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What Obama Should Have Said

4 Feb

Andrew Sum, Center for Labor Market Studies, Northeastern University and Paul Harrington, Director, Center for Labor Markets and Policy, Drexel University, writing for the Huffington Post, offered their own version of a progressive State of the Union address that President Obama should have offered last week:

A State of the Union Address for Today’s Labor Market Realities

“Our nation’s teenagers and many young adults ages 20-29 are working at a considerably lower rate today than at any time since the end of World War Two. Absence of work experience in the teen years and early 20s prevents our youth from acquiring marketable occupational skills, solid work habits, the soft skills demanded by employers, and opportunities to interact with adults and observe the skills and behaviors needed to succeed at work. Absence of early work experience will reduce their employment, wages, and training opportunities in their mid 20s. These problems are not confined to young adults lacking college degrees. Too many of our new college graduates are left either jobless or holding jobs that do not utilize the skills and knowledge that they acquired in college, reducing the return on their human capital investments and those of society.

A variety of actions are needed to improve the employment prospects of these young workers. We will work with states and local workforce development boards to expand internship opportunities and paid employment of high school students both year round and during the summer, increase the hiring of career specialists to prepare them to make the transition from high school to the world of work, and work with the nation’s employers to expand new youth apprenticeship opportunities, and provide subsidized employment in the summer for the nation’s jobless at-risk youth. We also will experiment with employer wage subsidies to promote the full-time employment of out-of-school youth, and we shall work with colleges and universities to provide additional internships and cooperative education positions for our college students to facilitate their transition to the labor market upon graduation.”

Workers Young and Seasoned Rally Against Cuts to Social Security

1 Feb
by More Jobs Now! Save Social Security!
Wednesday Jan 26th, 2011 11:55 PM

Corporations and their paid-for politicians have caused the worst economic crisis since the 1930′s Depression. Yet in his State of the Union Address, the President talked about a faster Internet and praised Facebook and Google…all the while ignoring mention of the economic reality and the Wall Street scoundrels who were responsible. Today young people and elders gathered in front of the Federal Building in San Francisco for a rally and press conference to demand more jobs for youth. They stood together to commit to the fight to save social security, for now and for always.

California Alliance for Retired Americans (CARA) and allies including Just Cause, the Gray Panthers, and the Raging Grannies gathered in front of the San Francisco Federal Building the day after the President’s State of the Union Address to say: Attacking Social Security is both cruel and unnecessary. It needs to stop.

In his State of the Union address Obama called for safeguarding Social Security for future generations. He called for bipartisan support of the program, but given that Republicans would have the public believe that Social Security is unsustainable and a giant contributor to the federal budget deficits, the President gave no indication of how this can happen.

Young workers at today’s rally explained why tax cuts for corporations and wealthy individuals do not generate jobs, and said major jobs programs are necessary. A banner put the message succinctly: Cutting Social Security Is NOT a Stimulus…Creating Jobs Programs IS a Stimulus.

Speakers commented that the deficit hawks and the right-wingers are just plain wrong…there is abundant proof that there IS NO Social Security crisis. They said the obvious step to forestall any perceived shortfall is to raise or eliminate the cap on payroll taxes so that wealthy earners shoulder a fairer share of the burden. One of the Raging Grannies said, “Americans have enough economic problems to worry about without being frightened that their Social Security benefits will be cut”.

CARA members passed out fliers urging people to call Senators Feinstein (415-393-0707) and Boxer (415-403-0100) as well as their Congressperson to say NO cuts or privitization of Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid. Tell them we need jobs programs and full funding for public education.

Can’t Afford College Because of State Budget Cuts

31 Aug

As colleges and universities open up for the fall semester this week and next, more evidence about how state budget cuts are limiting the opportunities of low-income students comes from New Jersey.  Funding for the popular Tuition Aid Grant program has not kept pace with demand, forcing an 8% across the board cut of all recipient grants.  (And this comes after the state actually increased funding for the program by 18%.)  The nearly 1,800 students expecting to receive aid through the program this year are now forced to struggle to make up that 8%, which ranges from $192 to $872.    All this comes as tuition rates soar and campuses cut back on the services they provide.

We should not be putting short-term budget deficits ahead of the need to education the next generation.  This is a continuation of the failure to plan long-term, however this time it is the students who are directly immediately hurt.

N.J. financial aid program slashes assistance to college students

Published: Monday, August 30, 2010, 6:51 AM     Updated: Monday, August 30, 2010, 12:00 PM

Kelly Heyboer/ The Star-Ledger

Low-income college students who rely on New Jersey’s popular Tuition Aid Grant program to help pay their tuition bills will see their aid checks slashed by nearly 8 percent as they return to campus for the new school year, state officials said.

