Press Release

CEPR Statement: Disadvantaged Communities Need the Workforce Promotion and Access (WPA) Act

June 27, 2024

Contact: Dan Beeton, 202-293-5380 x104Mail_Outline

Washington DC — CEPR’s Director of Race and Economic Justice Algernon Austin welcomed the introduction of the Workforce Promotion and Access Act (WPA Act) into Congress earlier this month.

“The country is in a period of historically low unemployment, but it is important to acknowledge that the national average hides the fact that many places are still struggling with high rates of joblessness. For example, in the first quarter of this year, the national unemployment rate averaged 3.8 percent, but it was 8.1 percent in Port Arthur, Texas; 9.5 percent in Coachella, California; 9.9 percent in Camden, New Jersey; 11.5 percent in Magoffin County, Kentucky; and 16.8 percent in the Kusilvak Census Area in Alaska. There are places with even higher unemployment rates if one wishes to look for them.

“Because many places are not sharing fully in the nation’s period of strong job creation, the Workforce Promotion and Access Act or WPA Act introduced by Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Ilhan Omar (MN-05), and Jamaal Bowman (NY-16) is quite needed. The WPA Act would establish a federally funded jobs program targeted to economically disadvantaged communities. The program would be paid for by a 0.1 percent financial transaction tax.

“The communities that are facing high unemployment rates in a national low-unemployment economy are the communities with the most significant structural challenges to job creation. In this macroeconomic context, the WPA Act would be a highly efficient and effective way to bring jobs to the neediest places.

“At the time of this writing, the WPA Act has three additional cosponsors: Reps. Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-At Large), Rashida Tlaib (MI-12), and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14). One hopes that they will be joined by others.”

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