Sizing Up Obama's Efforts To Address Black Unemployment
1 year ago
At least three policies under Obama seek to improve employment opportunities for African Americans - are they enough?
The largest albatross to President Obama’s legacy is the jobs crisis. It’s not a problem Obama created, yet it lingers around his Administration like the scent of a co-worker’s perfume on a husband suspected of having a mistress – it’s not enough to establish guilt, but enough for questioning.
Some have fully indicted Obama as being the culprit behind massive job loss, though much of it is inertia from the Bush Administration. In this week’s New York Times Magazine, Hard Left activist Cornel West said, “Poor people and working people have not been a fundamental focus of the Obama administration. That for me is not just a disappointment but a kind of betrayal.”
Not everyone who’s black in America shares this thought. Said Deborah Goldring, an out-of-work African American, in USA Today recently, "The unemployment situation is not the best, but I don't think it has a lot to do with [Obama]. Fixing this economy, it's going to take time."
What exactly is the Obama Administration doing about it in the meantime? The Loop 21 spoke with Michael Blake, the White House’s Deputy Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, to discuss policies put in place by the Obama Administration that have improved or will improve employment opportunities for African Americans:
- Federal contracts for small businesses – Small businesses have generated close to two-thirds of the new jobs created over the past 15 years, and they employ over half of all private sector employees, according to the Small Business Administration (SBA). These are also the businesses where African-American owners are best represented, and tend to employ many African Americans and minorities. So, this is one of the areas most in need of shoring up to create employment opportunities for black workers. Every year the federal government has a goal of shelling [pdf] out 23% of its contracts to small businesses, and 5% to disadvantaged businesses. For 2010, they gave small businesses 22.66% of federal contracts -- $97.9 billion worth – the closest to the 23% goal since 2006. For disadvantaged businesses, 7.95% of contracts ($34.3 billion) were awarded – well over the 5% goal. In 2009, $96.8 billion was doled out to small businesses for 21.89% of federal contracts, while 7.5% went to disadvantaged businesses. So, there has been measurable progress. Also, the SBA has created a new advisory council on underserved communities chaired by Catherine L. Hughes, founder of Radio One, Inc. According to Blake, the SBA is committing $1 billion for companies located in underserved communities. Called the IMPACT fund, it will involve investing in economically distressed areas as well as those companies in emerging sectors such as clean energy.