Hilda Solis listens to community’s frustrations
As part of a Friday trip to Philadelphia to drum up support for President Obama’s $447 billion American Jobs Act, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis took time from her busy schedule to meet with members of the faith-based community in Southwest Philadelphia.
While visiting the Southwest Leadership Academy Charter School in the morning, Solis participated in a roundtable discussion with members of the faith-based community.
She then took a tour of the Charter School, which included a visit with the Amachi Program, the nationally recognized mentoring program, before leaving for an early afternoon tour of Esperanza Academy Charter High School.
“It is great to be here and see what is going on in this community at this school,” Solis said. “We want to get out into communities all across the country and speak with the people who are feeling the pain of our economy. We want them to know that we are pushing hard to get them back to work.”
Solis emphasized aspects of the jobs act that are pertinent to places like Philadelphia, where the economy is hurting. She pointed out that the plan, unveiled in September, would put two million people back to work almost immediately, many of them African Americans, especially in infrastructure jobs.
“We have a lot of African Americans, minorities, who have lost their jobs in construction, because that industry is struggling,” Solis said. “[The American Jobs Act] would help to put people back to work repairing roads, bridges, our aviation systems and schools. These are areas that have not been attended to and they are crucial for the country to get jumpstarted and the economy back on track again.”
Joseph Meade, president of the Philadelphia Leadership Foundation, said the visit was important because it is crucial for community leaders to have as much access to information as the country struggles to get its economic engine running again.
“I’m delighted that she came and that we were able to find a real person — at the top of the chain, in this case — whom we can communicate with,” he said. “She made some real resources available to us, and she gave us regional contact people that we can continue to work with. Not just in this community but across the city. There are substantial resources available for training and employment. It was all worth it.”
Solis highlighted the Jobs Act’s emphasis on areas such as cutting the payroll tax and extending unemployment insurance, which is scheduled to expire on approximately six million Americans around this time next year, just in time to become a 2012 election issue.
“Why wouldn’t anyone want to do this for communities that are struggling?” Solis said. “They are trying to make this an election issue but it’s not all about elections; it’s about hurting people. Families are unemployed, children are starving and people are living in poverty. Businesses need to feel confident that they are getting tax credits to do things like hire veterans and people who have been unemployed for a long time. This can’t wait 12 more months. It has to happen now. And people who are against it need to be made to tell people just why they feel that way.”
Pastor Eric Simmons, senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Paschall, participated in the roundtable with Secretary Solis. Among other ministries at the church, Paschall has an economic empowerment ministry that is geared toward placing people in the community with jobs.
Simmons knows that there is no magic cure-all for this economy. However, having someone like Solis coming in and sharing ideas with the community is a great way to address the problem.
“As a church we want to continue to help grow the community,” Simmons said. “We just want to do our part. Having her come here and getting to see her passion for the things that we are doing — having her share resources — those are powerful things.”