Senator Coons, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, was interviewed on the BBC World Service's NewsHour program Tuesday about the status of nearly 300 girls kidnapped by terrorists in northern Nigeria. He described the Nigerian government's slow and inadequate response to the abductions as "shameful" and expressed his relief that Nigeria's president had finally accepted American offers of assistance. Listen below:
Photo credit: Evan Krape, University of Delaware
Senator Coons, along with members of the Delaware Bankers Association, visited with 4th grade students from Shortlidge Elementary School as part of the 16th annual Teach Children to Save Day. Chris joined Mrs. Mahotiere’s class and read from the book The Great Investo and The Secret Saver.
The Teach Children to Save program is a state-wide outreach program sponsored by a partnership of the Center for Economic Education & Entrepreneurship and the Delaware Bankers Association. The goal of the program is to draw attention to the importance of teaching children about saving at an early age. The program is held in April as part of Financial Literacy Month. More than 285 volunteer bankers are visiting 92 schools this week to teach a lesson on saving using the Great Investo book.
This year’s Teach Children to Save Day lesson is based off Greg Koseluk’s new book The Great Investo and the Secret Saver. The book was written and illustrated by Koseluk, a member of the Delaware Bankers Association. Koseluk created the book specifically for the 2014 Teach Children to Save Day event with the assistance of a grant from Capital One.
Energy poverty is one of the most significant challenges facing Africa today. Seventy percent of Sub-Saharan Africans – and 85 percent of those living rural areas – are currently living without access to electricity.
Pervasive energy poverty undermines economic growth and development goals in health, education, and institution-building across the continent. Businesses have repeatedly cited the lack of reliable energy access in Sub-Saharan Africa as a more significant impediment to doing business than corruption, access to capital, and other challenges. More than 90 million schoolchildren across the continent lack access to this basic educational resource and 30 percent of health facilities are without electricity. Toxic fumes from kerosene – the chemical used to light homes – lead to more than 3 million deaths per year, more than HIV/AIDs and malaria combined.
The Power Africa initiative, launched by President Obama in June 2013, seeks to double the number of individuals with access to electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa by producing at least 10,000 megawatts of more efficient, cost effective, and sustainable electricity generation capacity on the continent. By 2020, it aims to increase electricity access for at least 20 million new households and commercial entities, enhance the energy resource management capabilities of partner countries, and increase regional cross-border energy trade.
To achieve these goals, the U.S. government and private sector have made approximately $20 billion in commitments to expanding energy access and generation across Sub-Saharan Africa in the next five years, especially in the six Power Africa focus countries – Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, and Ethiopia.
Senator Coons, chair of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, will chair a hearing on Thursday to examine questions surrounding Power Africa’s scope, implementation and sustainability. The hearing will feature testimony from witnesses leading Power Africa’s implementation, including USAID Assistant Administrator for Africa Earl Gast, OPIC Executive Vice President Mimi Alemayehou, and Ex-Im Africa Director Rick Angiuoni. Additional witnesses include Tony Elumelu, Chairman of Heirs Holdings and Founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation; Paul Hinks, CEO of Symbion Power; Del Renigar, Senior Council for Global Government Affairs Policy for General Electric; and Tom Hart, U.S. Executive Director of the ONE Campaign. Their testimony will help to inform the Foreign Relations Committee’s future consideration of legislation to provide congressional authorization for Power Africa.
The hearing will be held Thursday, March 27 at 10:30 a.m. in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing Room, 419 Dirksen Senate Office Building. Click here to view a live webcast of the hearing.
Senator Coons questioned Secretary of State John Kerry about funding for the Power Africa initiative at a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations earlier this month. Click here to watch their exchange.
Senator Coons joined leaders from the University of Delaware Thursday to announce new legislation designed to boost STEM education and help universities prepare students for careers in innovation and advanced manufacturing. The Manufacturing Universities Act of 2014 would award competitive grants to 25 designated ‘manufacturing universities,’ to better align educational offerings with the needs of modern manufacturers.
“The entire lifecycle of innovation, skills, and creativity in manufacturing has to include universities,” Senator Coons said. “Universities have a central role to play in continuing the cycle of innovation that is essential if American manufacturing is to continue its current recovery. Over the last three years, our economy has regained 600,000 manufacturing jobs, but hundreds of thousands more remain unfilled because there aren’t enough appropriately skilled and trained process engineers, mechanical engineers, and chemical engineers to keep that innovation going.”
