Merkley Joins Bill to Establish a Federal Jobs Guarantee Program in High-Need Communities

Washington, DC – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley is partnering with Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) to introduce legislation that would establish a model federal jobs guarantee program in up to 15 high-unemployment communities and regions across the United States. The legislation is also cosponsored by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

“As the son of a mechanic, I know the power of a living-wage job to provide a foundation for a family to thrive,” Merkley said. “Anyone who is willing to work hard should have the chance to provide for themselves and their families. This program can start us on the path to deliver on that promise.”

The bill, the Federal Jobs Guarantee Development Act, would allow high-need communities to apply to participate in a three-year pilot program to guarantee the option of employment for all of its residents.

The program would guarantee that adults in participating communities who want to work can do so, in a job that pays a living wage and provides benefits like health insurance, paid sick leave, and paid family leave — all while helping to advance critical local and national priorities that are currently under-provided, like child and elder care, infrastructure, and community revitalization. These fundamental benefits would help keep low- and middle-income families afloat in times of recession. And, with black workers routinely facing unemployment rates roughly twice as high as white workers, the benefits of this program would be particularly felt by low- and middle-income black families.

Specifically, the Federal Jobs Guarantee Development Act would:

  • Authorize and fund the creation of a 3-year pilot program at the Department of Labor to test the promise and impact of a federal job guarantee in up to 15 diverse communities and regions. Sites will be selected based on local need and assets, and jobs to be filled, ensuring that work would advance critical local and national priorities that the private sector under-provides, like child and elder care, infrastructure, and community revitalization.
  • Ensure that every adult with residence in a pilot community may work in a job funded by the program. Jobs will include a minimum wage phasing in to $15/hour, paid family and sick leave, and health coverage like that enjoyed by federal employees.
  • Require that each pilot community creates a “Community Job Bank” website, which will feature high-impact jobs sourced primarily by local communities, as well as Federal agencies, based on their needs and priorities.
  • Expand the Work Opportunity Tax Credit to incentivize private employers to recruit and hire participants out of the pilot program.
  • Authorize a rigorous evaluation of the program’s implementation and impact across a number of metrics, including unemployment rates, private sector wages, safety net spending, and incarceration rates.

The text of the bill can be downloaded here.

In the Senate, Merkley has a long track record of fighting for workers. He created jobs with new investments in water infrastructure with the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA), which provides low-cost loans to communities across America, putting people to work improving drinking water and wastewater treatment systems. Today, WIFIA is providing nearly $1 billion in loan capacity across the country to get infrastructure projects moving. He champions “Buy America” provisions that ensure taxpayer-funded infrastructure projects use American-made materials and support good-paying American jobs. He created the rural energy savings program help the families and businesses in rural areas who can’t afford the cost of a home or building renovation by offering them low-cost loans that they can repay out of the money they will save on their energy bills. He uses his seat on the Senate Appropriations Committee to support Oregon infrastructure projects, such as dredging for small ports and funding the TIGER grant program.