Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Clergy group in Ohio pushing federal jobs bill

Cross posted from:

By The Columbus Dispatch  •  

A new local coalition of jobs advocates, unions and clergy members will host a congressman from Detroit who is the sponsor of bills to create jobs and provide universal health care.
The group will hold a town-hall meeting with U.S. Rep John Conyers on Dec. 4 at Trinity Baptist Church on the Near East Side as part of a National Jobs for All Coalition tour. The event will include testimony on long-term unemployment and a discussion panel.
Among the group’s goals is raising awareness about unemployment and under-employment among African-Americans, Hispanics and youth in Columbus, said the Rev. Joel King, vice president of the Ohio Interdenominational Ministers Alliance, which represents about 60 clergy members.
Beyond that, he said, he hopes residents will be encouraged to get involved in the issue, by asking elected officials to support Conyers’ bills.
“We feel like millions of people are being left behind in the American dream,” said Logan Martinez, Jobs for All outreach coordinator.
“They’re working extremely hard and unable to make ends meet or working hard and there are holes in the safety net.
“There’s great disparity in what we pretend to say people can do here and what people can actually do.”
Conyers’ jobs bill, introduced by the Democrat in February, would create a tax on certain financial transactions, to fund workforce-investment programs and to make job-creation grants to states, local governments, schools, nonprofit organizations and Indian tribes. It is referred to as the Humphrey-Hawkins 21st Century Full Employment and Training Act.
The health-care bill, referred to as the Expanded & Improved Medicare for All Act, also was introduced in February and would establish a single-payer health-care system to provide free necessary health care to everyone living in the United States.
Both bills had died in previous congressional sessions before being reintroduced this year.
The U.S. unemployment level of 5 percent represents nearly 8 million Americans. On top of that, millions more work only part time or have given up looking for jobs, Martinez said.
In Columbus, pockets of the city suffer significantly higher unemployment. According to 2009-2013 Census Bureau data analyzed by the nonprofit Community Research Partners, that was true in 17 of the city’s 28 ZIP codes, with Franklinton at the top with a 29 percent unemployment rate. The poverty rate is at least 26 percent in 15 of the city’s ZIP codes, with Weinland Park at the top with a poverty rate of nearly 60 percent.
About a dozen groups have signed on to support the town-hall event, Martinez said.
Among them is Jobs for Columbus, an initiative aimed at increasing the city income tax to provide local transitional jobs.
The proposal would increase the city income tax by half a percentage point, in an attempt to raise $120 million annually dedicated to job training and creation, said Elicia Finnell, founder of the initiative.
She said the money would pay minimum wage for thousands of Columbus residents hired by participating businesses and other locations. In return, employers would provide job experience and training in marketable skills.
“It would be sort of a job safety net, that anyone who needed immediate employment could get one of these jobs — sort of a survival job,” Finnell said.
The program, she said, could help the homeless, the chronically unemployed, people with criminal records, unemployed youth and unemployed men with child-support obligations.
A goal is to place the initiative before voters in November 2016, Finnell said, but efforts are in the early stages. The campaign is creating a petition that it hopes to circulate to gain the signatures needed to get a shot at the ballot.

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