Getting people back to work

Angela Blackwell

KAI RYSSDAL: Indulge me for a moment as I fast forward the news cycle to this Friday. It'll be the first Friday of the month and as such will bring us the September unemployment report. We're coming off August's flatline -- there were no new jobs that month. Fourteen million people, give or take, are out of work -- 9.1 percent of the workforce.

Commentator Angela Blackwell makes an important point. That jobs report? It's an average.


ANGELA GLOVER BLACKWELL:
The white unemployment rate for this past August was a staggering, heart-breaking 8 percent. But what most people don't know is that black unemployment was at 8.5 percent before the recession even began.

The black community was already living in a recession long before Lehman Brothers and credit downgrades. And today, the black unemployment rate is nearly 17 percent -- it's doubled since the recession. So how do we get jobs to those who need them the most? It's the three P's -- we target the people, places and projects most neglected before and during this recession.

President Obama's call for more infrastructure spending is a great start. But we have to go deeper. Every poor community in America has two things -- lots of unemployed people and lots of decaying infrastructure.

The school down the road from you needs a new roof. Know what? Thousands of schools in poor communities need their roofs fixed, too. We can get tens of thousands of people at work doing that right now.

And that overburdened bus system so important to low-income people?

By expanding that, we can get folks building new buses, driving new buses, and riding new buses to work.

Thousands of school playgrounds and miles of cracked sidewalks can be repaired in black and Latino neighborhoods. The projects are there -- and the scale is big enough to make a real difference right now.

These kind of manageable, targeted projects have multiple benefits. They can get up and hiring fast. They can employ people from the surrounding neighborhood.

And they're manageable enough that the contracts can be won by small, local businesses -- especially minority-owned firms that are more likely to hire black and Latino workers.

Not only are these sound investments for today, but they're exactly what these communities need to compete tomorrow.


RYSSDAL: Angela Glover Blackwell is the founder and CEO of PolicyLink in Washington D.C. Send us your thoughts about what you hear on the broadcast. Click on that link that says contact.

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