John Powell, executive director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, launched www.fairrecovery.org to assist African Americans in tracing federal stimulus dollars in their community. Courtesy Photo
For African Americans, the recession came early and hit with devastating effect. Unemployment skyrocketed to 14.9 percent for the second quarter of 2009 and shows no sign of slowing down. New York City just announced that Black joblessness increased at four times the rate for Whites over the past year.
States hit the hardest by double-digit unemployment-- Michigan, South Carolina, California and Nevada -- have gotten fewer per capita stimulus funds than sparsely populated states that have remained relatively unscathed by the economic meltdown like Montana, Wyoming and Vermont. Ohio and Michigan, hit particularly hard by job losses in the auto industry, suffer a Black poverty rate of 31 percent. The largest 100 metropolitan areas in the country, many with substantial Black populations, have received less than half of all stimulus transportation dollars so far.
Last modified on Thursday, 06 August 2009 04:09
A team of economists, demographers and legal experts from several national organizations focused on social justice, are following the trail of billions of federal dollars to discover whether the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) is helping communities hardest hit by the economic crisis. Theyâ€™ve launched Fairrecovery.org, a multimedia Web site focused on research, advocacy and action in response to the unprecedented economic recovery spending. The goal is to showcase data on the recovery and analyze the effects on communities of color.
â€œA one-size fits all recovery wonâ€™t work for African Americans,â€ said John Powell, executive director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, who envisioned and launched the online advocacy tool.
Criticizing the guidance of a memo released by the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Powell noted that states are not required to track, monitor or report to the federal government on the race of those winning contracts or hired through job creation programs from ARRA funds.
â€œAfrican Americans are experiencing a greater level of economic pain but the government doesnâ€™t have a plan to find out whether the prescription works or not,â€ Powell said. Lack of adequate tracking also means there is scant ability to confirm employee-level data or contracts awarded to economically disadvantaged or minority-owned business enterprises.
Arguing that President Barack Obama can fix this problem, Powell insists that data collection should be one of the most straightforward elements of the stimulus campaign.
New York is beginning to collect that data on its own, according to a recent directive from Governor David Paterson. He has ordered the stateâ€™s Human Rights Division to track stimulus spending to assure employment and contracting stimulus projects meet the stateâ€™s equal opportunity and diversity requirements.
For more on the impact of the recession and the campaign to advance a fair recovery, visit the online advocacy shop at http://www.fairrecovery.org/