A newly proposed federal rule change by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) would enable local governments to invest in their communities by lifting a harmful ban that bars them from ensuring federal dollars support good job opportunities for their residents. This week, nearly 40 local elected officials across the country sent a comment letter to OMB vehemently supporting the rule change.
For years, localities have pioneered local and targeted hire programs to ensure that federal dollars support job opportunities for residents, particularly for those most impacted by job insecurity. These programs continue to be enormously successful nationwide – from San Francisco, Seattle, and New Orleans to Baltimore, Washington, DC, and many more.
In 2010, San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos – together with a community labor coalition – passed one of the first mandatory local hire requirements for city-funded construction projects. In its first year, the San Francisco program increased local hiring by 14% and brought hundreds of millions of dollars into the hands of local workers over the last decade.
“Many said it couldn’t be done,” Avalos said. “But our coalition of community, faith-based, and labor organizations overcame legal and political obstacles to pass and implement a robust local hire program which has transformed the lives of thousands of young people of color, their communities, their families and their neighborhoods.”
Baltimore City Councilmember Kris Burnett reflected on the impact local hire laws had on his city. “My grandfather found work building the Inner Harbor, our key infrastructure of the previous generation, which gave economic stability to my family,” he said. “Baltimore residents see our aging infrastructure and want the opportunity to work on new projects, and ensure that our public spending benefits our local community.”
Despite the demonstrated success of these local and targeted hire programs nationwide, local governments are barred from applying them to federally-funded projects because of an old Regan administration rule. It’s abundantly clear that these robust local programs are ready to be applied to a larger number of projects which receive federal funding. That’s why after beginning to lift the ban for some projects funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, OMB proposed the rule change to permanently lift the ban going forward.
This rule change would be transformative for local governments across the country, but most importantly, for the communities they serve. The 37 Local Progress members supporting this rule change said it best:
“Taken together, these updates will substantially increase the ability of state and local agencies to use their procurement processes to create fulfilling, safe, high-road jobs for workers in their communities – especially for people of color, women, returning citizens, veterans, and other workers facing barriers to employment.”
In short, this rule change would allow local governments to further invest in their communities. That’s something we can all get behind.