Will the new jobs bill help hardest hit areas?

Featured, Racial Equity — By Jason Reece on February 26, 2010 at 15:28

In response to our nation’s ongoing economic challenges, a new federal jobs bill is expected from Congress soon. The Kirwan Institute has been tracking the impact of federal efforts to alleviate the economic crisis for the past year.  Given our experiences tracking the impact of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and other federal relief programs, we are concerned that the new jobs bill will not help those communities or states in greatest need.

While the federal response to the economic crisis has helped in many ways, most notably in avoiding catastrophic state budget shortfalls, it has not been able to address the extreme economic hardship facing some communities.

The economic crisis is falling unevenly across our nation, impacting some states, communities and populations more than others. Hard-hit Midwestern states are reeling from foreclosures and from the continued decline of the manufacturing sector. Among some populations, disparities in unemployment by race, age or gender are vast. The “gender gap” in unemployment now stands at its highest since 1948, with unemployment rates for men surging. Michigan leads the nation in this gender divide, with nearly 1 in 5 men in the State unemployed at the end of 2009.

Across racial lines, we see White unemployment starting to decline, but Black unemployment continues to grow, and now exceeds 16%.  Even more troubling, the unemployment rate for Black youth is now more than 43%.

Recognition of the uneven nature of the economic crisis is not reflected in much of our federal response and is not addressed in the recent jobs bill. One measure stripped from the jobs bill in recent weeks was a stipulation to target some funds to communities with high unemployment.

This type of need-based targeting is critical, or we risk spreading our resources too thin, providing little relief to those communities and populations which have been devastated by the economic crisis. More diligent targeting of federal job and infrastructure investments to hard-hit communities would also provide an efficient use of our public investments.

This not be an unprecedented move – the first phase of the Neighborhood Stabilization program targeted communities with high rates of foreclosure, and the U.S. Department of Transportation runs a program which encourages investment in economically distressed counties.

Our measures of community need must also be accurate and robust in capturing the impact of the recession. Unfortunately, the latest attempt to prioritize states for federal housing relief did not use a measure of real need, like long-term foreclosure rates, but instead looked at housing depreciation, locking 45 states, out of 1.5 billion dollars in housing relief. If hard-hit states or communities do not push for more robust measures of addressing economic need in the next jobs bill, we may once again lose out, and not see the economic relief needed to address the state’s economic hardships.

For more information about recovery tracking visit: FairRecovery.org

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Author: Jason Reece (3 Articles)

Jason Reece

Jason is a senior researcher at the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race & Ethnicity at The Ohio State University and has worked for the Institute since 2003. He manages and directs the Opportunity Communities Initiative which includes all GIS, housing, community development, neighborhood revitalization and regional equity initiatives at the Institute. His work involves outreach, education, advocacy and policy research on issues related to fair housing/opportunity based housing, community development, neighborhood revitalization, regional equity and GIS. As director of the opportunity communities initiative, Jason manages more than 15 staff and has assisted community organizations, philanthropic organizations, public agencies and other non-profit or faith based organizations in more than twenty states. He recently organized the Institute's 2008 national convening on subprime lending, foreclosure and race. Some of his recent publications include Perspectives on Community Economic Development in a Global Economy in the publication CED in the Global Economy published by the American Bar Association and Poverty's Place: The Use of Geographic Information Systems in Poverty Advocacy published in Clearinghouse Review Journal of Poverty Law and Policy. Jason also is an adjunct lecturer in the Ohio State University's department of City & Regional Planning, teaching on issues of social equity in planning and development. Prior to working for the Kirwan Institute, Jason was a regional planner for the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments working on issues of community/economic development, land use and transportation. He also has worked in rural community and economic development for Ohio State University Extension, where much of his work focused on Ohio's exurban areas and the Appalachian region. Jason has worked for the Ohio Department of Development in the Office of Strategic Research and for a municipal planning agency. He has been active in the field of GIS for twelve years, including time working as a research assistant managing GIS laboratories at Miami University and as a GIS consultant. Jason was certified AICP by the American Institute of Certified Planners in 2003. He received a Master's degree in City and Regional planning from The Ohio State University and studied city planning abroad at the Technical University of Dresden, Germany. He received a Bachelor of Arts in Geography and a Bachelor of Arts in Urban and Regional planning from Miami University.

  • 1 Comment

  • K.I.M. says:

    What should be included in the jobs bill to specifically target ’some’ communities? The post above mentioned that a measure was excluded from the bill that would target some funds to communities with high unemployment. For what would the funds be used? Do the funds directly correlate to jobs?

    And is unemployment the appropriate place to focus if we are concerned about unemployed black Americans? One problem solving technique is asking why until you’ve identified the root cause of a problem.

    So why is unemployment high amongst blacks? Because they are disproportionately under or uneducated. Why? Have fun answering that question. One answer could be institutionalized racism. One answer could be that the break down of the familial unit doesn’t allow parents to focus on or stress the importance of education as the means to unlock opportunity.

    I’d also challenge this heavy focus on a jobs bill. To my discredit, I didn’t read it. I think that an investment in education, innovation and science would be the appropriate approach to job creation. The innovative time during the industrial revolution allowed the USA to catapult to global economic dominance. New processes were created, new products were created, new new new. With these new innovative industries, we must create skills/jobs that have a competitive advantage of remaining in the United States.

    Business has evolved into the globalization era. Now when you compete for a job, you’re not competing only against Bob and Mary that graduated from your American school. You are competing with Rajiv, who graduated from a top technical school in India…who is willing to be paid a fraction of what you will. Accordingly, jobs are being outsourced and off shored. That relates to international economic policy – not a job creation bill. What incentives could be created to encourage American based businesses to keep operations in America?

    I also challenge increased investments in collegiate academic rigor and standards. Several schools can tout high graduation rates; however, this becomes meaningless if the graduates cannot compete for jobs.

    In summary – I am not quite sure why the focus is on ‘job’ creation. There are so many other factors that have lead to unemployment that need to be fixed or at least considered.

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