Friday, February 19, 2010

Secretary LaHood announces $50 million for Missouri’s Fifth District – 4,569 jobs

Secretary Ray LaHood and Congressman Cleaver announce $50 million TIGER grant to the Mid-America Regional Council for Green Impact Zone and Regional Transit

TIGER roared into town on Wednesday, when I was proud to join U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood to announce that the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) received $50 million as part of the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) Discretionary Grant program. This money will create 4,569 jobs while providing neighborhood improvements in the Green Impact Zone of Missouri and key transit connections from the urban core to the rest of the Metropolitan area including Independence.

Last summer President Obama hailed the Green Impact Zone for “transforming a low-income community into a national model of sustainability by weatherizing homes and building a green local transit system.” Now the administration’s support of the concept is coming to fruition.

Within the Green Impact Zone, sidewalks will be constructed and repaired, street lighting improved, curbs installed and streets rehabilitated. At 39th & Prospect, bus turnarounds and shelters are planned to create a safer and more comfortable environment for residents waiting to board buses. Work will begin this spring on reconstruction of the Troost Bridge over Brush Creek which received money as part of this grant. In addition, funds are allocated for traffic signal upgrades throughout the Green Impact Zone.

This is the largest investment in infrastructure on the east side of Troost since the Bruce R. Watkins Drive and Brush Creek projects. It is far past time that these neighborhoods get what many other neighborhoods take for granted: well lit streets, curbs, roads that aren’t falling apart and sidewalks where their kids can play safely. These are essential building blocks for neighborhoods that are stable and sound. We are about 40 years overdue in installing these essentials in the urban core. With this money we will start to make amends for that injustice and put people back to work.

As Secretary LaHood said, “TIGER grants will tackle the kind of major transportation projects that have been difficult to build under other funding programs. This will help us meet the 21st century challenges of improving the environment, making our communities more livable and enhancing safety, all while creating jobs and growing the economy.”

In addition to the $26.2 million allocated to the Green Impact Zone, the TIGER award will invest millions in improved transit connections throughout the region, focused on connected urban core residents to jobs in a safe reliable way. These investments will include replacing two aging transit centers in the State Avenue corridor in Kansas City and approximately 80 bus-stop and related pedestrian improvements in the urban corridor network. The investments will focus on urban core revitalization, reinvestment to increase population and job growth. These projects will build on the success of the cost-effective bus rapid transit (BRT) service introduced on Main Street called MAX (Metro Area Express). The region’s second BRT corridor, Troost Avenue, is fully funded and currently under construction thanks to earmarks I was fortunate to have already secured.

Secretary LaHood told the crowd Wednesday that we should be very proud of our application as this was one of the most competitive grants in the entire recovery package. I can say we are very happy to be one of the 51 funded out of the more than 1400 submitted.

The Kansas City regional project was selected from more than $60 billion in requests submitted to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Awards throughout the country totaled $1.5 billion. The Kansas City Regional TIGER application will be administered by the Mid-America Regional Council. The TIGER program required that projects be shovel ready and be able to generate short- and long-term economic impacts, generate added outcomes of livability, promote safety, and involve innovative technology and financing.

The Department’s selections were based on the ability of projects to provide economic benefits, improve safety and the condition of the existing transportation system, increase quality of life, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and demonstrate strong collaboration among a broad range of participants. Congratulations to all …now let’s go put some people to work!

Federal contracts for our small and minority businesses

Continuing an exciting week focused on job creation, at my request, Chairman Bennie Thompson (MS-2) and the Homeland Security Committee staff were at Penn Valley Community College today. The capacity event focused on helping small and minority-owned businesses learn how to do business with the Department of Homeland Security.

The Chairman and I, along with 150 business owners, spent the day with one focus: connecting federal prime contractors looking for sub-contractors with local businesses looking for work.

One of the best moves I made after my election to Congress was to speak with the Speaker of the House about an appointment to the House Homeland Security Committee. I wanted an opportunity to work with this panel, and devote my time to the incredibly important agenda set forth by this Committee. In 2005, the Homeland Security Committee was made a permanent committee, and was given jurisdiction of Congressional oversight for the Department of Homeland Security. In his role as Chair, Bennie Thompson has unapologetically and repeatedly demanded that the major contractors of that huge Department, which spend billions of dollars annually with vendors, spread the dollars among small and minority businesses. This is about connecting federal dollars to local jobs and I was proud to host the Chairman.

This was truly a unique experience. We had 15 federal department procurement chiefs in one place talking to small businesses from our community. This never happens outside of Washington, D.C. and I am happy to say, because of today’s success there will be many more sessions like this.

