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Public Statements

Congressional Black Caucus Hour

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Ms. FUDGE. Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank Representative Christensen for anchoring today's timely CBC Special Order on unemployment in the African American community and on job creation.

It is no secret that the unemployment rate for African Americans is almost twice that of the national unemployment rate. Studies show that 16.7 percent of all African Americans are unemployed. It's probably closer to 20 percent when you take into consideration those who have given up looking for jobs or who are severely underemployed. In some cities, it is nearly three times the national unemployment rate.

Mr. Speaker, the people I represent are not talking about budget cuts, and they're not talking about continuing resolutions. The people in my community are talking about being laid off, and they're talking about losing their homes while they're still trying to provide food for their families. We are in a crisis that will undoubtedly affect our children and our grandchildren as 11 percent of all American children have at least one parent who is unemployed.

What does that mean for them?

It means fewer opportunities, and it means fewer meals.

As a Nation, we have always prided ourselves on defining ``success'' as providing a better future for our children. That's why my colleagues and I are speaking out today. That's why it is absolutely essential that we begin to make changes that will help our people get back on their feet. We must do something to create jobs, and we must do it now. I hosted a telephone town hall on the economy a few weeks ago.

Seven thousand people from around my district joined the call to ask questions about resources for small businesses or how to find job training programs. These people, like so many others, are looking for a way out of this situation, and it must come now.

It's clear to me that we have settled for short-term solutions to a problem that demands a long-term strategic resolution. We need to retrain workers for the jobs of today. Surprisingly, there are millions of positions that go unfilled in an economy where Americans are unemployed. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there were 3 million job openings on the last business day of May 2011, yet the unemployment rate at that same time was 9.2 percent. There were enough jobs available to employ just over 20 percent of all of these unemployed Americans. So there is an obvious disconnect.

Many people searching for work lack the job-specific skills they need to be competitive for many of the job vacancies. Technology is outpacing the Nation's current approach to job-related education and training. The difference between white collar and blue collar jobs is fading because, traditionally, blue collar jobs are more specialized than ever before.

As a solution, I've introduced H.R. 2742, the Hire, Train, Retain Act of 2011. This bill will give employers tax incentives for hiring unemployed Americans and providing job training to fill job vacancies specific to that employer. Employers will also receive a ``hire retention tax credit'' of up to $1,000 for each qualified employee retained for 52 weeks.

Another proven way to get Americans working is through infrastructure projects. That is why I recently introduced the School Athletic Facilities Restoration Act of 2011. This bill authorizes the allocation of grants to local educational agencies for the construction, renovation, or repair of school facilities used for physical education. The funds will facilitate construction hiring while improving safe places for children to exercise and play.

In closing, I want to mention that every single member of the Congressional Black Caucus has sponsored job creation legislation. The best way to reduce our deficit is to create jobs. That's why, in August, the CBC took our message on the road and connected job seekers with employers at job fairs across the country, and we listened to the voices of our constituents during town hall meetings.

Mr. Speaker, I came to Congress to be a voice for struggling Americans. My number one priority is job creation and economic development. I am working hard to create jobs, and time is of the essence. This is not a time for political posturing and partisan bickering. The American people need help. They need our help and they need it now.

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