- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Mayor Vincent C. Gray signed a bill on Wednesday intended to ensure that city residents are hired to work on D.C.-funded projects as part of an “increasingly large arsenal” in the city’s fight against high unemployment.

The new law should give teeth to the District’s ability to track and enforce its First Source program — an initiative to ensure that companies receiving D.C. tax dollars hire city residents — by means of enhanced hiring and reporting requirements through the Department of Employment Services.

Spearheaded by council Chairman Kwame R. Brown, a Democrat, and council member Michael A. Brown, at-large independent, the law requires DOES to develop tougher reporting requirements within one year for projects receiving more than $5 million.

Companies receiving less than $5 million for government-assisted construction or non-construction projects must ensure that at least 51 percent of its new hires are D.C. residents.

“We are about to sign the largest jobs bill in this city’s history,” Michael A. Brown said. “It’s not going to be the silver bullet, it’s not going to change the world tomorrow, but it’s one additional step — a big step — toward making sure that we’re giving our folks who are out of work a chance to succeed.”

Mr. Gray and its council sponsors touted the measure as a “historic” effort to stem double-digit unemployment that is three times the national average in parts of the city east of the Anacostia River.

The District’s unemployment rate fell from 11 percent to 10.6 percent in November as part of a positive trend in 43 states yet it is still above the national average, which fell to 8.6 percent, according to data released Tuesday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“We believe the tide is turning in this area,” Mr. Gray said.

The mayor signed the legislation in his ceremonial office at the John A. Wilson Building before presenting the pen to DOES Director Lisa Mallory as a symbolic gesture. He also wryly remarked that “unlike any other jurisdiction in America,” the bill will not become law until Congress has had 30 days to review it.

Mr. Brown, the council chairman, said the bill fulfills promises he made in his inaugural address to pass jobs legislation and a comprehensive ethics bill, which the council approved Tuesday.

The legislation follows a Summer Youth Employment Program that finished the season under budget and a pilot program to hire D.C. residents for school-modernization projects. It also dovetails to an extent with the One City, One Hire initiative designed to put 10,000 city residents to work in one year.

Unlike One City, One Hire, a mayoral initiative loosely based on a pilot program in Atlanta, the newly signed workforce law focuses on companies that receive city dollars. Also, Mr. Gray noted the legislation creates permanent changes, while One City, One Hire could disappear at some point.

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