President Obama aims to create or save 3.5 million jobs over the next two years by spending some of the money in the recently-enacted stimulus plan on modernizing the nation’s roads and bridges, investing in public transportation, and making federal office buildings more energy-efficient.
Civil rights advocates hope that the stimulus plan actually puts unemployed Americans, many of whom are Black and Hispanic, to work. Currently, Hispanic and Black unemployment rates – at 9.7 and 12.6 percent respectively – are higher than the rates for other racial and ethnic groups.
To help close that gap, the National Urban League (NUL) has recommended that a portion of money be targeted (PDF) towards job training, job placement and job preparation for disadvantaged workers. NUL also urged the government to ensure minority- and women-owned businesses are in a position to take advantage of federal contract opportunities.
“It would be unconscionable to spend hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer money and simply go back to where we were two years ago. We need to do better than that. We need to actually close that gap that can only be explained at the end of the day by the inclusion of race between white and black unemployment rates,” said Ben Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP.