The $18 billion jobs bill that won Senate approval today includes tax relief provisions for businesses that hire unemployed workers. It is only one bill in a series of measures designed to alleviate unemployment, but some lawmakers claim that the benefits are not being distributed to the communities that need it most.

Former Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD) supports greater actions on behalf of the black community, which has been disproportionately afflicted by the recession. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), unemployment has nearly doubled for African-Americans since early 2008, with unemployment among black men going from 9 percent to 19 percent, and from 7 percent to 13 percent among black women. Congressman Cummings also cites that 45 percent of unemployed African-Americans have been unable to find jobs for over 6 months.

Rep. Cummings voted for the House version of the current bill, and supports modest tax relief for businesses that create jobs. However, he points to a more progressive bill as a better solution, the proposed Local Jobs for America Act, sponsored by House Education and Labor Committee Chair Rep. George Miller (D-CA). A fellow member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), Rep. Miller is currently seeking co-sponsor support in the House for his bill, which specifically targets regions with high poverty and double-digit unemployment for job retraining. The Miller bill also provides financial support to local governments who are shedding jobs for lack of funds.

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While President Obama publicly thanked eleven Senate Republicans today for their bipartisan support, the Congressional Black Caucus met last week with the president to discuss their concerns about the black community. Rep. Cummings found President Obama to be receptive and supportive, but believes that the CBC must follow Obama’s lead by exerting pressure on their colleagues in the House and Senate to pass adequate recovery measures. On black unemployment, Rep. Cummings says, “People are tired of not working and people want to work. They just want to have an opportunity to work.”

Congressman Cummings is confident about the upcoming House health care bill. However House Democrats are awaiting the results of a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) cost analysis before determining if any special procedural voting strategies will be necessary.

Although current polls report increasing dissatisfaction with Congress among voters, Rep. Cummings echoes the Democratic position that once people understand the legislation under debate, they will be pleased with its effects. With respect to the economic stimulus acts, he acknowledges that the public only sees Congress supporting the large finance and auto industries and not small business and the middle class. On health care, he emphasizes that the nation is in an ethical & economic crisis situation, and insists that Congress and the White House have come up with a workable solution.

“We are going to pass this.”