Obama Administration Touts €Green Collar€ Jobs for Blacks

Kevin M. Briscoe | 4/22/2009, 9:09 p.m.

Van Jones, environmental activist and member of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, hosted a conference call on April 8 to highlight the importance of the green jobs movement and the potential impact on the African American community. Jones stated that creating job and entrepreneurial opportunities in the emerging environmental industries will help reduce Black unemployment, currently around 13 percent, and put the country on the road to economic recovery.

€In the African American community, we need real rungs put back on the ladder of opportunity,€ said Jones, former chief executive officer of Green for All. €President Obama is adding green rungs to that ladder.€

The Obama administration€s economic recovery package includes more than $20 billion for investment in a greener economy, including $500 million for green job training. Over the next 10 years, the administration hopes to create five million new jobs by investing $150 billion to jump start private efforts to build a clean energy future. The challenge, Jones said, is getting the African American community to take advantage of the opportunity.

€When you talk about green in the Black community, those aren€t the jobs we can see in the African American community,€ he said. €I want to dispel that notion. I want that kid on the street corner putting down his handgun and picking up a caulk gun.

€There is a green pathway out of poverty and into prosperity. The wingspan of these jobs is from GED to Ph.D.€

Green jobs, such as manufacturing solar panels, weatherizing homes and office buildings or retrofitting schools with double-paned glass, pay 10 to 20 percent more than other jobs, according to the Council of Economic Advisors. More green jobs also translate into more money in consumers€ pocketbooks, reducing electric and heating bills and leaving more disposable income.

€The green agenda is about saving money, not spending it,€ said Jones.

Recovery package money for green initiatives is being funneled through a number of federal agencies, including Department of Energy and Department of Labor, which is responsible for administering the $500 million for job training. The funds make their way to state and local governments to finance inner-city green projects.

€Our cities produce 75 percent of the greenhouse gases. We can€t beat global warming without dealing with the cities,€ Jones said. €And, that requires jobs. Buildings don€t retrofit themselves.€

The Office of Management and Budget recently published updated guidance to federal agencies for carrying out programs and activities enacted in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

€Significant work is underway at all levels of government and in communities across the nation to carry out the Recovery Act effectively,€ wrote OMB Director Peter R. Orszag. The guidance is intended to reinforce this progress by clarifying existing requirements and establishing additional steps that must be taken to facilitate the accountability and transparency objectives of the Recovery Act.€

The 175-page memo includes specific guidance encouraging agencies to provide maximum opportunities for small and disadvantaged businesses and support the use of community-based organizations in connecting disadvantaged people with jobs.