I wanted to take this opportunity to provide you an update on the most important issue currently facing the country and Congress: the economy.
The U.S. economy is the weakest it has been in a generation. While the national unemployment rate was 10% in December, in our region it is above 12 percent. I have heard from many constituents who are going through hard times, facing foreclosure, losing their jobs or going bankrupt. For some, the unemployment statistics may be just numbers, but for me, they reflect the real pain experienced by millions of families. I understand the turmoil and stress on so many Americans of what is being called the "Great Recession," and I feel a real sense of urgency when I hear from constituents who have seen their stock portfolio eaten up, or lost savings when IndyMac Bank closed, or had to shut the doors of their small business, or lost their job, or had to leave their home and the American dream along with it.
Fixing the economy will remain my top priority until people are going back to work and local businesses are opening up again on Main Street. Last year, I supported a job creation package designed to spur economic growth throughout the country. The legislation helped the U.S economy grow at 3.5% in the third quarter of 2009, the first positive quarterly economic growth since December 2007. I'm hopeful that as the economy recovers its strength, firms -- big and small alike -- will begin adding employees to their payrolls as they did in November 2009. There was a net gain of 4,000 jobs in November, the first month with positive job growth in just under two years. While we have come a long way since the fall of 2008 when large institutions were crumbling, the market was crashing, and we were losing hundreds of thousands of jobs every month, we have a long way yet to go. As indicated by the disappointing jobs report in December -- when we failed to generate any new jobs -- the path to economic recovery will not be smooth or quick.
One way the legislation I supported helped to begin the creation of new jobs was by investing in new construction -- $36 billion to modernize roads and bridges and to improve public transit and rail. Los Angeles County is expected to receive roughly $500 million for transit-related projects and around $300 million in highway funding. This $800 million investment in our area's future will create jobs in the construction industry, which has been hardest hit by the recession. More than 10% of the jobs in the construction industry in the region have been lost since the recession began in December 2007. Firms that provide the construction companies the tools and supplies necessary to build these important transportation projects will also see a corresponding uptick in their bottom line and will soon hire more workers to respond to growing demand for their products. Employees at both construction and supply firms will now have the money they need to buy groceries and other essential goods and services, injecting more money into the U.S. economy. Money invested in critical infrastructure projects will have a ripple effect as it will spur economic activity in many other sectors of the economy.
In December, I supported additional legislation (H.R. 2847) which will prompt even more new construction jobs as well as invest $750 million in competitive grants to support job training for approximately 150,000 individuals in high growth and emerging industry sectors. In addition to growing new jobs, this measure will help laid-off or part-time workers obtain training for their next job, which may be very different from their former or current job as the economy goes through a reordering and restructuring.
I have also fought to obtain funding to help states and municipalities keep teachers, law enforcement officials and first responders in their jobs for another two years. This will ensure that our children are economically competitive in the global marketplace and that our streets and cities are safe. H.R. 2847 extends unemployment insurance for six months, increasing payouts and elongating the duration of benefits, and extends from nine to 15 months the COBRA health insurance subsidy for individuals who have lost their jobs. This bill has now been referred to the Senate, and I hope it will be acted upon soon.
With job creation packages of this size, we must ensure that all of the money is spent wisely. I am pushing for strong oversight and transparency provisions that allow the public to track how any public funds are being spent. I also want to see an Accountability and Transparency Board review management of recovery dollars and provide early warning of problems. Governors, mayors, or others making funding decisions must personally certify that the investment has been fully vetted and is an appropriate use of taxpayer funds, and not some spurious pet project.
On the local level, I am working with community leaders to ensure that there are investments in critical areas of our region that will create jobs and help train people for future jobs. I was able to secure nearly $100,000 for the Verdugo Workforce Investment Board so that it could expand its program to provide business assistance, job training and job placement services to residents and businesses in our neighborhoods. The Board focuses on small businesses of 25 employees or less and helps local businesses remain solvent, while assisting in the effort to place job seekers in those companies. If you are interested in learning more about how the Verdugo Workforce Investment Board can help you obtain employment or help your local small business remain solvent, please contact my District Office at (626) 304 2727.
This fall I have also been working to ensure that construction on Phase 2A of the Gold Line Foothill Extension from Pasadena to Azusa can begin as soon as possible -- in June of this year -- and to secure the federal support necessary to complete Phase 2B of the line to Montclair. The Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation recently released a study on the economic impacts of Phase 2A and estimated that it would create nearly 7,000 jobs, and would generate approximately $1 billion in economic activity.
Similarly, I have been able to secure money for the San Gabriel Trench Project to construct a 2.1 mile railroad trench for trains to travel underneath roadway bridges at several major thoroughfares in the San Gabriel Valley. These federal funds will be used to leverage state and local dollars as part of the nearly $500 million Alameda Corridor-East Construction Authority project, and will also create thousands of new jobs in our region as well as make rail crossings at roads significantly safer.
As important as it is to focus on job creation, it is also vital to ensure that the financial crisis that occurred in fall 2008 does not happen again by supporting financial regulatory reform efforts. I voted for the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (H.R. 4173) when it passed the House on December 11, 2009. The bill establishes the Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA), which will protect the public by transferring consumer protection authority from the Federal Reserve and other banking regulators to the CFPA, reducing gaps in federal supervision, and giving the public greater confidence that financial markets are fair and transparent. The CFPA would also be empowered to take action to prevent persons from committing or engaging in unfair, deceptive or abusive acts or practices. The bill also gives shareholders an advisory vote on pay practices, such as executive compensation and "golden parachutes." We must put to an end the incentive structure for executives on Wall Street that held the country's economic future hostage to shoddy business practices.
While I believe that the current economic climate requires a short-term injection of cash into the economy to generate jobs, over the long-term Congress is going to have to make the painful decisions necessary to reduce the federal deficit so that the economy can flourish long-term. I am a member of a coalition of House Members that advocate for centrist solutions to the nation's growing federal deficit and national debt. I see this as an issue imperiling the nation's future. We should not burden our children and grandchildren with debt that we are unwilling to address ourselves. A large national debt increases the cost of borrowing money, puts upward pressure on interest rates, raises production costs and makes it harder for firms to add employees -- which is critical in the current economic downturn. In July 2009, I helped in the successful fight to give pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) rules the force of law. PAYGO requires that new spending be offset by new revenues, and new tax cuts be paid for with spending cuts. The legislation passed the House on July 22, 2009 by a vote of 265 to 166.
The economy seems to be taking the first tentative steps towards recovery, and while I think the nation has been through the worst, much work remains to be done and we must guard against a "double dip" recession. Please let me know your ideas, thoughts and suggestions on what we can do to breathe life into the U.S. economy. I'm confident that the creativity and ingenuity of the American people will pull us out of the economic recession. And you can be assured that I will keep your views in mind as new legislation affecting the economy is considered on the House Floor in the 111th Congress.