This article accompanies Rick Cohen’s analysis of the Obama jobs plan.
It’s important to note that there is already legislation pending on Capitol Hill to create jobs and to do so with explicit recognition of the role of the nonprofit sector as both facilitators of job-creation strategies and as employers. Right now with the House in Republican hands, these bills have little chance of seeing a vote. But they at least exist as concrete proposals and can serve as focal points in the effort to build long-term legislative support for an expanded nonprofit role in job creation:
- The Urban Jobs Act (S. 922/ H.R. 683) Introduced by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) and Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-New York). The Urban Jobs Act would “authorize the Secretary of Labor to make competitive grants to national private nonprofit community-based organizations . . . to provide job training, education, and support services and activities for eligible urban youth to provide them with a pathway to employment, or education leading to employment” and require the creation of “local jobs council advisory committees” to demonstrate community-based support for the nonprofits’ strategies.
- The Put America to Work Act (H.R. 2368) Introduced by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota). The Put America to Work Act would authorize grants to local governments and Indian tribes “to create employment opportunities for unemployed and underemployed residents of distressed communities,” that is, “fast-track jobs” such as “painting and repair of schools, community centers, and libraries; restoration of abandoned and vacant properties; expansion of emergency food programs to reduce hunger; augmentation of staffing in Head Start and other early childhood education programs; and renovation and maintenance of parks, playgrounds, and other public spaces” and additional funding to public and nonprofit entities “to create employment opportunities in: (1) construction, rehabilitation, and improvements in energy efficiency of residences or public facilities; (2) the provision of human services; (3) remediation and demolition of vacant and abandoned properties; and (4) programs that provide opportunities for employment, education, and training for disadvantaged youth.”
- The Work Opportunities and Revitalizing Our Communities Act (H.R. 870) Also known as the Humphrey-Hawkins 21st Century Full Employment and Training Act. Introduced by Rep. John Conyers (D-Michigan). The Act would create a Full Employment National Trust Fund to support workforce development, paid for by a small tax on specific securities transactions, which would charged to the “trading facilities” (i.e., investment banks and brokers) that handle those transactions. This innovative funding mechanism, a type of financial transaction tax or “Tobin tax,” has attracted wide attention in other countries as a way to raise revenue while at the same time reducing unproductive financial speculation. So far, it has not really taken off in the U.S.
- The National Manufacturing Strategy Act (H.R.1366) Introduced by Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-Illinois). The National Manufacturing Strategy Act would establish a President’s Manufacturing Strategy Board that would include representation from the workforce development field as well as government and the private sector. It is designed to revive employment in the manufacturing sector of the economy, so that “job creation” in the U.S. means making things once again, not just servicing or financing them.