“With a current unemployment rate of 8.7%, our local community cannot wait for the jobs to come. We must work cooperatively to create them.” Ohio State Senator, Eric Kearney of Cincinnati
On September 13th, one day after President Obama sent his American Jobs Act to Congress, he visited Fort Hayes High School in Columbus, Ohio where he told a receptive audience that passage of his bill would bring desperately needed jobs and infrastructure improvements to every state in the nation, including Ohio. Since then, Congress has failed to act and the President has voiced a new urgency in the jobs fight, recently declaring, “We can’t wait on Congress – the time to act is now.”
This week in Columbus, Ohio, State Senators Eric Kearney and Nina Turner heeded that call with the introduction of a state job creation bill that features many of the elements of both the American Jobs Act and the National Urban League’s 12-point Jobs Rebuild American plan. I was pleased to speak in favor of this legislation at a Tuesday press conference which was also attended by other bill supporters including Ohio State Senator, Charleta Tavares and three area Urban League Presidents: Stephanie Hightower of the Columbus Urban League, Marsha Mockabee of the Urban League of Greater Cleveland and Vince Watts of the Urban League of Greater Stark County.
Like the National Urban League’s 12-point jobs plan, the Kearney-Turner Jobs Bill proposes an increase in small business lending to boost economic development and job creation, as well as direct funding to keep first responders and other critical public service employees on the job. It specifically calls for an increase of $100 million to keep teachers in Ohio classrooms. With more than 13 percent of African Americans in the state employed by state, local and federal government, this direct funding is especially critical to our communities.
The Kearney-Turner bill would also create “bridge to work” programs to connect the long-term unemployed to employers through temp work and subsidized training. It would provide scholarships and grants to enable the long-term unemployed to learn new skills for employment in high-growth fields and provide a $4,000 tax credit for employers who hire them. And it would stabilize declining neighborhoods and put Ohioans back to work by rehabbing distressed residential and commercial properties. These are measures long-advocated by the National Urban League and our Ohio affiliates. That is why we were proud to stand with Senators Kearney and Turner at this week’s press conference.
With an unemployment rate of 9.1 percent and more than half-a-million of its citizens out of work, Ohio continues to struggle to dig itself out of the economic downturn. We applaud Senators Eric Kearney and Nina Turner for not waiting but taking action now to bring jobs to their communities. The National Urban League urges the Ohio legislature to pass their bill and, until Congress acts, we urge other states to follow their lead.
Marc Morial is the president and CEO of the National Urban League.