MIAMI — Jesse Jackson, a champion of civil rights and president of the Rainbow/Push Coalition, on Monday called on government and banks to pay attention to Miami-Dade County’s residents who are in need of jobs and help dealing with foreclosures.
Jackson was in Overtown Monday to show support for residents facing economic pressures and no relief. Though the call was made for 1,000 men to march from the Longshoreman Hall in Overtown to Miami-Dade County Hall, only 50 or so men followed Jackson on the short walk.
Once at county hall, Jackson rallied the peaceful crowd, reminding them that the nation’s progress depends on its citizens’ prosperity.
“We live in one boat, and when the water comes in, we all sink,” he said.
Jackson said the recovery should be more evident in neighborhoods because there should be an infusion of cash from projects coming out of the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 – also known as the stimulus package – which passed last February.
He said mismanagement of the funds may be at the root of the problem. Florida was awarded $9 billion. So far, $2.4 billion has been distributed, and 34,966 jobs have been created, according to government self-reporting.
Marie Bertot, a spokeswoman for Miami-Dade County government, said the money has been trickling in, mostly for planning, and most of the funds are grants.
“We are aggressively pursuing those dollars,” Bertot said.
Jackson called for the federal government to make sure that the money gets to people in need.
“I charge President Obama to enlist the Department of Justice to ensure that when the money leaves Washington it gets to the right people. They need to make sure the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is not being violated, that the laws are enforced,” he said about stimulus project distribution.
Jackson said the national unemployment rate of 9.7 percent does not reflect the 20 to 25 percent unemployment rate for brown and black people, and in inner cities like Overtown and Liberty City.
“What do we need? Jobs,” Jackson asked and answered. “When do we need it? Now.”
He said that although banks were bailed out with taxpayers’ money, they are not helping taxpayers with foreclosures or loan modifications.
“Bank of America has 1.2 million loans that are eligible for modification. How many have they done? 98.”
Bank of America representatives did not respond to messages seeking comment.
The federal government has called on banks to start lending. Roderick Louis, owner of Louis Famous Foods in Overtown, said he doesn’t expect to get a loan from a bank though he needs money for his business. Louis was at the Longshoreman Hall seeking information to get a loan for the purchase of equipment for the restaurant that has been in business since 1993.
“I didn’t go to the banks because I didn’t think they would give up any money,” Louis said. “You have to bring your whole life’s history to the bank before they lend you any money.”
Photo by Khary Bruyning. Rev. Jesse Jackson