WORKFORCE INVESTMENT FUNDS IN JEOPARDY
The New York City Council’s General Welfare Committee held hearings in March on the nearly $200 million in federal aid for job training programs that the city has failed to spend and risks losing. It called for immediate action to create job opportunities for New Yorkers hit by the recession and the effects of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Under the Federal Workforce Investment Act (WIA), the city receives over $125 million a year to invest in workforce development programs. However, as of last Sept. 30, 2001, $78 million of the funds from 2000 had not been spent and must be returned if they are not spent by June 30, 2002. Another $115 million will be lost in July 2003 if the city does not spend the balance. Furthermore, the Bush administration has projected cutting future WIA aid, partly as a result of New York City’s inability to utilize the funds.
The Workforce Investment Act was created in 1998 to consolidate several federal job-training programs. New York has received nearly $300 million in WIA funds since then, but was slow to design and implement programs to use the funds. “We cannot afford to leave this money on the table in a time of crisis,” said Councilmember Bill deBlasio, who chairs the General Welfare Committee. “With massive budget cutting and large job losses, the city must immediately take steps to use these funds.”
HOUSE APPROVES BILL TO EXTEND JOBLESS AID
The House of Representatives and Senate passed an economic stimulus bill that will extend unemployment benefits and cut taxes on business. This bill will extend regular 26-week jobless benefits by 13 weeks and allow for additional automatic extensions in states with high unemployment rates. It would also give businesses an immediate 30 percent tax write-off on new plants and equipment, let them deduct current losses from past tax payments more easily, and extend a list of other popular tax breaks that have expired or are expected to expire this year. Congressional analysts estimate that the legislation would pump $51 billion into the economy this year, $43 billion next year and $29 billion in 2004.
The New York State AFL-CIO, one of the strongest proponents of the legislation, points out that the fight is not over. The State Federation is still pushing for an extension of benefits for individuals who qualify for Disaster Unemployment Assistance.
HELP HALT PRESCRIPTION DRUG COST
The National Prescription Access Litigation (PAL) Project is looking for people who have taken either Relafen for arthritis or Zoladex for prostate cancer and are willing to serve as plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit challenging the excessively high pricing of these prescription drugs. See PAL’s web site for more information, at www.prescriptionaccesslitigation.org.
SERRRANO TO HEAD CULTURAL AFFAIRS COMMITTEE
Councilmember Jose M. Serrano has been appointed chair of the Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations. At the committee’s first meeting on Feb. 19, Serrano told of his many years in the arts community and his belief in the value of the arts and cultural institutions in our daily lives, and the opportunity that arts opens up for positive self-expression and education. “The arts are an investment in our children. They are also an investment in our city’s economy. New York is the cultural center of the world, and many from all over the world come here and spend money for that very reason,” Serrano said. “Our investment in the arts is an economic stimulus. By keeping the arts viable and growing, we make this city more attractive to the tourists who will spend much needed dollars in our city.”
STATE LEGISLATURE COMMITTEE CHANGES
New York State Senator Nicholas Spano, who chaired the New York State Labor Committee for many years, has been appointed chair of the Taxation and Investigations Committee. The Labor Committee will be headed by Senator Guy Velella. State Assemblymember Peter Abbate is the new chair of the Civil Service and Pension Committee. Local 802 looks forward to continued work with these elected officials in their new capacities. Assemblymember Ed Sullivan of Manhattan, a strong supporter of the arts, is not expected to seek re-election this year. Among the candidates who have emerged to run for this seat are Danny O’Donnell, Larry Hirsch, Marc Landis and Steve Russo.