Jackson Becomes New HUD Secretary
Alphonso Jackson was recently sworn in as secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Jackson had been serving as acting HUD secretary since December, when then-Secretary Mel Martinez left to run for the Senate from Florida. Before that Jackson had served for three years as HUD’s deputy secretary. Prior to his federal experience, he was director of public housing authorities in St. Louis, Washington, DC, and Dallas.
Still, during the swearing-in ceremony held April 1, Jackson described his top goals as increasing affordable housing and expanding homeownership, particularly among minorities.
Jackson said he believes that “we best serve our neighbors in need by empowering them to pursue their dreams.”
New Program Begins for Incarcerated Veterans
Veterans who are coming out of prison now have a way to integrate back into society through the Incarcerated Veterans Transition Program.
The initiative was kicked off in March, with nonprofits in four cities across the country receiving $250,000 each to set up projects that will help incarcerated veterans successfully reenter society.
Each project will provide veterans who are within 18 months of release with career counseling, employment training, job search and job placement assistance, and life-skills development.
Frederico Juarbe Jr., the assistant secretary of labor for veterans’ employment and training, said that this reentry program is especially important because all too often formerly incarcerated people, particularly veterans, end up homeless once they leave prison. And the main reason many of these veterans are homeless is that they did not know how to adjust to life outside the confines of prison or the military.
More than 25% of the homeless population on any given night, or about 300,000 people, are veterans, compared to the 15% of the adult population that have served in the military. And though there are no statistics, a great number of homeless men have been incarcerated and are on the streets because of the many obstacles faced by ex-offenders seeking employment and housing.
Living Wage Bill Passes Maryland Legislature
Maryland has become the first state to establish living-wage requirements for government contractors.
At the beginning of April the state senate voted 30 to 15 to pass a bill that would require companies with contracts of $100,000 or more to pay their workers at least $10.50 an hour, or $21,000 a year, for fiscal year 2005. This is more than twice the current minimum wage of $5.15 an hour.
At the beginning of each fiscal year, wages covered by this bill would be adjusted based on the Consumer Price Index.
The bill’s two-thirds majority in the senate would survive a veto by Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich. It is nearly guaranteed that the bill will become a law.
While more than 100 jurisdictions, including Maryland’s Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, have living-wage requirements for contractors, Maryland is the first state to pass such a measure. (In 1994, Baltimore was the first city in the country to pass a living-wage law for government contractors.)
Although the Maryland legislation applies only to government contractors, living-wage advocates say that this requirement would likely cause other companies competing for similar employees to increase their minimum salaries.