Grants of $5 million per year, for a four-year period, will help universities revamp their engineering programs to emphasize manufacturing skills, incentivize partnerships with local manufacturers, increase internship and cooperative education opportunities for students, and help more recent graduates launch new manufacturing businesses.
“We want more students graduating with the skills they need to thrive in the 21st century manufacturing environment, and we want more of our universities orienting themselves toward this field where we can win, our communities can win, and our country can win.”
Following the announcement Senator Coons visited with biochemistry students and faculty at UD’s Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Laboratory (ISE Lab) to demonstrate a chemical reaction and discuss the importance of STEM education.
The smartest investment Congress can make is in American workers — whether they currently have a job or not.
Although we’ve come a long way since the depths of the Great Recession, there’s still more we can and must do to help our small businesses grow and create jobs. Americans continue to face a tough job market and too many of our neighbors have been out of work for a long time.
At a minimum, we must do more to help unemployed Americans stay afloat as they look for work. That’s why this week, like I did several times last month, I voted to extend emergency unemployment insurance benefits for the 1.7 million Americans and 4,300 Delawareans who have been jobless for more than 26 weeks – and whose benefits expired at the end of December. They’re folks who were laid off through no fault of their own because of the Great Recession. They’ve worked for much of their lives and paid into the system, and they deserve our support as they work to get back on their feet.
We need to stand with our job-seeking neighbors, and yesterday I spoke on the Senate floor on their behalf. Click here to take a look and to share your own opinion on helping out-of-work Delawareans.
As I argued on the floor, unemployment insurance is a critical lifeline to Americans looking for work – keeping families from falling into poverty and providing needed support to our economy at the same time.
Renewing emergency unemployment insurance, though, should only be the start of our work. If we want to grow our economy and our middle class, Washington needs to renew its focus on helping our manufacturers grow and create jobs.
We need to make sure that at every level, we’re training Americans for the needs of the modern economy. Investing in American workers is how we’ll be able to rebuild our middle class and ensure that our nation can compete over the long-term. By modernizing our education system and building partnerships between our schools and our businesses, we can ensure that our workers have the skills employers need today and tomorrow.
The best way to help our job-seeking neighbors is to grow our economy and create jobs. Click here to learn more about how I propose to do that and let me know what you think.
I’m doing everything I can to help businesses create jobs in Delaware, but I can’t do it without you. We’re at our best when we remember that we’re all in this together – when we help lift each other up when one of us has fallen. Thank you for joining me in this critical fight.
More than 1,000 jobseekers packed in to the Education Technology Building Conference Center at Delaware Technical Community College Terry Campus for the first job fair of the year hosted by U.S. Senators Chris Coons and Tom Carper, and U.S. Representative John Carney. The Kent County job fair brought more than 45 private and public entities together to meet candidates in hopes of filling over 500 open positions.
The Kent County job fair was organized with the help of Brandywine Counseling and Career Services, and service and government employment agencies were also on hand to facilitate job-search skills workshops, career counseling, and resume reviews.
“Today was our 17th job fair and once again it was a great opportunity to connect Delawareans looking for work with prospective employers,” said Senator Carper. “While we still have too many of our friends and neighbors who are struggling to find work, I am heartened that we’re making progress and I’m hopeful that 2014 will be a positive year for job creation and economic growth here in the First State.”
“Thousands of Delawareans are still looking for work and these job fairs can make a real difference in our neighbors’ lives,” Senator Coons said. “Like the job fairs we hosted in the past, our goal for these fairs is to help Delawareans connect with real job opportunities, many of which are right here in their own backyard. Companies like Mountaire, Lowe’s, and Energizer were looking to fill hundreds of full-time positions.”
“Putting Delawareans back to work is my top priority. There are still many qualified workers struggling to provide for themselves and their families,” said Congressman Carney. “Many people left today with good information and connections that could lead to their next career move. That’s our main goal, and we’ll continue providing these opportunities throughout the year.”
In 2013, the Delaware delegation hosted seven job fairs for more than 3,500 job seekers. Since 2011, the delegation has hosted 17 jobs fairs in Delaware, including four specifically for veterans.
Sen. Coons listens to Community Education Building President Riccardo Stoeckicht as they stand in what will be the building's 7,000 square foot library.
