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Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez
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Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis

Remarks for Secretary Hilda L. Solis
Symposium on Job Club & Career Ministry Programs
Cascade United Methodist Church
October 5, 2011
Atlanta, GA

Good afternoon everyone. Thank you all for that warm welcome.

And thank you, Reverend Moss, for that warm introduction and for having me here today and for all the staff here at Cascade who has made today possible.

I also want to acknowledge the hard work of my Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships for planning today's event and for building partnerships with career ministries like the ones here today and hundreds of others across the country.

This visit is very special for me.

I'm reminded of a speech President Obama gave a few years ago, when he spoke of what he called "a fundamental belief — I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper."

That belief is what the ministries gathered here today are all about — looking out for one another.

And it's that belief that brings us together today. We are here because of our shared responsibilities: to our families, to our communities, and to the American family as a whole. We are here because in America, taking care of one another is not just an obligation, but a tradition.

So I want to thank everyone here, volunteers, pastors, nonprofit leaders, workforce professionals, employed, unemployed — all of you, for keeping that tradition alive.

I know it isn't easy. Even in the toughest of times, many of you are not only donating time, but money as well to keep your ministries alive and meaningful. You've kept organizing. You've kept training. You've kept growing.

So thank you for caring, for giving back, for refusing to give up hope and for choosing to help your neighbors to do the same.

We've gone through an unprecedented time in our history. We have not seen anything like this in our lifetimes — a financial crisis that is as bad as anything since the Great Depression, followed by a recession that is deep and lasting and has hurt a lot of people.

We've got millions of folks across the country — some in this room — who are facing real challenges, uncertainty and anxiety about how to make it from one day to the next.

And many of them did everything right — got a good job, worked hard, met their responsibilities. But too many of them, have seen those jobs disappear through no fault of their own. I'm talking about teachers, construction workers and small business owners who never asked for a hand out or a free lunch. All they've ever wanted is a fair shake — to do good work and get ahead.

Many of those people will go to bed tonight after a long day of researching and sending out resumes only to get up and start all over again tomorrow. The process is emotionally draining — especially if you've been at it a while and have been told "no" more times than you can count.

These people deserve better. They want to get back to work. They need our help and our resources now more than ever before.

That's why ministries like all of yours are so important. What you're doing matters — not just to people, but to our economy and to the recovery of our nation as a whole.

I visited a career ministry much like this one just a few weeks ago in Virginia. I was so impressed by the people there and the work that they were doing. So the next day, I wrote a letter directly to the President to tell him what I saw and to praise the good work of job seeker groups.

So you need to know that we support you. President Obama and I — this entire administration — we believe in what you are doing and we are with you.

But look, we've got a lot of work to do to make sure that every American has a shot at success. Folks right here in Georgia need their shot. And that's where we need your help.

In the short-term, that means helping President Obama get Congress to pass the American Jobs Act.

You've probably heard a lot about this bill already. In fact, some it's most innovative parts come from ideas that we stole from you guys right here in Georgia. So thanks for that, we owe you one

It's been three weeks since the President introduced this bill to Congress.

In that time, he's traveled across the country to make sure people know what's in it for them — more jobs, more money in your pocket and more resources to put folks back to work.

This plan has four basic components, all intended to help the unemployed, especially — the long-term unemployed — and those who have struggled to stay linked to the labor market. I want to walk you through three of those components today.

First, The American Jobs Act creates pathways back to work for Americans looking for jobs. It pushes sweeping reforms to unemployment insurance that will prevent layoffs and directly support the long-term unemployed.

We've got 6 million people who've been looking for work for more than half a year. They've waited long enough. And we've got to do a better job of linking them to the labor market. But in the meantime, we've also got to make sure that they can pay rent, put food on the table and support local businesses.

So the President wants to extend unemployment benefits so that 6 million Americans don't lose that critical lifeline. This extension would prevent more than 75,000 people here in Georgia from losing their benefits.

He wants to cut in half the payroll tax that comes out of every worker's paycheck next year. That means more money directly in people's pockets. And it means a tax cut of about $1,300 dollars for the typical household in Georgia.

The President also wants to provide additional funds to allow states to usher in programs aimed at the long-term unemployed. And look, I mentioned it earlier, but he's building on programs like "Georgia Works" that have a proven record of success.

He wants to better connect the long-term unemployed to employers — through temporary work that allows employers to bring on potential new employees and that helps the unemployed maintain or learn new skills. And he wants to free up funds to subsidize the costs of training up new workers.

The plan also prohibits employers from discriminating against unemployed workers when hiring, something that has become more common and is simply unacceptable in this country.

The President's plan also expands a program that many states already use called "work-sharing." It helps workers keep their jobs when their firm runs into a rough patch, and allows employers to temporarily reduce labor costs without laying off their staff. It's a win-win for everyone.

He wants to help states to adopt wage insurance programs that compensate older workers who take a new job for lower pay rather than having to claim unemployment benefits.

This is a plan that will give tax cuts to hundreds of thousands of small businesses so that we can hire veterans, ex-offenders and low-income youth who want to get off the streets and into good jobs. If Congress passes this bill more than 16,000 of Georgia's young people could get trained up and placed into jobs.

Second, The American Jobs Act is also a plan to put workers back on the job while rebuilding and modernizing America.

We've got 2 million construction workers who lost their jobs in the recession. If Congress passes this bill, we could put these folks back to work rebuilding our roads, bridges and schools. Construction employment in Georgia is currently 36% below where it was when the recession began in December 2007, having lost over 78,000 jobs.

The American Jobs Act would make immediate investments of more than $1 billion in Georgia alone that could support approximately 13,500 local jobs.

Third, this is a plan to keep thousands of public servants on the job.

We're laying off police officers, firefighters and teachers all across the country because state and local budgets are tough. And if we pass this jobs bill, we'll keep cops and firefighters on the job and we'll keep up to 280,000 teachers in the classroom where they belong.

This bill should be a no-brainer for Congress. The ideas in the President's plan are ideas that both Democrats and Republicans have supported in the past. There's no reason for them not to support them now.

So, that's what's in this bill. And if you think what's in it is good for you and your communities, then we need you to start talking.

We need each of you to go back to your ministry groups, workplaces and churches and tell your neighbors what's in it for them. We need each and every one of you to go home and talk to your elected officials and talk to your members of Congress. Email them, tweet them, find them on facebook, and "LinkedIn."

Everyone has a role to play. We need your help.

And I promise that we will continue to do everything we can in Washington to support and advance groups like yours. We'll continue to reach out to you, share tools and resources, connect you to one another — and to us — to make sure you have access to the services we provide.

I promise that we'll uphold the responsibilities we have to our families, to our communities and to the American family as a whole. We'll proudly join you in keeping the American tradition of looking out for one another — in upholding that fundamental belief that we are all each other's keeper.

Thank you for having me here and have a blessed day.