The AFL-CIO is calling on Congress and the Obama administration to take five immediate steps to care for the jobless and put America back to work.
1. Extend the lifeline for jobless workers.
Supplemental unemployment benefits, additional food assistance and expansion of COBRA health care benefits are running out. Congress must act to extend these lifelines for another 12 months to prevent working families from losing their homes, their health care and sinking deeper in debt. Extending benefits will also stimulate local economies. As we learned last year, we also need to work to convince lawmakers in our General Assembly to accept federal aid meant to help out-of-work Virginians.
2. Rebuild America’s schools, roads and energy systems.
America still has at least $2.2 trillion in unmet infrastructure needs. Bridges should not fall down in America and we can’t rely on wiring from the 1950s to communicate in 2010.
We should put people to work to fix our nation’s crumbling schools, roads and bridges as well as make needed investments in transportation, green technology, energy efficiency and more. To be competitive in the future, we need to be these industries’ innovators.
3. Increase aid to state and local governments to maintain vital services.
Virginia has a $4 billion budget shortfall this year alone—while the recession creates greater need for vital services. Our commonwealth and communities must get help to save services, save jobs and stop the hemorrhaging that threatens to choke off economic recovery. Our public safety, health needs and kid’s educations are at stake.
4. Put people to work doing work that needs to be done.
If the private sector can’t create jobs, the government needs to step up to the plate. We can’t wait any longer to start putting people who need jobs together with work that needs to be done. It’s not enough to just put people to work. We need good jobs that should never be replacements for existing public jobs. They must pay competitive wages and should also target our hardest hit 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.