By James Wright, Special to the AFRO, jwright@afro.com

The Congressional Black Caucus, along with National Urban League President Marc Morial, released one of its most forward-moving jobs bills in years.

U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), chairman of the CBC, talked about the “Jobs and Justice Act of 2018” at a May 10 news conference at the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill. Members of the CBC joining him included Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), Val Demings (D-Fla.), Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) and Bobby Scott (D-Va.).

U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, recently laid out an expansive plan to deal with Black unemployment. (Courtesy Photo)

Richmond disputed the Trump administration’s spin on low Black unemployment. “President Trump and the Republican Party he leads would have you to believe that our community is doing well because African-American unemployment is at a historic low, which is the result of policies and programs implemented by the Obama administration,” Richmond said. “But the African-American unemployment rate is not a good barometer of our community’s success. When African Americans were slaves and sharecroppers, African American unemployment was zero percent.”

Richmond said racism and discrimination throughout the country hinders Blacks from full employment status and the federal government should do its part to put an end to those practices. The 1,300-page bill includes calling for a $15 an hour minimum wage; providing tax incentives for employers to hire young people, veterans, and the unemployed; emergency relief to address homelessness and increases in mortgages rates; expands access to New Market Tax Credits; $7.5 billion to upgrade water infrastructures; nationally banning the box for returning citizens and allowing them access to Pell Grants, TANF and SNAP.

The bill also has such CBC initiatives as abolishing the death penalty, modernizing funding for Black colleges and universities, and eliminating mandatory minimums for federal drug offenses.

The bill has been embraced by House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).

Morial said that the bill is ambitious and that the Trump administration should get its priorities straight. “We should be investing in getting jobs for people instead of investing in foreign cities and tax cuts for millionaires,” he said in his remarks.

Morial said the bill will have trouble getting through the Republican Congress. However, Scott, the ranking Democrat on the Committee on Education and the Workforce and Barbara Lee, who is a member of the powerful Committee on Appropriations, said they could use their committee perches to insert the bill’s programs into a congressional spending bill this year.

Mentioned was the District of Columbia’s low unemployment rate – 5.6 percent – according to D.C. Department of Employment Services statistics. However, the Black joblessness rate in the city is about 13 percent, according to data from the Economic Policy Institute.

“Our legislation supports a bunch of job training programs as well as banning the box,” Richmond told the AFRO to explain how the legislation will address the District’s booming economy. “Some people have to work two jobs to make ends meet and we address that also.”

Scott said the legislation funds apprenticeship programs that can elevate African Americans in the city who are in low skills jobs and programs to prepare for the work world.