No one needs to tell America’s families that unemployment and underemployment are at crisis levels. We need jobs—and we need them now.
Wall Street has gotten its bailouts. Now it’s time for Main Street to get some immediate help.
The AFL-CIO is calling on Congress and the Obama administration to take five steps now to care for jobless workers and put America back to work.
1. Extend the lifeline for jobless workers. Unless Congress acts now, supplemental unemployment benefits, additional food assistance and the expansion of COBRA health care benefits will expire at the end of the year. They must be extended for another 12 months to prevent working families from bankruptcy, home foreclosure and the 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 $2.2 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 a greater need for their services. States and communities must get help to maintain critical front-line services, prevent massive job cuts and avoid deep damage to education just when our children need it most.
4. Put people to work doing work that needs to be done. If the private sector can't or won't provide the needed jobs, the government should step up to the plate, putting people who need jobs together with work that needs to be done. These should never be 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 dire 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.