Share this story
Close X
Switch to Desktop Site

Jobs bill gets finishing touches, with extra dole for some states

Congress this week is taking a break from two years of chopping and slicing at domestic spending. Responding to the nation's 11.5 million unemployed, it is completing work on a $4.65 billion measure for jobs and recession relief which appears to have the blessing of the White House.

As it finally emerged from a House-Senate conference, the bill is leaner than the versions passed by either chamber and is reported to be small enough to win President Reagan's signature.

About these ads

The anti-recession measure would pour billions of federal dollars into public-service and public-works bills, and provide $375 million in emergency food and shelter for the needy and jobless.

The legislation also includes, in a separate provision, $5 billion to shore up unemployment funds in states that are running short of money to pay benefits. Funds in about half the states have fallen so low that unemployment checks would have been halted this week without the federal aid.

Despite the fanfare that has surrounded this first congressional effort to pump up the economy, even supporters have conceded that it will make only a small dent in unemployment. House Democrats are already laying plans for ''Jobs II'' and ''Jobs III'' plans that would cost some $20 billion more.

However, proponents of bigger programs may have difficulty passing more ambitious programs if the economy continues to show signs of improvement. After the Senate Appropriations Committee drew up its jobs bill earlier this month, chairman Mark O. Hatfield (R) of Oregon remarked that he has seen the pressure ease since December.

This first major legislation of the new Congress would create an undetermined number of jobs, perhaps as high as 1 million part-time positions. The bill would also attempt to target much of the money to areas with the highest unemployment.

Meanwhile, the emergency jobs bill gives Congress an opportunity to perform one of its favorite tasks, handing out federal funds to the towns, cities, and states it represents. Although much of funding would go out under formulas to various localities, prominent lawmakers managed to earmark a portion for pet projects.

Among the most obvious examples are those in the transportation area. The lawmakers left in the bill $33 million for a ''highway demonstration'' project that is widely held to be tailored for the Mississippi district of Rep. Jamie L. Whitten (D), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, which wrote the bill.

About these ads

Mass-transit projects, all traceable to influential House members, had been deleted on the House floor on a motion by Rep. James J. Howard (D) of New Jersey. The House-Senate conference restored most of those projects. It also added a new item, $20 million for mass transit in Mr. Howard's state.

Lawmakers recognize that itemizing projects opens the door to ''pork barrel'' charges, but Sen. Mark Andrews (R) of North Dakota defended the practice during the House-Senate conference. ''Either we do some earmarking or we leave it to the bureaucrats downtown.''

The final bill responds to pressure from women's groups by allowing up to half of $1 billion in Community Development Block Grants to go for social-service jobs such as day care, which employ high numbers of women.

It bill also includes $500 million for water and flood control, despite criticism from environmentalists that the money might go to controversial projects.

Follow Stories Like This
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.