Before today, exactly zero businesses in the Fifth District had contracts to do work for the Department of Homeland Security. As I told the crowd and the federal officials assembled, if the conversations and instruction that happened today do not lead to money contracts for Fifth District businesses, I am going to be one unhappy committee Member. We can do the work required and I hope now our businesses are first in line.

FEC Receives $5 Million Grant for Health Care Jobs

U.S. Congressman Emanuel Cleaver (left), and FEC President and CEO Clyde McQueen (right) held a news conference last Friday announcing a major grant of nearly 5 million dollars coming to the metro. The two shook hands after announcing this will add more jobs and training in the healthcare field for the metro. (Picture from KC Hispanic News)

Reprinted from KC Hispanic News

By Joe Arce and Debra DeCoster
FEBRUARY 18, 2010

Health care is a profession that is growing. As the population ages, predictions are that our society will need a large staff of health care workers to assist people who are living in managed care facilities, nursing homes, or who are in hospital. As the senior population grows, our society will have to have a growing workforce to care for their needs.

Last week, the federal government awarded a grant to the Kansas City Full Employment Council (FEC) to train the unemployed and under-employed for jobs in the health care field. “I was on the phone with Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis and she was very excited about making the announcement that a significant grant was coming to Kansas City,” said Congressman Emanuel Cleaver.

The FEC was awarded $5 million in stimulus money for a new program to train individuals in the health care industry. The FEC received one of 55 awards that were given nationally. “It was awarded competitively which means that the proposal developed by Clyde McQueen and his staff was superior to just about every other proposal in the country, and when you look at the proposal that was developed and the inclusiveness you can understand why it caught the attention of the federal government,” said Cleaver.

The grant is part of the Recovery Act Initiative to fund workplace development projects that promote economic growth by preparing workers for careers.

Although the FEC received the grant it is a bi-state program that will be available to those in Missouri and Kansas. The Labor Department awarded $200 million in health care and high growth stimulus grants last week.

The stimulus money is good news to citizens in Missouri as the FEC is beginning to take names of people who are interested in enrolling in the training program for future health care professionals.

“We have a lot of people who are aging and going into managed care facilities and we are trying to address that. We have the Kansas City region, it is known primarily as a major health care hub and we want to meet those needs, and most important, it is going to be a focus for all the unemployed in our region and this is a way for us to train them for the long term,” said Clyde McQueen, FEC CEO.

The training courses for health care jobs will be on demand courses. Individuals wishing to take the course will not have to wait for a semester to begin.

The time line for the courses will depend on the health care field the individual would like to enter. As a phlebotomist or a medical technician it could take six to twelve weeks for training. A person who is currently an LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse) and would like to become an RN (Registered Nurse) training could take two years.

The stimulus money will also help individuals that want a health care career with tuition. “We know that some people will have problems trying to keep their rent up or trying to figure out how they will pay their bills and care for their children. The bulk of the grant money will go to tuition payments for college or vocational schools,” said McQueen.

“This is a high growth area. What the labor department is doing is pumping $226 million into high growth areas. It doesn’t make sense for us to put money into something that is not going to be growing in the future. As Americans live longer there is going to be a greater need for health care workers and that is exactly what this project will do,” stated Cleaver.

Grant recipients are expected to work in conjunction with a diverse range of partners, including labor organizations, employers and workforce investment boards. The FEC has joined with partners Kansas City Metropolitan Health Care Council, the Kansas City Area Nurse Executives, the Kansas City Greater Chamber of Commerce, Health Care Foundation of Kansas City, the Collegiate Nurse Educators of Kansas City, and the United Services Community Action Agency Work Force and the Work Force Investment Board of Kansas City Local Area 3, along with the metropolitan area community colleges, to get the health care program rolling within a month of receiving the grant. Training will be conducted locally and it is tied to jobs that will be available to individuals entering the health care field.

“We have employers who have said we have jobs and we need to have people to meet the jobs that we have. We have employers identified, we just need to get people trained to enter the health care field,” said McQueen.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A special invitation

One of the best moves I made after my election to Congress was to speak with the Speaker of the House about an appointment to the House Homeland Security Committee. I wanted an opportunity to work with this panel, and devote my time to the incredibly important agenda set forth by this Committee. In 2005, the Homeland Security Committee was made a permanent committee, and was given jurisdiction of Congressional oversight for the Department of Homeland Security. In his role as Chair, Bennie Thompson has unapologetically and repeatedly demanded that the major contractors of that huge Department which spends billions of dollars annually with vendors, spread the dollars among small and minority businesses.

On Friday, February 19, Chairman Bennie Thompson and the Committee staff, at my invitation, will visit the Fifth Congressional District of Missouri. You are invited to attend and participate in a workshop on how to do business with the Department of Homeland Security. The event is being held at the Penn Valley Campus of the Metropolitan Community College. It will begin at 9am, with a complimentary luncheon at 12:30pm, followed by the resumption of the workshop from 1:15pm to 2:30pm.

In order us to assure a place for you at this Congressional event, please register here or email your confirmation to For further information, please call my Kansas City office at 816-842-4545 or my Washington, DC office at 202-225-4545.

Click here to go directly to the registration form >>>

Friday, February 05, 2010

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

This morning, the Department of Labor released its unemployment report for January showing the unemployment rate improved slightly. The rate may have dropped, but the economy is still not producing a net gain in jobs. So, while a step in the right direction, these numbers are nothing to beat our chest about. There is far more to do. House has already passed a job creation bill and the Senate is debating additional measures. That too is progress. Here are a few press clips that have come across my desk in the last few days:
  • According to today’s report from the Department of Labor, the unemployment rate for January was 9.7%, a slight improvement over December’s rate of 10%. And while the country lost 20,000 jobs in January, “aside from November's gain, January's job losses were the smallest since the recession began.” Today’s report included other indications that America continues on a path to economic recovery: “The report included more good news from the manufacturing sector, which is a key factor in the recovery. Manufacturers gained 11,000 jobs, its largest increase since April 2006. Retailers added 42,100 jobs, the most since November 2007, before the recession began. Temporary help services gained 52,000 jobs, the fourth month of gains in that category. That could signal future hiring, as employers usually hire temp workers before permanent ones.” [Associated Press, 2/5/2010]
  • President Obama announced plans for a new program to encourage small business lending, another important step in efforts to help businesses create jobs. “The administration's proposal would invest $30 billion from the government's Troubled Asset Relief Program in community banks to encourage them to lend to small businesses.... The lending program is part of a broad package of jobs-growth proposals that Congress will consider in coming days.” [Wall Street Journal, 2/3/2010]
  • A manufacturing report from the Institute for Supply Management indicates the U.S. economy is recovering: “a new survey showed that banks have stopped making it tougher for consumers and businesses to borrow, and manufacturing activity climbed to its highest levels in five years…. With manufacturing activity at its highest point since August 2004 and continued month-to-month gains, the sector's recovery appears more sustainable than many economists predicted just a few months ago. That bodes well for the overall economy.” [Wall Street Journal, 2/2/2010]
  • A report released by the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board indicates that the Recovery Act created 600,000 jobs in the last 3 months of 2009, “a figure in line with the administration's goals for job creation through the end of 2010.” [Washington Post, 2/1/10; White House, 1/6/10]
So the good news is that unemployment fell and temporary employment increased, which is a good sign for future job growth. This slowing of labor market losses, combined with last week’s positive GDP figures, all point to an economy that is beginning to recover. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that 20,000 jobs were still lost last month.

And the downright ugly news is that the deepest part of this recession, was even deeper than analysts thought. The reports show that the economy lost over 1 million more jobs during the recession than previously estimated. Over 14 million Americans are out of work, there are six job seekers for every available job, and 4 in 10 unemployed workers have been searching for a new job for at least six months.


In the list of odd terms thrown around the halls of Congress, the word PAYGO has been used so much that many forget what it stands for. Yesterday, the House voted to put in statute the “Pay-As-You-Go” rule.

As a bipartisan fiscal responsibility group put it: ‘PAYGO requires anyone proposing tax cuts or entitlement expansions to answer the question: ‘How would you pay for it?’ Going through this process would force an explicit trade-off between spending, taxes and debt, which is exactly the priority-setting exercise that the budget process should facilitate.’

A New York Times analysis found that 90% of our deficit is due to the policies of the previous administration, the extension of those policies, and the economic downturn. But, this is our mess now, and as was proven in the Clinton administration, PAYGO is a proven deficit-cutting tool.

Under President Clinton, PAYGO helped turn record deficits into a $5.6 trillion projected surplus over ten years. PAYGO was allowed to expire under the previous administration when my friends in the other party controlled the Congress. This led to a series of bills like the Prescription drug benefit or tax cuts for the wealthy that were passed without a single dime to pay for them. My colleagues and I in the House have been obeying PAYGO since 2006.

It is not the perfect solution, but it is a substantial step in the right direction. PAYGO can’t get us out of our fiscal hole, but it can keep us from digging it any further.

It was once again sobering that we had to raise the debt ceiling yesterday and many rushed to the floor to complain about how high our debt was. It is simply not enough to complain. We have to actually do something to control spending.

For more about PAYGO my friend Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (MD-5) has put together an informative video on the policy >>>