JUNE 19, 2017

As prepared for delivery. The speaker may add or subtract comments during his presentation.

Thank you and welcome to HUD. And I'd like to thank Karen Newton Cole and her staff for all their hard work. You have excelled in making this event informative for all of us.

And thank you for that film. Jacqueline Iverson shows us the power of the human spirit, how adversity does not crush some people. She did not give up! Jacqueline obtained a VASH certificate and used her recovery to plan the next step. She started walking the path back, working with other veterans who also confront cancer. I hope you will join me in thanking her for her example and her inspiration. Jacqueline, would you please stand up.

Jacqueline knows, and all of you know, that small business ownership is personal. But that is why it is such a creative force, the source of our ideas and productivity, and the engine that drives the economy.

Small businesses and HUD can work together. The last SBA scorecard gave our collaborative efforts - yours and mine - an "A+". That's right .... top marks. Small businesses and HUD have a history of helping each other serve the American people.

Small businesses remain essential for our work. Small businesses make up the neighborhoods in which public housing residents live. Our residents often find work with a small business, and these businesses are the place where residents buy the necessities of life. We must continue to support businesses that play such an integral role in the lives of many.

Many of you know about our Section 3 program. The program requires that recipients of certain HUD financial assistance, to the greatest extent possible, provide job training, employment, and contract opportunities for low- or very-low income residents with projects and activities in their neighborhoods.

The idea is to find jobs for people receiving public assistance. This helps them out of poverty and relieves the taxpayer. Of course, we want to protect the vulnerable, the old, the sick, and the disabled. But our efforts must also include a way back from public assistance to financial self-sufficiency. There must be a chance to rejoin the economy.

We've seen the program succeed when businesses provide leadership and opportunities to those in need. And, some of the public housing authorities have been very dynamic in compiling directories of available jobs, and creating a roadmap toward employment and self-sufficiency.

But we can do more. At HUD, there is a proposed rule to revamp Section 3. We want to expand the number of small businesses involved and remove some of the burdensome regulations and rules that hinder hiring. We want to work with high schools, school boards, community colleges, and other educational institutions to provide the skills necessary for available jobs.

The Wall Street Journal reported last Monday (June 12, 2017) that there is "an increasing mismatch" between skills and available jobs, with more than 30 percent of small businesses indicating that they have at least one hard to fill job, the highest rate in over 15 years. It is explained by a theorem economists call the "Beveridge Curve." As unemployment declines, some skilled jobs become harder to fill. That is happening in our economy. We now have a pool of potential workers, but they need direction, and they need the right skills for the market. So, we must do more with public housing authorities to match residents with available jobs. The jobs are there - in construction, technology, finance, commerce, and trade. Section 3 can be a path forward - the road to self-sufficiency. We must re-fashion the program to work as intended.

It can be a powerful catalyst. Years ago, there was a small business owner who came from the New York City Housing Authority. He knew that a job and an education were the way out. So, he went to college. Then he found a job. Then, he started a small business in Seattle with a dream. Now, Starbuck's is a global reality.

You may think Howard Schultz is just one example. But Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor came from public housing. So, did Elvis Presley and President Jimmy Carter, Jay-Z and Kenny Rogers. Mr. T came from public housing. So did P. Diddy. There is a wealth of talent out there, if given a chance ... a choice ... a way out.

Your employees may be a potential global force. But even if they don't become multinational, they make a difference in their own way. With a job and a check.

And that's why I am pleased to see you today. I strongly encourage you to hire employees who come from public housing. You have the power to make a difference. A job is empowerment. It is the way forward. It also provides dignity, an affirmation of self-worth. A job is respected in the family and in the community. So, your decision could be transformative. You will receive a good employee, someone who knows the value of the job. You will attract trade from public housing. You will establish linkages with neighbors and new friends. Your actions will ripple out and powerfully touch the community. Again, thank you for coming.


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