This morning on Capitol Hill, the Congressional Black Caucus is holding a hearing on unemployment.
The CBC hopes the voices heard today will educate members of Congress on the seriousness of the jobs situation and influence their colleagues to support the "Local Jobs for America Act." The bill, sponsored by Rep. George Miller (D-Calif), has provisions in it that targets aid to jobless Americans as well as specific responses to issues facing communities with poverty rates of 12 percent or unemployment rates of at least 2 percent or more higher than the national average.
The Miller Act is different from the Senate Jobs bill, expected to pass today. That bill, described as only a "whimper" by the CBC for its half-hearted, broad-stroke attempt to address problems facing the "chronically unemployed," includes about $18 billion in tax breaks and an additional $20 billion funding for highway and transit programs. Intended to buttress the overall jobs infrastructure, that proposal has little in it targeted directly to unemployed individuals, or to fix joblessness or underemployment in communities devastated by the crisis.
This morning's inquiry – which will include the testimonies and perspectives of politicians, economists, scholars, activists, businesspeople and unemployed workers – comes less than a week after the group of lawmakers met with President Obama at the White House.
"While the national unemployment rate is now below 10 percent, unemployment among African Americans is at 15.8 percent and Latinos at 12.4 percent," says Black Caucus chairwoman Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.). "These figures illustrate that our economic recovery has been uneven and many communities continue to suffer disproportionately."
In a recent study by the U.S. Congress' Joint Economic Committee, unemployment among African American men more than doubled, climbing from 9.0 percent to an alarming 19.0 percent from 2007 to 2009. Among African American women, unemployment spiked by six points, from 7.1 percent to 13.1 percent during the same time period. For, African Americans with a 4 year college degree, the unemployment rate is 8.2 percent, almost double the unemployment rate for white workers (4.5 percent) with a similar level of education.
Titled "Out of Work but Not Out of Hope: Addressing the Crisis of the Chronically Unemployed," Lee says the event will allow lawmakers to hear directly from out-of-work Americans and others impacted by the high unemployment rates.
The hearing will support the CBC's ongoing effort to create job training opportunities for unemployed adults, increase youth employment and direct more contracts to minority-owned businesses.
"While state and local governments are laying people off in order to balance their budgets, it is essential for Congress to create public and private sector jobs in communities across America," says Lee.
The event begins at 9 a.m. and ends at 11 a.m. It will be held at the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill.