In today’s economy, approximately 70% of ALL Americans live in areas with unmet demand. These areas are plagued with high levels of unemployment, a difficult workforce, and a lack of access to basic services like water and sewer. Currently, there are no rapid economic development programs, nor an established system in place to address these issues in local communities.
After a decade of searching for affordable labor, President Obama has developed a new solution for America’s economic future: Operation Warp Speed. His proposal is to provide grants to local governments in return for fully reimbursing 95% of their labor expenses up to an annual limit of $30 million. This program has the potential to attract new investment in the employment markets of cities, states, and regions that are in need of temporary labor.
Since our founding, the Social Security trust fund has been able to earn a return on investment by pooling resources that would not otherwise be available. President Obama’s strategy is remarkably similar. Here are some of the specifics of President Obama’s initiative:
· Providing grants to local governments in return for full reimbursement of labor expenses
· Allowing employers that currently hire temporary workers to continue to do so, only with 90% reimbursement of their labor costs
· Retaining existing contractors as employers
· Providing flexibility in application of labor resources in case states and communities need more employees
· Allowing contractors to pay employees a wage at least equal to that of temporary workers, to maintain eligibility for the grants.
· Ending the requirement to provide a state with a list of skilled workers who are available for private and public projects
· Dedicating 25% of grant monies to projects that involve technical training, where unemployed individuals would learn skills to apply toward private or public employment
· Requiring contractors to hire local residents as a condition of grant grants
· Providing a 51% reduction in labor costs to employers
· Allowing local governments to demand recipients of funds develop and implement cost-effective, results-based, and sustainable workforce development programs
· Expanding the RFP process to all federal infrastructure projects, specifically programs that focus on advancing economic growth and recovery in communities
· Introducing performance measures and technology requirements for job seekers
· Providing local governments with a clear mission statement and annual performance standards
· Ending funding for any program that hasn’t met its goals or improved since President Obama first proposed the plan
· Requiring contractors to report on their programs.
· Allowing all businesses, except low-wage retail and restaurant employers, to utilize the services of the DLRI
· Working with community organizations to fill unfilled positions
· Taking a stand against hiring local people for jobs they could be doing for free
The proposal also empowers workers to both request work and be eligible for grants through the DLRI. For example, if a worker searches for jobs at least three times, the worker may qualify for immediate work and will not have to wait three months for an employer to apply for a grant. This works in conjunction with the new rules that allow businesses to hire American citizens, if they provide local residents a job opening, or apply for one of the jobs that are not offered to citizens. The key with any good plan, including the WDTR initiative, is communication and outreach.
These types of plans are built on trust and transparency. If government starts to allow trusted institutions, such as DLRI, to help secure work through their programs, and communicate with the local community in a way that enables the public to have the resources they need without blocking access, then our communities will most likely see benefits from a program as an investment in local economies. The WDTR initiative should be applauded for putting their faith in local businesses and communities in an effort to secure economic mobility and equity for all.
— Written by Diane Townsend