Job Creation and Recovery for All: African-Americans, Latinos and The Stimulus Part II

05/25/2011 02:40 pm ET
  • C. Nicole Mason Executive Director, Center for Research and Policy in the Public Interest and Ascend Fellow at the Aspen Institute

The Administration is mulling over the possibility of another stimulus bill that would focus on job creation. The likely companion to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 comes at time when the national unemployment rate has hit a record high of 10.2 percent. In the African-American community, unemployment has climbed to nearly 16 percent, nearly 50 percent above the national rate. For Latinos, the rate hovers around 13 percent.

Up until now, the Administration has been reluctant to address unemployment rates or target dollars for job creation in specific communities. However, any new bill under consideration should work directly to reduce the unemployment rate and create jobs in the African-American and Latino communities.

The 787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act promised to create 3.7 million jobs by 2010, but reports from the Administration show that only about one million jobs have been created. And it is unclear how many of those jobs have gone to minority communities.

Looking at the industries targeted for job creation in the first stimulus bill, African-American and Latinos make up less than 10 percent of workers and even less of those in managerial positions in those industries. Without specific and targeted support, it will be difficult to turn around those higher than national average unemployment numbers or for Blacks and Latinos to full recover from the recession.

There is the feeling that if Obama provides support directly to Blacks and Latinos, he will be perceived as favoring those groups over others--i.e. The Black President is using his power and influence to unfairly help Blacks and Latinos when the entire country is suffering.

While it is certainly true that the entire country is suffering during this time of economic crisis, there is no denying that the recession has made the already vulnerable economic position of Blacks and Latinos worse. African-Americans and Latinos have fewer assets and savings compared to Whites. And 68 percent of Blacks have no financial assets whatsoever and live from paycheck to paycheck.

In cities and states with a sizeable African-American population, the unemployment rate has reached as much as 38 percent. Detroit, Michigan, for example, has an unemployment rate of 30 percent with some areas climbing to as much as 36 percent. Unemployment is also compounded by the high levels of poverty experienced by individuals living in those cities. In Detroit, one-third of residents live below the official poverty line.

Very few details have been released about what the new bill will contain and Obama has said that he is interested in hearing any good ideas. So far, there has been talk of tax cuts for businesses that hire new employees and support for highway construction.

The new job creation bill has to do more for Black and Latino communities. Passively hoping that recovery and stimulus efforts will trickle down to communities of color will not work. The Administration will have to be proactive.

Any effective job creation bill will have to address the hemorrhaging happening in communities of color and the intersections of unemployment and poverty. A special task force should be established to examine the higher than average unemployment rates in Black and Latino communities and to develop long-term strategies to support long-term recovery.

Funds should also be dedicated to minority-owned businesses in hard-hit cities and communities to ensure that they remain open and are able to continue to provide services to the community.

In terms of job creation, monies should be set aside for training, education and outreach to racial and ethnic minorities. Without training and outreach, any efforts initiated by the Administration will fall short or fail to reach those most in need.

Critics of the job creation bill say that the country cannot afford another stimulus package. The reality is that we cannot afford not to pass one. At the beginning of recession, recovery was predicated on the unemployment rate stabilizing, but it is likely that numbers will continue to increase before we see any significant decline. As a result, we will have to think seriously and creatively about how to create, save, or bring back jobs to communities across the country.