One of the biggest problems in the post-Katrina recovery that we found in our recent report, Blueprint for Gulf Renewal, was jobs. According to Institute analysis, there are still about 100,000 fewer jobs in the Gulf than there was pre-Katrina -- a major barrier to families trying to get home. What's more, many of the rebuilding jobs are unstable and low-paying.

It wouldn't be hard to tackle the problem. As we've mentioned before, a Gulf Coast Civic Works program could quickly put 100,000 people to work rebuilding their communities at a living wage. All for not a lot of money -- less than $4 billion, half what we spend in Iraq every month.

That's why it's encouraging to see the Gulf Coast Civic Works Act introduced by Reps Zoe Lofgren (CA), Charlie Melancon (LA) and Gene Taylor (MS)in Congress. Here's the announcement from ACORN, the RFK Memorial and Scott Meyers-Lipton, a tireless advocate of the Civic Works idea (visit his site here):

This legislation would create stronger and more equitable communities by funding and implementing critical infrastructure projects, directly creating 100,000 jobs for displaced and current residents. The bill creates partnerships to rebuild neighborhoods across the region devastated by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, including Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.

"Communities across the Gulf Coast suffer from crumbling roads and water systems, ill constructed flood protection, and closed police stations, fire house, schools and hospitals," says Stephen Bradberry, head state organizer of ACORN Louisiana, the region's largest association of low and middle income families. "We have an opportunity to jumpstart the recovery by empowering communities with the resources they need to lead."

The bill addresses the community infrastructure needs, including education, public safety and transportation, which have kept displaced families from returning. It promotes sustainable economic development by giving priority to local businesses for contracts, developing the local workforce and upgrading services while providing opportunities for returning and displaced residents to pull themselves into the middle class through living wage jobs.

"During the New Deal the federal government partnered with communities to create 4 million jobs in two months building or repairing thousands of hospitals, schools, and playgrounds through public works programs," says Dr. Scott Myers-Lipton, San Jose State professor and Gulf Coast Civic Works Project organizer. "This is exactly what the Gulf Coast now needs."

You can find a bill summary here (pdf). For a full text of the legislation, visit here (pdf).