In January, President Obama took office facing the worst economic crisis in generations. Last year saw the largest job losses since the end of World War II and the worst housing market since the Great Depression. Faced with that tremendous challenge, President Obama and the Democratic Congress responded with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, an aggressive plan to jumpstart our economy and create jobs. As we look back on the Recovery Act's first eight months, its success in averting catastrophe is clear. We are not out of the woods yet and much more work remains to create good jobs and lower unemployment, but there are positive signs that the economic policies pursued by Democrats are starting to work.
Certainly, our current level of unemployment is unacceptable, and our job will not be done until millions of Americans are back at work. That is why Democrats remain focused on job creation. Last month, the House voted to extend unemployment insurance for the more than 300,000 jobless workers whose benefits were set to expire at the end of the month. The bill assisted workers in the states with the highest, most persistent unemployment, helping Americans provide for their families and stimulating the economy. And the majority of Recovery Act money is still set to hit the economy, as scheduled, in the months to come-which I hope will continue to increase employment from where it would have been without it.
In fact, the Recovery Act has already saved or created one million jobs according to separate estimates from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the respected economic research firm Moody's, and the Council of Economic Advisors. The Recovery Act did this by injecting demand into the economy to stop the cycle that occurs during a recession: families spend less, businesses make less money, and workers get laid off; laid-off workers cut back on spending, and the cycle continues. To break that pattern, the Recovery Act sponsored job-creating infrastructure projects, gave Americans the biggest middle-class tax cut in history to put money in their pockets, saved the jobs of hundreds of thousands of teachers and police officers through assistance to state and local governments, and funded programs like food stamps, which are proven to fuel economic demand.
The jobs created or saved stem from worthwhile projects, like funding over 135,000 education positions across the nation or protecting the jobs of almost 5,000 law enforcement officers. The Recovery Act is also paying for much-needed infrastructure improvements, from rebuilt bridges in Mississippi, to safer transit stops in Atlanta, to a new fleet of clean natural gas buses in Los Angeles County, to improvements at medical centers for our veterans across 38 states. All of these projects put Americans to work and stimulate demand.
In addition, independent research has shown that Recovery Act dollars are working with great efficiency. A recent study found that just 5% of the Recovery Act money spent so far was responsible for creating more than 30,000 contract jobs - and that doesn't include the jobs supported or created indirectly from that spending, nor the long-term economic benefits of the infrastructure being built.
At the same time, the signs for our economy as a whole are improving from their 2008 low-point. Since President Obama signed the Recovery Act into law, the Dow Jones index is up significantly, which is good news for many Americans whose pensions are directly tied to how the stock market is doing. And a broad consensus of economists, from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to the Blue Chip survey of leading economists, agrees that the worst is over.
However, I understand that such news is not a great comfort to the families of California's 51st District, who aren't seeing the effects of a strengthened economy in their households. All the hopeful statistics in the world make little difference to a family facing unemployment and struggling to make ends meet. Because employers wait to be assured that the economy has fully recovered before expanding their payrolls again, jobs will unfortunately be the last part of the rebound to come into place.
So while we've come a long way since last winter, when our whole economic future was in deep doubt, now is the time for us to work even harder. As long as so many Americans remain out of work, Washington has work to do to help create jobs to the extent we can. But our success so far shows that the Democratic approach -- over the objections of Congressional Republicans, who just say "no" to every idea that is presented -- is proving itself the right one
Announcing Green Jobs Grants for San Diego
I am pleased to announce the first green jobs grants awards authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act through the U.S. Department of Labor:
* San Diego Able-Disabled Advocacy will receive $100,000 to establish a Green Industries Advisory Council, create curricula for entry-level green jobs, and organize a green industries job fair in San Diego.
* The San Diego & Imperial Counties Labor Council will receive $100,000 to enhance the San Diego workforce's competitive edge in emerging green technology sectors.
* The State of California Employment Development Department will receive $1,250,000 to conduct green occupational skills research and identify training needs for employment in emerging green occupations.
Californians continue to benefit from additional funding for job creation and training through the Recovery Act. These Green Jobs programs will take our industry in a direction that is better for the long-term preservation of the environment and our natural resources.
The awards were made under two competitive solicitations for State Labor Market Information (LMI) Improvement grants and Green Capacity Building grants. There are three additional Green Jobs grant competitions that have closed -- Pathways out of Poverty grants, Energy Training Partnership grants, and State Energy Sector Partnership grants. Applications are being reviewed and announcements are expected later this winter.
