Congressman Hank Johnson (D-GA) participated in a Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) hearing on March 17 to deal with the unacceptably high unemployment rates in communities of color.
"Out of Work But Not Out of Hope: Addressing the Crisis of the Chronically Unemployed" focused on the fact that African-American and other communities of color have significantly higher rates of unemployment than the national average.
Although Johnson has been encouraged by Recovery Act investments throughout the Fourth District -- and particularly in funds for jobs training -- the Congressman said he is not satisfied.
"I've been optimistic in my work with President Obama and Congress that we can and will turn this economy around," said Johnson. "We've done some good work, but more needs to be done."
To address disparities detailed in a new report from the Transportation Equity Network that finds minority contractors have received just 2 percent of Recovery highway infrastructure funds, Johnson is gathering signatures on a letter to Transportation secretary Ray LaHood demanding more accountability.
According to the report, as of December 11, 2009, just $986 million of the $48 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds designated to highway projects via state Departments of Transportation have been committed to Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBEs).
"To say these figures are disappointing is an understatement," said Johnson. "As Congress continues to focus upon creating jobs in this country, we are determined to ensure that minority and disadvantaged businesses share in the recovery."
Johnson said he hopes a hearing will be held on the matter and fully expects LaHood to address not only his concerns, but the concerns of the CBC and co-signers of his letter.
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus have also teamed with Education and Labor Chairman George Miller to craft several key provisions in the "Local Jobs for America Act" that directly addresses the needs of the chronically unemployed, such as:
* Targeting funding to community-based organizations serving communities with poverty rates of 12 percent and/or unemployment rates that are 2 percent or more than the national average.
* On-the-job training for thousands seeking new skills for a new economy.
* Targeting those communities hit hardest by the recession especially the chronically unemployed and underemployed.
* Support for programs that retrain, rehire and hire teachers, law enforcement officers and firefighters