Lautenberg Pushes New WPA Bill To Create Jobs, Rebuild America

Sen. Frank Lautenberg

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In advance of President Obama’s jobs address to a Joint Session of Congress, U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) emphasized the importance of creating a 21st Century Works Progress Administration (WPA) to create jobs, lift a depressed economy and rebuild America.

The original WPA was a Depression-era program that provided almost 8 million jobs between 1935 and 1943. Unemployed Americans were put to work building roads, dams, schools and other projects, some of which remain in use today.


Lautenberg introduced the 21st Century WPA Act yesterday. The bill is cosponsored by Sens. Tom Harkin (D-IA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jack Reed (D-RI) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

“The WPA created jobs, helped save America’s economy and rebuilt our country once before and it can do it again,” said Lautenberg. “WPA jobs are a proven, battle-tested solution that can pull Americans out of unemployment and improve the economic situation we are in today. This legislation will help us rebuild America by putting jobless Americans to work modernizing our aging roads, schools and other infrastructure. The 21st Century WPA bill is a fiscally responsible solution to the jobs crisis that will not add one penny to the deficit and requires the wealthiest Americans to begin sharing in the sacrifice that is being disproportionately shouldered by the middle-class.”

Lautenberg’s “21st Century WPA Act” would:

  • award funding to economically-beneficial job creation project proposals;
  • provide businesses unable to locate a worker with suitable skills with a WPA fellow, who would receive on-the-job training from the business and be paid by the WPA;
  • provide funding to communities to improve public safety by hiring unemployed Americans as firefighters and police officers;
  • be fully paid for through a surtax on income exceeding $1 million ($2 million for joint filers); and
  • provide $250 billion for job creation over the next two years and reduce the deficit by approximately $133 billion over 10 years.

Projects awarded funding by the 21st Century WPA would have to generate a high number of jobs per dollar of total cost, contribute to economic growth after completion, and rapidly recruit needed workers from among the ranks of the unemployed.

Examples of programs that could be funded by the WPA include residential and commercial building weatherization; transportation infrastructure repair and maintenance; school, library and firehouse construction; and National Park and trail maintenance. In order to be eligible to participate, an individual would have to be unemployed for at least 60 days.

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