economy continues to struggle in the wake of the mortgage crisis, the National Jobs for All Coalition strongly urges you to support measures that:

1) create jobs that at the same time increase public investment in our neglected infrastructure and services, thereby creating the basis for future prosperity and a fair economy. A number of such proposals are before the Congress already, and should be enacted either as part of a comprehensive stimulus package, or as standalone legislation.
2) directly assist unemployed and underemployed workers with unemployment compensation and food stamps, which are more likely to be spent immediately than tax rebates;
3) provide financial support for state and local government, whose tax receipts will decline with an economic downturn.

Even when unemployment is relatively low, America has a huge chronic deficit of decent work. In 2006, 7 million people on average were officially unemployed at any given time. Another 4.2 million wanted full time work but were forced to work part-time. Millions more were working at wages that are grossly inadequate.

At the same time, the U.S. faces a chronic deficit of investment in vital human and physical resources, including roads, bridges, dams, drinking water systems and schools, and health, child and elder care.

In addition to short-term economic stimulus measures, the U.S. needs additional federal legislation of various kinds to correct our serious twin deficit of good jobs and public investment. The stimulus package enacted by Congress should ideally link short-term actions to stop the economic pain to long-term policies that create decent jobs for all, and that simultaneously reinvest in our infrastructure and public services. The National Jobs for All Coalition's program, Shared Prosperty and the Drive for Decent Work (available at: ), links job creation to public investment. It cites pending legislation in Congress and other proposals that achieve these twin goals. Most of the jobs created through our plan are likely to stay in America.

Here is an outline of our program:

Address Unmet Public Needs for Infrastructure and Services: We urge Congress to increase federal funding for rebuilding the ailing U.S. infrastructure, constructing affordable housing, and investing in clean energy and in essential public services. Such investments would both create good jobs and improve the quality of life for all of us. Many of these ideas are drawn from The Drive for Decent Work.

1) Expand federal investment in roads, bridges, dams, drinking water and sanitation systems, and schools. There are vast unmet needs in each area. Congress should hold hearings and enact an initial package as a first step in closing the gap in infrastructure investment. Accelerating targeted investments could quickly assist unemployed workers in particular sectors.

2) Expand affordable housing opportunities and boost residential construction by passing the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund Act (HR 2895) in the Senate.

3) Promote conservation, develop renewable energy, and expand funding for research toward greater efficiency and new energy sources. As proposed by the Center for American Progress, such initiatives could include:

· Weatherization assistance to the level authorized by the Energy Independence and Security Act.
· Extending and increasing for 2008 three tax credits that were included in the 2007 energy tax bill: toward residential energy efficiency, solar energy and fuel cell investment. and efficiency improvements to existing homes.
· Increasing the availability of funds for worker training in green sectors under the Workforce Investment Act.
· Promoting community-based partnerships for job training and pathways out of poverty by expanding Green Jobs, recently enacted in the Energy Independence and Security Act.
· Closing the gap in Youthbuild funding in FY 2008 ($40 million below its immediate need) with funds to support green job training, for example, in the construction industry.

4) Increase federal funding for critically needed community services such as Head Start, the Child Care and Development Block Grant, after school programs, and grants for library construction and modernization. Such investments will create jobs, improve educational opportunities for youth, and greatly enhance the quality of life in local communities.

Unemployment Insurance Benefits: Many workers receive inadequate assistance or are not covered by the current system. In particular, low wage workers are about half as likely as higher wage workers to collect benefits. Targeting benefits to these workers will directly help those most affected by a slowing economy, while injecting funds back into essential goods and services, such as housing, food, transportation, and the retail sector.

· Replace the Extended Benefits (EB) program with a new 100% federally funded program. The Economic Policy Institute’s proposal would extend benefits by 13 weeks when unemployment hits 5.5%, and another 13 weeks if it reaches 6.0%. The current system creates unrealistic pressures on state budgets to fund unemployment compensation in times of economic hardship, when tax receipts are down and states face other urgent demands.

· The Senate should enact the proposed Unemployment Insurance Modernization Act, part of the bill already passed by the House of Representatives (HR 3920). This Act would broaden coverage for part-time workers, women with families, and the long-term jobless.

Food Stamps and Home Energy Assistance: Increasing benefits and eligibility for the federal Food Stamp program and Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) would help those who are hit by the economic slowdown and at risk of unemployment, hunger, and economic hardship. These measures are easy to put in place and effectively target those who are in need.

Increase Federal Aid to States: When economic activity slows, state tax receipts fall. As a result, state spending is constricted even as spending needs rise. Tightened state spending further reduces private-sector employment. Federal fiscal relief via grants and funding matches can cushion these effects, helping to sustain state spending in such areas as health care, affordable housing, and education.

We recognize that this is an ambitious program in the current political environment, but it is also one that can fire the public imagination. We urge you to speak out on these issues, and discuss them with your colleagues in Congress. We believe this is an excellent time for a public debate about smart strategies to address unmet needs for good jobs and infrastructure investment that will promote shared prosperity for all.


Gertrude Schaffner Goldberg

Charles Bell
Vice President
Chair, Legislative Committee

P.S. We are also very interested in YOUR thoughts and ideas for job creation and public investment. If you have pending legislative or policy proposals that we can help support through our outreach and public education efforts, please let us know.

National Jobs for All Coalition c/o Council on International & Public Affairs [CIPA]777 United Nations Plaza, Suite 3C, NY, NY 10017

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