WCBoL Vice-Chairman Williams Proposes Long-Term Policies to Reduce Joblessness
White Plains, NY, August 25, 2010 -- The July 2010 unemployment rate of 7 percent in Westchester County has fallen from its peak in February 2010 to 7.8 percent. However, the unemployment rate in some communities in the County is much higher. According to statistics from the New York State Department of Labor, the July 2010 unemployment figures for Mount Vernon was 9 percent and 8.9 percent in Yonkers. The jobless rates for the same period in these communities were higher than the statewide rate of 8.4 percent.
In Westchester communities with high unemployment, buildings lay vacant, families struggle to pay the bills, and the crime rates increase proportionately. Westchester County Board of Legislators Vice-Chairman Lyndon D. Williams (D-Mount Vernon) said, “We need long-term targeted economic policies to stimulate local economies by reducing the high unemployment in areas of the county.” Williams drafted legislation calling for the creation of a targeted local infrastructure jobs program that will put residents within Westchester’s communities with the highest unemployment rates back to work, create new durable jobs, and spur economic growth for businesses across the County.
“We recognize the need for Westchester to undertake targeted construction job creation and apprenticeship programs in areas of the county that have been hardest hit by the recession,” said Vice-Chairman Williams. “The County invests millions of dollars in capital projects that could create thousands of local construction jobs countywide”. Williams said that a targeted jobs program through the County’s infrastructure capital projects would boost the local economy, generate sales tax revenue and other economic benefits throughout the region. He said “when we drive down the unemployment rate in these communities, the entire county unemployment rate is reduced and we generate economic benefits for the entire county.”
Williams’ proposal would require contractors who receive county infrastructure contracts to hire and retain workers from areas that are severely economically deprived. Specifically, contractors would be required to hire workers from communities that have a combined average of the unemployment rate and poverty rate greater than the combined County average unemployment and poverty rates by 10% or greater. The County would hold a portion of the contract price in escrow to ensure full compliance. Additionally, bidding specifications for county construction contracts would require that contractors provide a workable plan to achieve the established goals and would hold them accountable for the plan’s success or failure, by incentivizing success and penalizing failure. The specifications would encourage and score favorably those contractors who establish apprenticeship programs for hiring and training workers in the construction trades from these targeted communities.
In 2009, County agencies completed thousands of procurement contracts, for a total purchasing volume of over $200 million. Nearly $118 million dollars in federal stimulus grants and state funding have been targeted for local infrastructure-focused projects within the County, ranging from parks, sewage treatment plants, green technology, road and bridge repair and many types of public works initiatives. Vice-Chairman Williams anticipates that the County would take a leadership role in setting the standard for local governments and school districts to follow, in an effort towards playing an additional, major role in coordinating a regional economic revitalization plan. “There are many promising pathways to significantly reduce poverty and unemployment in Westchester, but one of the best ways is the strong and durable growth of good-paying jobs.”