The US Congress plans to pass a stimulus package in the next few days of over $700 Billion dollars. Before we open the beer (champagne is to expensive now) let's take a moment to figure out who will benefit and who will be left out in the cold.
Nothing wrong with:
- People who have recently been laid off getting about $25 extra bucks in their unemployment check.
- More people will be able to get food stamps.
- Unemployment benefits will be extended for a longer period of time
- Some people who are unemployed will be able to get health care (though it looks like a lot less at this point)
- Some youth will get between $400-$5,200 more in pell grants
- Married working couples will get $1,000 tax cut
Clearly of the 3.5 million people who have lost their jobs since October, over a 1/2 million just last month alone this will help a bit. Giving students in college a little more help also will help a bit. And while these dollars are desperately needed by those in the situation above. It will not create jobs that will put these folks back to work.
However the big money in this package is for transportation, infrastructure improvements at schools & colleges and creating green jobs.
This area is the least defined but has the greatest potential to reshape our economy for generations to come. I want the bulk of this effort to focus on making sure that EVERYONE has an opportunity to benefit from this money that our grand kids will be paying back.
My observation of these work sites in my 19 years in Oregon is that they don't represent all the folks who live in our community. Women, people of color, youth, ex-felons, immigrants & refugee's and others all need the same opportunities to be part of this new economy, from the beginning, not as an afterthought.
Folks in construction have suffered from this economic downturn and I am sure they are overjoyed that Congress will finally act to pass this package. My concern though is what about the rest of us.
This includes the millions who have loss service sector jobs, those who are underemployed and doing anything and everything legal to keep food on the tables. That includes the folks who have been suffering from the economic downturn long before the market crashes of 2008.
Many who need an economic stimulus package are homeless, skill-less, ex-felons and youth and of course the people of color who have been left due to the institutional racism that is pervasive in our society. What is the specific proposals and more importantly dollars identified and targeted for this population to effectively benefit from this package?
Don't they deserve to be part of a new economy? Shouldn't they have access to job training and supports while they develop new skills that will help to build a new economy?
While I am cautiously optimistic these funds could give us the resources to build an economy that serves the diverse needs of our community, the only talk I hear from policy makers at the federal, state and local level leads me to believe that creativity has left the room.
Doing what we have always done with this opportunity will give us the same results we have always gotten.
Oregon can and must do better! Now is the time to but our liberal leanings into specific proposals that will improve the lives of all Oregonians