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Community Jobs Forums and Keeping Momentum for the Economy

A look at what we heard back from a couple months of community jobs forums, and how that feedback fits in with what the White House is doing on the economy.

On Friday we got some encouraging news on the economy, learning that 162,000 jobs were created in March – “the most positive jobs report we have had in three years,” as CEA Chair Christina Romer pointed out. But as the President said later: “At the same time, it’s important to emphasize: while we have come a long way, we still have a ways to go.”

That’s why the President and his Administration have maintained, and will continue to maintain, job creation as our number one priority. The jobs forum at the White House a few months ago brought together some of America’s leading CEOs, small business owners, labor leaders, and thinkers to generate ideas to put Americans back to work and set the stage for a series of new initiatives to build upon the progress made by the Recovery Act. And in the time since, we have seen some of those ideas come to fruition in measures like the HIRE Act, a major jobs bill signed by the President a couple weeks ago that will be helping to boost the economy in the months to come.

At the jobs forum, the President also made clear that he would be looking for ideas and insights from outside Washington:

“And I want to continue this conversation outside of Washington, which is why I'll be meeting with some of the small business owners that you saw in the video in Allentown, Pennsylvania, tomorrow, to get their ideas. It's also why we've asked state and local officials and community organizations to hold their own jobs forums over the next week or so and to report back with the ideas and recommendations that result.”

In the months that followed, hundreds of citizens, mayors, and other local officials came together with their neighbors and community leaders to hold Community Jobs Forums in every corner of the country. Jared Bernstein, Chief Economist for the Vice President, helped us sort through all the feedback we got from those forums to compile a memo to the President which we’ll be submitting to the President soon. 

There were a lot of new and innovative ideas that the White House will be keeping in mind as we continue work on the economy, and you can see some of the most interesting ones in the memo. But the honest truth is that the most striking thing about the feedback was how much demand there was for the jobs programs that were part of the HIRE Act and were already in development here. 

Here’s what President Obama said at the signing of the HIRE Act, alongside some representative quotes from folks who reported back on their forums – we hope that we, and they, are right that this will help our economy keep getting back on the right track.

President Obama: “What we can do is help promote a strong, dynamic private sector – the true engine of job-creation in this country.”

  • Alvaro Bermudez from CA asked for the government to “help small businesses – historically, small businesses have gotten us out of trouble economically.”

President Obama: “First, we’ll forgive payroll taxes for businesses that hire someone who’s been out of work for at least two months – a tax benefit that will apply to unemployed workers hired between last month and the end of this year.”

  • Kenneth from Tennessee and Linda from Arizona wrote us aboutextending tax credits for local, small businesses that take on new hires.
  • Janice in Illinois: “The President has to focus providing incentives to businesses (tax or otherwise) that would encourage them to begin hiring again.”

President Obama: “By the way, I’d also note that part of what health insurance reform would do is provide tax credits to over 4 million small businesses so they don’t have to choose between hiring workers and offering coverage.”

Laura, a Ph.D. from Oklahoma: Offer “financial support for health coverage for employees, tax incentives to hire and maintain new hires, incentives for additional training and re-training.”

President Obama: “Second, this jobs bill encourages smaller businesses to grow and hire by permitting them to write off investments they make in equipment this year. These kinds of expenses typically take years to depreciate, but under this law, businesses will be able to invest up to $250,000 – in say, factory equipment – and write it off right away.”

  • Susan in New York told us government should provide tax relief to “allow small business to expense new equipment in the year purchased.”
  • Tom, Ohio: “Permit small businesses to expense capital equipment purchases.”
  • Alvaro, CA : “We need more tax help in the forms of equipment, tools, and systems.”

President Obama: “Third, we’ll reform municipal bonds to encourage job-creation by expanding investment in schools and clean energy projects.”

  • Mayor Jim Clarke, CA: “Clean energy and water technology is our strength. People are coming to invest here in those markets and have thousands of acres under development right now in that and creating jobs.”
  • Timothy, WA: “Energy will become a well defined industry cluster affecting almost every sector of our economy.”
  • Adama, MD: “Innovative small business services are opportunities for growth and are poised to rebound. Clean energy, green infrastructure and non-profits could be important jobs sources in/of the future.”
  • Tim, MD: “Education fuels growth.” 

President Obama: “Finally,this jobs bill will maintain crucial investments in our roads and bridges as we head into the spring and summer months, when construction jobs are picking up.”

  • Bill: “Continue and expand government construction jobs to put more people to work. The Interstate 80 construction project has put many out of work construction workers back to work in our state.”
  • Jim in Missouri called for “new Construction Projects and Remodel Projects in the Federal and State level, and Highway and road Construction.”
  • Ralph in NC: “Invest federal money in local and interstate transportation systems that will take people to and from work and to visit other states... Jobs will be created to get the light rail and bus system ready as well as to operate and maintain it.”
  • Margaret in California said we should focus on “Security of basic infrastructure- federal funding allocated through the state, county and local communities.”