Las Vegas Sun

August 15, 2022

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Guest column:

Congress needs to take action on jobs measure

A majority of the U.S. Senate recently voted to advance President Barack Obama’s American Jobs Act and put nearly 2 million Americans back to work starting immediately. Unfortunately, a minority united to block the bill, even though the ideas proposed in the Jobs Act have bipartisan support — from cutting the payroll tax cut in half for 50,000 of Nevada businesses, to preventing 3,600 layoffs of Nevada teachers and first responders, to a $4,000 employer tax credit that will put the 88,000 long-term unemployed workers in Nevada back to work.

But with so many Americans out of work and so many families struggling, Nevada’s families won’t take “no” for an answer — and neither will President Obama.

Indeed, one of the most innovative components of the American Jobs Act is a new “Project Rebuild” — which, if enacted by Congress, will put Nevada construction workers to work rehabilitating homes, businesses and communities, leveraging private capital and other public-private collaborations.

Project Rebuild will create nearly 7,500 jobs in Nevada, addressing 7,000 properties and stabilizing Las Vegas home prices and neighborhoods hit hard by foreclosures.

First launched by the Bush administration in 2008, existing neighborhood stabilization efforts are on track to create nearly 90,000 jobs and address nearly 95,000 vacant and abandoned properties throughout the country.

These efforts have provided more than $25 million to Las Vegas over the past three years — helping families move in to once-foreclosed homes in hard-hit neighborhoods.

Just as importantly, they’ve provided a boost to hard-hit industries, helping keep construction workers on the job and giving real estate agents the opportunity to show and sell homes once again.

Our efforts are helping families, like that of a single mom in Las Vegas who worked for 25 years before being able to buy a home. With help from local partners and using federal funding, she bought a three-bedroom home and received $25,000 for the down payment, closing costs, and principal buy-down. As she could tell you, these efforts are not only putting vacant, abandoned properties like this one back into productive use — but also about helping put responsible families on a path to sustainable homeownership.

Project Rebuild would build on this success with a few important innovations: for example, by encouraging more private-sector participation and allowing the rehabilitation of commercial properties, while forging stronger partnerships with nonprofit organizations.

Project Rebuild is fundamentally an investment not just in hard-hit places but also in the families that have watched their home values plummet on average $5,000-$10,000 simply because they live on a block with a foreclosure sign. Its inclusion in the American Jobs Act reflects President Obama’s belief that rebuilding neighborhoods is essential to rebuilding our economy.

The American people know that the economic crisis and the deep recession weren’t created overnight — and they won’t be solved overnight either.

But with bipartisan, innovative solutions like Project Rebuild, the American Jobs Act is something that Congress can do to create more jobs and put more money in people’s pockets right now. That’s what President Obama is proposing to do, it’s what it will take to get Nevada’s economy moving again — and it’s why the time for Congress to take action is now.

Shaun Donovan is the secretary of the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department.

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