Updates on the Calexico Land Port of Entry
As a senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee I am pleased to announce that the Committee has included two important provisions in the resolution authorizing the General Services Administration (GSA) to plan, design, and construct the Calexico Land Port of Entry (POE).
I have been working hard to ensure that GSA's plans and designs for the new Calexico POE are consistent with the needs of our community. I hope the passage of these two provisions comes as welcome news to residents of the City of Calexico and Imperial County.
GSA will be required to plan, design and construct a minimum of five privately owned vehicle (POV) southbound lanes, as recommended by the "BorderWizard" traffic simulation model used for Land Port of Entry (LPOE) studies.
The resolution also requires "that the GSA, in coordination and consultation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), shall submit a report to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, within 180 days, on options to plan, design and construct covering and or piping underground the New River, north from the International Border to Highway 98 in the City of Calexico
Supporting After-School Programs in Rural America
Last month, I joined with my Congressional colleagues to co-sponsor and support H.R. 3078, the "Investment in Rural After-School Programs Act," introduced by Congressman Phil Hare of Illinois.
Sadly, in several rural communities where there is a great need for quality after-school programs, many factors make it difficult to get them started and keep them open. This legislation would establish or improve rural after-school programs by offering grants to educational agencies, community-based organizations, or other non-profit organizations.
After-school services would be provided through these programs, including academic enrichment, drug and violence prevention, and technology and science education. In addition, the programs would serve nutritious snacks or meals that meet USDA health standards. The grants would target areas with a majority of students who are eligible for free and reduced-priced lunches.
Studies indicate that children who regularly attend quality after-school programs demonstrate better academic performance and behavior in the classroom and have lower incidences of delinquency. After-school programs provide children with the supervised learning time their parents want to, but often cannot, provide due to their working hours.
H.R. 3078 is supported by 78 local, state, and national organizations, including the After-School Alliance, Save the Children, the YMCA of the USA, the American Heart Association, the National PTA, and the National 4-H Council.
Boosting Resources for America's Fire Departments
I voted to provide local firefighters with the tools and resources they need to prevent and fight fires, and keep our communities safe. At a time when many towns and cities are facing budget shortfalls and cuts to basic services, the Fire Grants Reauthorization Act invests in vital firefighter assistance programs that allow local fire departments to provide training, purchase equipment and vehicles, and hire personnel.
This bill provides critical funding to safeguard our homes, our neighborhoods and -- first and foremost -- our families.
The bipartisan legislation authorizes a total of $2.2 billion a year in grants for local municipalities to upgrade crucial equipment and maintain adequate levels of personnel. It also makes it easier for local fire departments to access these critical funds by lowering matching requirements and modifying time commitments.
Ever since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, fire departments and first responders across the country have been overstretched -- taking on even more responsibilities to respond to possible terrorist attacks, as well as preventing and fighting fires. This legislation will give our fire departments the critical resources they need to address these threats.
Our local firefighters -- whether they be career or volunteer -- must have the best training and equipment at their disposal to keep our communities safe. State and local governments may be facing falling revenues and shrinking budgets, but they should never have to choose between adequately trained personnel and functioning equipment. This bill protects against that.
The bill has the support of the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the International Association of Fire Fighters, the National Volunteer Fire Council, the National Fire Protection Association, and the Congressional Fire Services Institute.
Supporting a Gold Medal for Nation's First Black Marines
Last month, I co-sponsored H.R. 3927, a bill to honor the Montford Point Marines. On June 25, 1941 President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order No. 8802, establishing the Fair Employment Practices Commission and opening the doors for the very first African-American Marines to enlist in the United States Marine Corps. The first African-American Marine Recruits were trained at Camp Montford Point, near the New River in Jacksonville, North Carolina.
I am proud to co-sponsor legislation to provide long over-due recognition of our nation's first black Marines who served in World War II. As Chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, I believe it is important for us to honor and remember all veterans who have served our nation in past wars, as well as fulfill our responsibility to current active-duty personnel.
During April 1943, the first African-American Marine Drill Instructors took over as the senior Drill Instructors of the eight platoons then in training; the 16th Platoon (Edgar R. Huff); 17th (Thomas Brokaw); 18th (Charles E. Allen); 19th (Gilbert H. Johnson); 20th (Arnold R. Bostic); 21st (Mortimer A. Cox); 22nd (Edgar R. Davis, Jr.); and 23rd (George A. Jackson).
Black Marines of the 8th Ammunition Company and the 36th Depot Company landed off the Island of Iwo Jima on D-Day, February 19, 1945.
