MEDIA RELEASE: Partners release Jobs Summit policy recommendations

Today's summit with Gov. Beverly Perdue generated multiple policy ideas to help North Carolina's struggling families

RALEIGH (April 14, 2010) -- With the recession taking its toll on North Carolina's struggling families, creative ideas are needed now more than ever.


This Historic Thousands on Jones St. (HKonJ) partners, including the NC Justice Center, North Carolina NAACP, AFL-CIO NC, the Beloved Community Center, Institute for Minority Economic Development, Opportunities Industrial Center and others from the 90-plus HK on J partners hosted a job summit in conjunction with Gov. Beverly Perdue today at Martin St. Baptist Church.

Experts urged Gov. Perdue to consider the following proposals:

 
 
STRATEGIES TO INCREASE ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY FOR ALL NORTH CAROLINIANS

The impacts of the ongoing Great Recession have disproportionately affected the very segments of the population and communities that historically have been left out of North Carolina's economic gains. Nationally, black males make up only 5.5 percent of the labor force yet they represent almost 13 percent of the long-term unemployed. In North Carolina, 9.6 percent of whites were unemployed in February (the latest month for which state data is available) versus 14.5 percent of African-Americans.

 
In addition to racial differences there are significant geographic differences, as well, such that where you live affects whether you can find a job.  In Edgecombe County, more than 17 percent of the workforce is unemployed while in Orange County only 6.9 percent are out of work. The human suffering and the damage done to these populations and communities caused by job loss, depleted savings, shrinking wealth and foreclosures demand that federal and state lawmakers act boldly and act now.

We call on the Governor to enact and support the following recommendations to put North Carolina to work AND create an economy in which future economic gains are widely shared.

1)      Effectively implement remaining ARRA provisions by:

..         Drawing down TANF Emergency Funds that can be used to provide wage subsidies for local employers that hire TANF-eligible individuals in all counties.

.         Fully and quickly generating weatherization employment opportunities by broadening the range of eligible provider organizations and building the capacity of existing providers so that training of workers can be expedited, multi-family dwellings can be included and a larger percentage of funds can be allocated to building materials.

.         Expand summer youth (16-24) employment programs by drawing down all available ARRA funds.

.         Ensure that all state agencies and contractors comply with Title VI regulations and require reporting on progress towards that requirement.

.         Seek waivers to allow the effective and timely distribution of funds to state and local units of government when in line with the goal of targeting disadvantaged workers.

2)      Support important federal policy choices by calling on Congress to:

.         Pass The Local Jobs for America Act (HR 4812) that would provide critical funding to states, local governments, and community-based organizations to save and create one million jobs in communities around the country. It would provide funding over two years for states and localities to use to create new jobs that meet crucial community needs and to retain existing workers.

.         Extend key provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) that cover unemployment insurance benefits. These provisions include COBRA subsidies which help laid off workers pay for health insurance benefits, a federally financed boost in unemployment compensation of an extra $25 per week, and the suspension of federal income tax on the first $2,400 in unemployment benefits.

.         Extend ARRA tax provisions that target low-income taxpayers, in particular the expansion and improvements to the Federal EITC,  the child tax credit, and the American Opportunity Tax Credit (i.e. Education credit).

.         Provide additional fiscal relief to state and local governments where budget cuts are currently a drag on the national economy.

.         Provide additional funding for infrastructure improvements in schools and universities, transportation and energy efficiency.

3)      Responsibly address the state budget shortfall by drawing down the maximum federal assistance, making spending cuts based on sound priorities and raising the revenue necessary to maintain core services and employment levels

4)      Maximize impact of current state economic development strategies.

.         Implement first-source hiring by requiring subsidized businesses and industries to target new job opportunities to the long-term unemployed (10+ weeks) and unemployed workers who have, or are about to, exhaust their unemployment benefits.

.         Establish meaningful wage standards for all business subsidy programs, including a wage threshold for all in-state jobs in subsidized companies.

.         Target distressed communities  by scaling back on subsidies to wealthier (i.e. Tier 3) counties and increase benefits, particularly Job Development Investment Grants, to economically distressed communities (i.e. Tier 1 counties and distressed urban development zones).  Also, consider placing restrictions on subsidies to suburban areas that require expensive infrastructure and aren't accessible to local workers without relocation or long commutes and increased housing costs.

5)      Enact bold, untapped strategies to strengthen the private sector job market.

.         Establish an Emergency Employment Program to spark hiring. This type of program would provide wage subsidies to small businesses and nonprofits (e.g. fewer than 500 employees) who hire unemployed workers to fill new positions and keep those employees in those positions for a certain length of time (e.g. 15 months). The subsidy amount would be set at half of the wage costs for the new hires, up to a set amount per hour (e.g. $12).

.         Create a work-sharing tax credit program to stem layoffs. Work-sharing tax credits would reduce layoffs by allowing employers to reduce the work hours (i.e. institute part-time furloughs) of employees rather than resorting to layoffs. Public funds would be used to pay most of the wages of the hours not worked and employees would only see small wage reductions. In a typical arrangement employees in companies who receive the credits would see their hours reduced by 20 percent (e.g. one day per week) but only see their pay reduced by 4 percent.

.         Encourage contracts in industry sectors that provide a livable wage and are less vulnerable to moving jobs overseas thereby increasing workplace training and job opportunities.

6)      Adopt economic reforms that promote shared opportunity and prosperity such as indexing the minimum wage to inflation, allowing all workers to have some paid leave, removing barriers facing people with criminal records (e.g. "Ban the box"), particularly those with non-violent criminal records, and increasing access to collective bargaining.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Jeff Shaw, communications director, 919.836.2402 (office) 503.551.3615 (mobile), jeff@ncjustice.org; Ajamu Dillahunt, 919.856.3194, ajamu@ncjustice.org