Amanda Brown/The Star-Ledger Rutgers University sign in New Brunswick in a 2002 photo. The maximum Tuition Aid Grant awards at the institution will go down $714 as tuition and fees go up an average of $673.

The cuts — which will affect nearly a third of New Jersey’s full-time college students — mean the state’s neediest students will see their annual grants cut by between $192 and $872 as tuition rates continue to rise.

State funding for the Tuition Aid Grant, or TAG, program increased by 18 percent this year. But the number of New Jersey students qualifying for the the need-based grants surged by nearly 1,800 thanks to the lingering economic downturn.

So, state officials said they were forced to cut the awards for everyone.

“To remain within available resources and to fund all eligible students, it was the necessary to reduce awards for 2010-11,” said AnnMarie Bouse,spokeswoman for the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority, the state agency that oversees the grants. “Students are encouraged to talk to their financial aid administrators to determine if there are other sources of aid for which they may qualify, including private scholarships, institutional aid or federal aid.”

The state’s public, private and county colleges are scrambling to find money to help their neediest students cover the cuts. Many low-income students rely on the TAG program to pay the bulk of their college costs.

“It’s extremely meaningful, not only for these students but for their families,” Bloomfield College President Richard Levao said.

Nearly 90 percent of Bloomfield College’s full-time undergraduates receive state TAG awards to help pay the private school’s $21,200 annual tuition. The college expects its students will lose a total of $1 million due to the TAG cuts, though the school is trying to find money to help the neediest students cover larger-than-expected tuition bills, Levao said.

“We’re trying to do it on a case-by-case basis,” he said.

New Jersey’s $294 million TAG program is considered one of the most generous student financial aid programs in the nation. Only New Jersey residents attending in-state colleges are eligible, but the grants can be used at both public and private schools. The awards do not have to be paid back.

Students are awarded grants on a sliding scale based on family income and the type of college they attend. This year, the TAG awards will range from $978 to $10,468 per student.

The maximum yearly grant will be: $2,318 at county colleges (a $192 cut compared to last year); $6,326 at four-year public colleges (a $526 cut); $8,554 at Rutgers and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (a $714 cut) and $9,692 at New Jersey Institute of Technology (an $808 cut).

At the state’s private colleges, the top TAG award will be $10,468 (an $872 cut). At DeVry University, Berkeley College and the other for-profit colleges, the maximum grant will be $6,326 (a $526 cut).

This year’s TAG cuts angered many in the higher education community, who noted Gov. Chris Christie and the Legislature were able to find money in the state budget to fund the popular NJ STARS program, which gives merit scholarships to students of all incomes. But the TAG program, which is used solely by low-income students, failed to get enough funding to cover the increase in eligible families.

The TAG awards table was finalized earlier this month by the board at the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority and sent to Christie for final approval.

Jonathan Nycz, one of the student representatives on the student assistance authority board, said it was difficult to cut financial aid for the poorest of New Jersey’s low-income students. But the board felt it was better to lower the awards for everyone, rather than deny grants to some.

“It’s unfortunate they’re going down. But it could have been a lot worse,” said Nycz, 21, a senior industrial engineering major at Rutgers.

Many students said they were still waiting to hear what their TAG award will be this year. Alexandro Ceballo, a mathematics major at Middlesex County College, said he was expecting a $1,900 check based on early estimates.

But if his TAG award is cut by a few hundred dollars, Ceballo expects his federal Pell grant and NJ STARS scholarship will help cover the gap and the 2 percent tuition hike at his school.

“I’m very fortunate,” said Ceballo, 20, of Perth Amboy. “At the end of the day, it’s a lot more affordable to go to county college.”

Students at more costly schools may have a more difficult time covering the cuts, higher education officials said.

At Rutgers, the maximum TAG awards will go down $714 as tuition and fees go up an average of $673. The state university increased its need-based Rutgers Assistance Grants program by $3.5 million to help its 11,000 TAG students cover their bills.

“We are using all of the resources we have available to help our neediest students meet their expenses,” said Sandra Lanman, a Rutgers spokeswoman.

© 2010 All rights reserved.

