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Liu touts Obama jobs plan

A new report by city Comptroller John Liu suggests that President Barack Obama's jobs bill would have significant benefits for Queens.
TimesLedger Newspapers

The long-awaited American Jobs Act President Barack Obama proposed Sept. 8 will have more than a billion dollars of direct economic benefit for Queens workers, according to a new report by city Comptroller John Liu.

One of the key aspects of the $447 billion proposal would be the implementation of a $175 billion program to cut payroll taxes in half for all working Americans during 2012 through a slashing of contributions to Social Security taxes.

That payroll tax holiday is estimated to save 1,251,500 Queens workers a total of $1.1 billion for the most of any borough, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Despite the initial return of money to people’s pockets, Liu’s report said the tax cut does raise concerns, especially about how it will undercut the nation’s ability to pay for Social Security benefits.

Though the number of unemployed people in Queens fell from 178,860 in July 2009 to 99,924 in July 2011, according to the federal statistics, there is still a ways to go to get that number back down to the 58,153 people who were unemployed in July 2008 before the global market collapse.

Liu’s report projects that Obama’s jobs act will help continue that trend. Liu estimates one of the most dramatic results of the act’s implementation will be the creation or preservation of more than 50,000 jobs citywide.

The act would also prevent the layoffs of teachers and provide additional support for police officers and firefighters by allocating $700 million to help the city restore 3,700 teaching positions and maintain or increase the ranks at the FDNY and NYPD.

A mortgage refinancing program is also included in the plan and would have great benefits for city residents, Liu’s report said. Southeast Queens is one of the hardest-hit areas in the nation in terms of foreclosures.

“The program to remove barriers for home owners to refinance their mortgages at today’s historically low interest rates could provide $1.3 billion to New York City homeowners, resulting in an average annual savings of more than $6,000, or average monthly savings of $500 per borrower,” the report said.

One other major aspect of the plan is the extension of emergency unemployment benefits, but Liu’s office could not nail down exactly how much it would affect the 190,000 city residents who have been unemployed more than 26 weeks.

The report concludes by saying that though the benefits of the American Jobs Act are myriad and substantial, challenges and uncertainty still remain ahead.

“What is much less clear are which specific revenue strategies will be used to finance the tax cuts and spending measures,” the report said.

U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) issued a statement last week expressing her support for Obama’s bill.

“I urge my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to work with us, pass this bill and help address the No. 1 issue on the minds of the American people: job creation,” she said.

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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