Mayor John Cranley plans to address the city’s long-term unemployment problems with a set of new initiatives, some of which could get support from the White House, he told CityBeat on Jan. 30.
One of the initiatives is in direct response to President Barack Obama’s call, heard by millions during the State of the Union, to get private companies on board with ending discrimination against the long-term unemployed.
Specifically, Cranley says he helped get Procter & Gamble and other local companies to agree to join the president’s initiative.
“It wasn’t that hard to sell them on it, but they’ve got a lot of things going on,” Cranley says. “Getting their attention and focus on these things is one of the great powers that I have.”
Cranley visited the White House on Jan. 31 to discuss long-term unemployment with the president and his staff. He hopes his quick response to Obama’s call could help the city land future federal grants for programs that address long-term unemployment.
As an example, Cranley points to a new White House initiative that asks cities to develop innovative pilot programs that help the long-term unemployed. The initiative will award federal grants, which Cranley estimates at a couple million dollars per city, to the 10 best proposals.
In preparation, the city is partnering with several local organizations, including the Workforce Investment Board and United Way of Greater Cincinnati, to develop a unique plan. How the city’s proposal looks ultimately depends on the constraints set by the application requirements, but Cranley cited more educational opportunities and subsidies for companies that hire the long-term unemployed as two examples cities might undertake.
The proposal, however it looks, would come in addition to Cranley’s Hand Up Initiative, which he plans to fund through this year’s city budget. As part of the initiative, the city will first partner with Cincinnati Cooks, Cincinnati Works and Solid Opportunities for Advancement and Retention (SOAR) to provide more job training opportunities. Participants who graduate from those programs can then apply to the Transitional Jobs Program, which provides short-term, part-time work opportunities to people as they look for long-term, full-time jobs.
The initiative will begin as a pilot program for the first two years, but it could eventually expand with more partnerships and job training opportunities, according to Cranley.
If successfully carried out, Cranley’s proposals could help break the long-term unemployment trends that keep so many Americans jobless in the first place.
In one study, Rand Ghayad of Northeastern University sent out 4,800 fake resumes for 600 job openings. Ghayad found people who had been out of work for six months or more very rarely got called back, even in comparison to applicants without work experience who were unemployed for shorter periods of time.
In other words, diminishing the discrimination on the employer’s side or ongoing joblessness on the potential employee’s side could be enough to land more people in jobs.
A proper solution to the issue could also go a long way to picking up the nation’s sluggish job market. By the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ estimate, nearly 38 percent of the unemployed in December had been unemployed for 27 weeks or longer — the highest rate in six decades. In comparison, the rate was below 20 percent prior to the recession.
For Cranley, the initiatives also present an opportunity to address Cincinnati’s abhorrent poverty rates by giving people a chance to obtain better-paying jobs.
“In the end, we want a city that isn’t just good for future residents,” Cranley says, referencing ongoing economic trends that might benefit future Cincinnatians. “We need a city solution that grows the capacity and builds the opportunities for residents who are already here and families that are already dealing with poverty.”