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

16 Jun

America is in a jobs crisis.  According to an April report, The Jobs Deficit, by the middle-of-the-road New America Foundation, we are short 12.3 million jobs (thats the difference between people looking for work and available jobs): 

Here is a look at what has stalled in Congress that would address this deficit gap, while bickering over the size of government distracts:

  • The American Power Act, which President Obama failed to demand the Senate pass last night, would create an average of 203,000 to 440,000 more jobs per year through 2020.  This is the time for green jobs legislation, but if the President stalls to happily “look at other ideas and approaches from either party” (as he did with healthcare legislation), we will be lacking the necessary leadership to get a bill passed.
  • The American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010, as watered down as it is, will inject $1 billion over ten-years into summer youth employment programs, creating 300,000 jobs for the youngest workers.
  • The Education Jobs Fund, introduced by Senator Harkin, would save more than 300,000 school jobs (teachers, paraprofessionals, bus drivers, cafeteria workers) by injecting $23 billion into local boards of education over two years.
  • 6-month extension of Federal Medicaid matching funds.  This money is critical to maintaining basic government services and public sector jobs.  Cutting jobs and unemployment benefits is not the way to restore fiscal discipline, let alone grow the economy.  The Senate has re-included this as part of the Jobs Bill (HR 4213) that they are voting on today, but it is expected to fail in favor of some unclear compromise. 

We need to get America back to work in a way where everyone prospers, not just the few at the top.  Congress must act now.

Labor Commissioners: Aid Needed for Summer Jobs

8 Jun

Labor Departments Unite to Urge Senate to Pass Summer Youth Legislation

$1 Billion Bill Could Change the Lives of Hundreds of Thousands of Youth this Summer

Albany, NY (June 07, 2010) – A short time ago, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation to authorize $1 billion in summer youth programs for this year.  The Senate is expected to take up the bill when they return from recess today, Monday, June 7.  This legislation is critical for youth in states like Massachusetts and New York, who served more than 36,000 youth last year thanks to federal funding.   

At a press conference in Springfield, Massachusetts Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Joanne F. Goldstein and New York Labor Commissioner Colleen C. Gardner today called on the U.S. Senate to act immediately and vote “yes” on this important legislation.   Massachusetts estimates that with a $1B summer jobs package nationally, the state would receive approximately $20 M, which would result in around 8,500 youth served in summer jobs. If the Senate does not act on the $1B, only 916 youth will be put to work this summer with federal ARRA dollars.”It is critical that we obtain the funding for the public/private partnership that will provide summer jobs for young people, especially in our cities,” said Joanne F. Goldstein, Massachusetts Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development. “Youth employment helps address the issues of urban unrest, allows young people to engage in productive activity and increases family income in these difficult economic times.”New York Labor Commissioner Gardner said, “Weather is getting nice across the country, people are venturing out to public parks, pools and beaches, and for hundreds of thousands of our nation’s youth, there is little or no hope that they’ll find a job this summer.  Unemployment among youth, especially in our urban areas, is at crisis levels, which is why the federal government needs to act immediately.  I urge them to do so.”  Research has shown that a key predictor of future success in the workplace is early exposure to a job.  In spite of this, young people are looking for jobs in New York, Massachusetts and states across the country.   In New York, the unemployment rate for youth ages 16 to 24 was 17.9 percent in 2009.  There is also an overwhelming demand for summer jobs, with as many as five youths applying every one summer job.  Summer youth funds are also considered “high velocity” dollars because they are spent locally to keep local economies going.”The summer youth employment program is an ideal way for young people to build vocational skills, earn money and develop a sense of pride that they are contributing to society,” Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry Secretary Sandi Vito said. “Action must be taken to ensure that this valuable program – which for many youth is their first introduction to the workforce – is in place and able to have a positive effect on the future of our workforce.””These programs help teens use their summertime productively, and they help all of the participants build valuable skills that will give them a leg up now and throughout their lives,” said Washington State Commissioner Karen Lee, who also is president of the National Association of State Workforce Agencies.Connecticut Acting Commissioner Linda Agnew stressed, “Summer youth programs are critical if states are to enhance the future workforce talent pipeline. Last year approximately 6,000 young people were provided valuable employment opportunities through our summer program, but nearly 7,000 were turned away due to lack of funding. This legislation will help eliminate waiting lists and assure that additional summer youth employment opportunities are provided to many more young people in Connecticut.”Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development Secretary Roberta Gassman said, “Thanks to Congress, Wisconsin provided employment opportunities for over 4,000 youth and young adults last summer with funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. While the economy is steadily improving, challenges remain for youth seeking summer employment opportunities. I urge the U.S. Senate to approve funding for summer youth employment. More than summer jobs, we’re preparing a new generation of workers for the future by providing valuable work experience.”For more information, please visit: The Massachusetts Office of Labor and Workforce Development or the New York State Department of Labor  



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