The AFL-CIO is calling on Congress and the Obama administration to take five steps NOW to care for the jobless and put America back to work.
1. Extend the lifeline for jobless workers. Unless Congress acts now, supplemental unemployment benefits, additional food assistance and expansion of COBRA health care benefits will expire at the end of the year. They must be extended for another 12 months to protect working families from bankruptcy, home foreclosure and loss of health care. Extending benefits also will boost personal spending and create jobs throughout the economy.
2. Rebuild America’s schools, roads and energy systems. America still has at least $3 trillion in unmet infrastructure needs. We should put people to work to fix our nation’s broken-down school buildings and invest in transportation, green technology, energy efficiency and more.
3. Increase aid to state and local governments to maintain vital services. State and local governments and school districts have a $178 billion budget shortfall this year alone—while the recession creates greater need for their services. States and communities must get help to maintain critical frontline services, prevent massive job cuts and avoid deep damage to education just when our children need it most.
4. Fund jobs in our communities. While workers go without jobs, important work is left undone in our communities. We should put people to work restoring our environment, providing child care and tutoring, cleaning up abandoned houses and more. These are not replacements for existing public jobs. They must pay competitive wages and should target distressed communities.
5. Put TARP funds to work for Main Street. The bank bailout helped Wall Street, not Main Street. We should put some of the billions of dollars in leftover Troubled Asset Relief Program funds to work creating jobs by enabling community banks to lend money to small- and medium-size businesses. If small businesses can get credit, they will create jobs.
America’s jobs situation would be even more dismal without the economic stimulus program President Obama and Congress enacted, which has saved or created 1 million jobs. But the depth of this crisis demands that we do more—and that we do it now, before more people lose their jobs, their homes, their health care and their hope.
(Photo: Rev. Jesse Jackson and National AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka speaking about job creation and the need for a working-class bailout at last month's "Showdown in Chicago." Photo Credit: Sara Wallenfang. For more pictures, visit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wisaflcio/sets/72157622554516515/.)