Congress should elevate those trapped in the gap – support ELEVATE Act
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Families in Chicago and in all 50 states are still hurting from the Great Recession and from the aftermath of transnational corporations ruthlessly searching the globe for cheaper labor. Hidden behind the relatively low official unemployment rate are millions of workers left behind while employers across the country have trouble filling jobs. These are the long-term unemployed, the dislocated workers, the former foster youth, homeless youth, people with criminal records, and other economically-disadvantaged Americans. There is an urgent need to do more to connect these individuals who are not fully incorporated into the workforce with quality jobs and to economically empower them and their families.

The numbers of dislocated workers who remain in the economic shadows of our economy are highlighted in the source of new hires.  The Economic Policy Institute points out that more than 7 in 10 of newly-employed workers were disconnected workers who were outside of the labor force and uncounted in the unemployment rate. In addition, official unemployment figures report stubborn and very significant race and ethnicity inequalities in unemployment. The average unemployment rate for white workers was 3.5 percent in 2018, compared to unemployment for Black workers (6.5 percent) and Hispanic workers (4.7 percent).


The ELEVATE - Economic Ladders to End Volatility and Advance Training and Employment - Act promises to bring more Americans into the workforce and to reduce barriers to employment.  By promoting subsidized employment programs for public and private sector jobs, ELEVATE helps workers gain the job experience, employment connections, and support services needed to establish successful careers. ELEVATE gives employers new pathways into the workforce development system and gives states flexibility to address community-specific workforce gaps and employer needs. Importantly, ELEVATE expands the availability of jobs during economic downturns and in areas with persistently-high unemployment and poverty, responding to needs voiced by both rural and urban workers. I am proud to join Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenDemocrat: Treasury 'acknowledged the unprecedented process' in Trump tax return rejection Hillicon Valley: Twitter says Trump 'go back' tweet didn't violate rules | Unions back protests targeting Amazon 'Prime Day' | Mnuchin voices 'serious concerns' about Facebook crypto project | Congress mobilizes on cyber threats to electric grid Top Democrat demands answers on election equipment vulnerabilities MORE from Oregon in leading this legislation to address inequality and promote economic success.

Response and support for the ELEVATE Act have been swift: 

“This legislation is precisely what’s needed to help people and places left behind, even as the rest of the job market closes in on full employment,” said Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and former economic advisor to Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden compares Trump to George Wallace Sanders unveils plan to guarantee the 'right to a secure retirement' CNN Democratic debate drawing finishes third in cable news ratings race MORE. “The bill pays particular attention to helping people scale labor market barriers that have longed blocked them.”

“The best anti-poverty strategy is to ensure children’s parents and caregivers who are able to work can find jobs that pay enough to support a family and get the child care and other help they need to remain in those jobs. Increasing the availability of publicly funded jobs as ELEVATE does is a critically important step toward that goal and ending child poverty,” said Marian Wright Edelman, President of the Children’s Defense Fund.

“The ELEVATE Act addresses one of the key labor force challenges facing the U.S. today: how to re-engage millions of Americans who have dropped out of the labor market and often face serious barriers that prevent them from returning,” said Harry Holzer, former Chief Economist at the U.S. Department of Labor and Professor of Public Policy at Georgetown University. “It is a sensible and serious proposal that deserves a serious hearing.”


"If you want an efficient, effective, evidence-based approach to pull people into a job market —no matter where they live— that has shut them out, this proposal is for you,” said Indivar Dutta-Gupta, co-Executive Director at the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality. “In contrast to lavish tax cuts for the wealthy & well-connected, this proposal actually would help workers, their families, and their communities. And we'd all be better off because of it."

Center for Law and Social Policy’s (CLASP) Executive Director Olivia Golden said, “CLASP is proud to support the ELEVATE Act because it attempts to do just that, elevate people out of poverty and onto a sustainable economic path. We know all too well the barriers and discrimination that people face in the workforce, many caused by lack of work supports, access to training, or child care.  By funding subsidized employment, the ELEVATE Act helps remove those barriers so those who need jobs the most can get meaningful employment.” 

Those who brag glibly of the vitality of our economy, who proclaim the “greatness” of our economy, look, but do not see.  They listen, but do not hear.  They claim to reach out, but they do not feel the pain of those who for too long have been denied economic fairness and justice in the world’s wealthiest nation. The ELEVATE Act is a very real, very pragmatic first step in rectifying and addressing this injustice.

Davis is the chairman of the Worker and Family Support Subcommittee on the House Ways and Means Committee (Formally the Human Resources Sub).