July 02, 2020

Watson Coleman, Omar Introduce Bill for Direct Job Creation As Millions Continue to Reel from Coronavirus Unemployment

The Workforce Promotion and Access Act would create a job guarantee program at the Department of Labor, ensuring direct job creation with livable wages in sectors under-staffed by the private sector

July 2, 2020 – Today, Congresswomen Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) announced the introduction of (H.R. 7477) the Workforce Promotion and Access (WPA) Act, legislation aimed at getting more Americans back to work in living-wage jobs created directly by the federal government. The bill authorizes the U.S. Department of Labor to create a job guarantee program through grants to states, localities and tribal entities where unemployment is greater than 10% OR double the national unemployment rate. The resulting jobs, targeted to local needs like child- or eldercare and infrastructure, would be paid at least $15 per hour and ensure every adult aged 18 or older is eligible. 

“The economic fallout from the coronavirus has reminded us of two things: that millions of Americans are extremely vulnerable and lack the paid leave, job security, and financial safety to make it through a crisis, and that the federal government is, and has always been, uniquely situated to fill these holes,” said Watson Coleman. “Stimulus payments and expanded unemployment didn’t just help Americans in need, they singlehandedly wiped out an expected increase in poverty. That’s proof that we have the power to make sure that there’s a floor below which we don’t let any American family fall. The WPA is about continuing that work and connecting people in need of employment with roles that will directly improve our communities ­­– and without relying on taxpayer dollars.”

“45 million people have lost their jobs during this pandemic,” said Rep. Omar. “We have watched as millions of people struggle to afford basic necessities like food and rent to survive the shock from a sudden job loss. Even before this crisis hit, 4 out of 10 Americans were one paycheck away from poverty. Now more than ever, the federal government has a moral responsibility to alleviate the unnecessary pain and create a federal job guarantee program. This program is the type of bold solution our country needs to lift up workers, broaden prosperity, and improve communities.”

Harkening back to the New Deal-era Works Progress Administration’s sweeping impact on employment, infrastructure development and more, the WPA Act aims to ensure jobs with health coverage and paid family and emergency leave, are available nationwide for any adult over the age of 18, regardless of educational achievement. The program would be funded by a Wall Street Financial Transaction Tax.

The bill is endorsed by Public Citizen and Jobs with Justice.

“It is impossible to ignore the stark dichotomy:  while more than 127,000 people in the U.S. have died from COVID-19 and our economy is suffering levels of unemployment not seen since the Great Depression, Wall Street has enjoyed its best quarter in more than 20 years,” said Susan Harley, deputy director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “Now is the time for Congress use this moment to recalibrate our tax code. By implementing a Wall Street tax, the Workforce Promotion and Access Act both provides a focus on equity and redistributing tax responsibility while making real progress on the road to relief for families in America by providing a job to those who need it.”

“The Workforce Promotion and Access Act would help inject democracy into our economic system,” said Erica Smiley, Executive Director for Jobs with Justice. “Currently, corporations hold life-and-death power over the people from whose labor they profit. Working people who stand up to corporate bosses and get fired as a result face loss of income, loss of housing, loss of medical care, and food insecurity. The Workforce Promotion and Access Act blunts the threat of firing and allows working people to demand a role in our economic system and would especially benefit Black people and other communities of color that have been most affected by the twin pandemics.”

To see the bill text, click here. To view a one-pager on the bill, click here.