December 9, 2016
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National Council of Churches: Must Give Attention To Minorities In Recession

 NCC joins a call by interfaith communities

for special help for the 'disproportionately' struggling

Washington, J-- The National Council of Churches has joined with other faith communities to urge members of Congress to take special note of those who are "disproportionately" struggling in a recession in which millions have lost their jobs and have little prospect of employment.

Noting that the unemployment rate is stagnant at 10 percent, "with a staggering 15.3 million people unemployed," the Interreligious Working Group on Domestic Human Needs said today that Congress must insure that legislation and other measures "are targeted to at-risk communities, creating jobs that pay a living wage and are sustainable."

"Certain groups with disproportionately high unemployment or low earnings need special efforts to guarantee they are not left out of an economic recovery," said the statement signed by Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and ecumenical groups. "Job creation initiatives should target those groups experiencing especially high unemployment, including minorities, workers without a high school degree, and single parents."

Legislation, the statement said, "must also consider populations with unique needs, such as people of color, displaced workers, workers with disabilities, seniors, low-income youth, and people with limited-English proficiency, by providing worker retraining, education assistance, and other job-related services. "

The interfaith signers said, "Our common scriptures present a vision of shared responsibility that endows the notion of work with an inherent dignity yet also commands that we care for the vulnerable among us. Right now, it is imperative that our nation’s leaders turn the economy around and put the country on the pathway to a healthy recovery. Job creation is a top priority for the President and Members of Congress. They must not lose sight of those communities that need the most help."

The full text of the statement follows:

 

As communities of faith united by our common religious traditions and values of justice and compassion, we see the latest unemployment numbers released by the U.S. Department of Labor as a call to action. It is abundantly clear that the effects of the most recent recession will be felt for years to come, and we know the most vulnerable among us are disproportionately struggling.  In December 2009, the jobless rate remained unchanged at 10 percent, with a staggering 15.3 million people unemployed. Meanwhile, the alternative measure of unemployment that includes people who stopped looking for work or were unable to find full-time employment held steady at 17.3 percent.  Even as some economists state that the recession is officially over by economic terms, employers are slow to hire new staff, and workers around the country cannot find employment. In human terms, the recession is still wreaking havoc and many families feel hopeless.  

As Congress prepares to take action on a much needed jobs bill, the faith community urges our leaders to be mindful of those who are at greatest risk of impoverishment and hardship in today’s economy.  

As proposals are made, Members of Congress must ensure that these policies are targeted to at-risk communities, creating jobs that pay a living wage and are sustainable. 

Target job creation programs to low-income communities and vulnerable population groups. Targeted programs are needed in order to reach every sector of the population that is suffering from unemployment, especially the most distressed communities. Certain groups with disproportionately high unemployment or low earnings need special efforts to guarantee they are not left out of an economic recovery. Job creation initiatives should target those groups experiencing especially high unemployment, including minorities, workers without a high school degree, and single parents. Legislation must also consider populations with unique needs, such as people of color, displaced workers, workers with disabilities, seniors, low-income youth, and people with limited-English proficiency, by providing worker retraining, education assistance, and other job-related services. In addition, appropriate programs should be targeted to geographic areas with significantly higher-than-average levels of unemployment. National unemployment rates can obscure large regional disparities. In areas around Detroit, Cleveland, and the Central Valley of California, which have experienced the greatest job loss, and regions like the Gulf Coast and the Textile Belt, which were already suffering from elevated unemployment, additional efforts are needed to overcome the job loss crisis. 

New jobs that are created should generate sustainable employment and a long-term pathway to economic security. By targeting high growth and priority industries (for example renewable energy, health care, education, infrastructure, and child care), in both the public and private sectors, newly created jobs can provide a pathway out of poverty if they pay a livable wage and include comprehensive benefits.  While many of these jobs may be temporary in the beginning, if on-the-job training and proper work experience is provided, they can turn into longer-term careers for those most in need of employment. Job creation efforts should promote economic security, not stand in the way of it. 

Assistance should be provided to help vulnerable families impacted hardest by job loss and the recession.Low-income and asset-poor families are hit hardest during a recession because they lack the resources to weather the storm. In addition to creating jobs, legislation must ensure that workers do not lose essential services during their period of unemployment. When workers lose their job, they are supported by safety net programs that ensure access to food, shelter, healthcare, and other critical needs. As unemployment has climbed, so too has the demand for these programs. Congress should ensure that both the programs that serve jobless and low-income people and the states that administer them are adequately resourced. 

Our common scriptures present a vision of shared responsibility that endows the notion of work with an inherent dignity yet also commands that we care for the vulnerable among us. Right now, it is imperative that our nation’s leaders turn the economy around and put the country on the pathway to a healthy recovery. Job creation is a top priority for the President and Members of Congress. They must not lose sight of those communities that need the most help. There is a place in this emerging economy for all of us, and properly-drafted legislation will create a workforce that is better trained, stronger, competitive, inclusive, and more viable in the future. 

African Methodist Episcopal Church
American Friends Service Committee
Bread for the World
Church Women United
The Episcopal Church
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Interfaith Worker Justice
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office
The National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
National Council of Churches of Christ, USA
National Council of Jewish Women
National Ministries, American Baptist Churches USA
NETWORK: A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Washington Office
Union for Reform Judaism

 

 


NCC News contact:  Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228 (office), 646-853-4212 (cell) , pjenks@ncccusa.org



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