The largest number of African-American Marines to serve in combat during World War II took part in the seizure of Okinawa in the Ryuku Islands with some 2000 black Marines seeing action during the campaign.
On November 10, 1945, the first African-American Marine, Frederick C. Branch, was commissioned a second lieutenant at the Marine Base in Quantico Virginia.
Overall 19,168 African-Americans served in the Marine Corps in World War II.
Many of these first black Marines stayed in the Marine Corps for a career like Sergeant Major Edgar R. Huff. Sergeant Major Huff was one of the very first recruits aboard Montford Point and the first African-American Sergeant Major. He was also the first African-American Marine to retire with 30 years service, which included combat in three major wars: WWII, Korea and Vietnam. During the Tet Offensive, Sergeant Major Huff was awarded the Bronze Star medal with combat "V" for valor for saving the life of his radio operator.
This Congressional Gold Medal will recognize and honor those African-American Marines who paved the way for all those who serve in todays military.
Urging an End to State Furloughs of Social Security Disability Determination Service (DDS) Employees
Last month, I testified before the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security about the impact of State of California furloughs of Social Security Disability Determination Service (DDS) Employees.
While some states have exempted Disability Determination Service (DDS) employees from the furloughs at the urging of the Social Security Administration, the State of California has not exempted DDS employees. This is despite the fact that DDS employee salaries are fully funded by the Federal Government.
The unnecessary furloughs for California DDS employees are pushing back the decisions on individuals' benefits by months and harming thousands of disabled residents who are needlessly waiting for their claims to be processed. The furloughs are also impacting state DDS employees by reducing their salaries, making it harder for families to make ends meet.
A new report issued by the Inspector General estimates that 53,136 cases will be delayed in 2009 as a result of the State of California's furloughs.
Since July 10th, State of California DDS employees have been furloughed 3 days per month for a total of at least 36 days in 2009. These 3 furlough days translate to an approximate 13.8% reduction in monthly pay.
I went on to explain that the furloughs are making the State of California's budget crisis worse because the state has to pay benefits until the federal claim is approved and the state is forgoing income tax revenue from furloughed employees.
Governor Schwarzenegger's insistence on furloughing DDS employees is not helping the people of California, not helping the State of California solve its budget crisis, and is simply an indefensible and illogical policy!
Earlier this year, the Social Security Inspector General released a report outlining several options for addressing the crisis, including working with States to stop DDS furloughs, transferring work to other disability examiners and/or hiring private contractors, and federalizing the DDS.
To date, Vice President Biden and others have succeeded in working with many states to ensure that DDS employees are exempted from furloughs. Unfortunately, Governor Schwarzenegger has ignored the facts and continues to furlough DDS employees.
I testified that I believe it is time for Congress to consider other options to stop the state furloughs. Current federal law allows the Social Security Administrator to federalize DDS employees if a state "substantially fails" to live up to its responsibilities to process claims.
I will soon introduce The Don't Delay Services Act, which is intended to prevent state furloughs of DDS employees. My bill would deem furloughs of DDS employees a "substantial failure", triggering the provision of existing federal law that allows SSA to federalize DDS.
As drafted, the Don't Delay Services Act would not change any provisions of federal law concerning the rights and protections of these workers.
Meeting with the Philippines' Secretary of National Defense, Gilberto Teodoro, Jr.
I recently met in my Washington, D.C. office with the Philippines' Secretary of National Defense, Gilberto Teodoro, Jr., to discuss issues of mutual concern.
Constituent Mail Bag
Our country is facing an imminent health care crisis that you can help prevent. The Medicare cuts for doctors will take effect in less than two months are a major problem for patients because they will prevent many doctors from accepting new Medicare patients. But H.R. 3961 would stop these cuts and create a new formula to prevent them from happening again.
Please preserve access to high-quality health care for America's seniors and military families and be a champion for our patients and for our doctors. Support H.R. 3961.
Congressman Filner replies:
Thank you for contacting me in favor of H.R. 3961, the Medicare Physician Payment Reform Act of 2009.
I wholeheartedly agree! We must fix this flawed formula and ensure Medicare physicians are able to continue to serve America's seniors. You will be glad to know I voted in favor of H.R. 3961.
I appreciate your advocacy on this issue.
Useful Website: Volunteer San Diego
Volunteer San Diego is a non-profit organization created to help advertise community service opportunities. Their goal is to help build a strong San Diego community through charitable actions. This holiday season, Volunteer San Diego has many opportunities for those seeking a place to help out. If you have any spare time this holiday season or in the near future, please find time to volunteer and visit the website below.