Senator Coons peered into the future of Wilmington's charter schools as he joined Community Education Building (CEB) representatives Riccardo Stoeckicht and Robert Boyd for a behind-the-scenes look at the under-construction CEB in downtown Wilmington Friday. The 11-story building, donated by Bank of America to the Longwood Foundation, will house between 2,400-2,800 students when schools are operating at capacity.
Also along for the tour was Sally Maldonado, head of school for Kuumba Academy, one of the first schools that will be housed at the CEB. Academia Antonia Alonso is also scheduled to begin classes there in the fall.
“Students, especially young students, need a place to learn where they can feel inspired, safe and comfortable,” said Chris. “This building, once completed, will provide a place for more than 2,000 students to learn, grow and flourish as members of their community.”
“This project represents the best of Delaware," Senator Coons continued, "a state of neighbors that can come together from all areas, from the private sector to the non-profit world, to build something that is truly great. This facility is an example of what partnering and collaboration can achieve.”
Sen. Coons talks manufacturing, innovation with Delaware MIT alums and American Chemical Society members
Local scientists, chemists and engineers packed the dining room at Brantwyn Estate on Friday to engage in open discussion with Sen. Coons about his recent work in Washington to promote advanced manufacturing and innovation. The event was the sixth joint meeting of the MIT Club of the Delaware Valley and the Delaware Section of the American Chemical Society.
Chris, who holds a B.A. in Chemistry from Amherst College and worked for eight years for a materials-based science company, shared his genuine excitement about invention and innovation, as well as his keen understanding of the financing challenges materials-based science companies face. He discussed his efforts in the Senate around these issues, including leading the Manufacturing Jobs for America campaign to grow our nation’s manufacturing sector, introducing the America INNOVATES Act to modernize aspects of our national lab system, and working on new bipartisan legislation to reauthorize investments in basic science and technology through innovative programs like the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E).
“I’m trying to help make the connection in the Senate between advanced manufacturing, research and development, and job opportunities,” said Chris. “America is and can continue to be one of the most productive manufacturing countries in the world, but manufacturing relies very heavily on R&D, on patents, and on continuous innovation.”
“At a time of scarce public resources, science is a critical investment,” Chris continued. “Right now, I need your voice, because there are very few in Congress who understand the compounding value of investment in basic and applied science, about the risks we face in intellectual property, and the importance of getting STEM education at the elementary school level right. We've got huge challenges ahead but also great opportunities – in green chemistry, in reimagining advanced polymers, in advanced manufacturing – and I'm looking forward to working with you to ensure our nation remains a leader in science.”
As part of College Application Month, Senator Coons met with thirty students from Mount Pleasant High School on Friday to discuss the importance of a college degree and how to go about choosing the right college.
College Application Month is a nationwide effort to assist high school seniors in the college application process and increase college attendance. Special focus is placed on first-generation college students or those who otherwise may not have considered applying to college. The program is coordinated locally by the Delaware Department of Education and the Institute for Public Administration at the University of Delaware.
“We just came through a very tough recession,” said Chris. “Unemployment amongst those with a college education was dramatically lower. Lifetime earnings are also dramatically higher if you have a college education – individuals with a bachelor’s degree earn on average more than $1 million more throughout their careers than those with only a high school degree.”
Attentive students fired off questions to Senator Coons about his career path, education in Delaware, and his advice for making the most of their college experiences.
Chris particularly stressed the importance of students completing their studies once they get to campus. “The worst case scenario is to go off to college having not really thought it through, not having a solid foundation, not having clarity about how you’re going to finish. You start, do two or three years, rack up a lot of debt and drop out. Do not do this. That’s buying a house you never get to live in.”
Chris concluded his visit with a college application workshop for a small group of students. During the session, Chris counseled the students on a range of considerations – from Gilbert Peralta, a promising baseball player who is looking to continue his baseball career in college, to Tah-Jay McLaughlin and Ernie Lowden, who are looking for colleges that not only offer the courses of study they are interested in, but also fit them personally.
Senator Coons is committed to helping increase the number of low-income and at-risk students able to access and complete a college education. He is the lead sponsor of the bipartisan American Dream Accounts Act, a bill to authorize the Department of Education to award three-year competitive grants for innovative and comprehensive partnerships that help low-income students prepare for a college education.
At the second meeting of the budget conference committee Wednesday, Senator Coons questioned Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf about the impact of Congress’ current spending decisions on the nation’s economic competitiveness and the long-term unemployed.
“You've testified before that not all cuts are the same, and that there are some ways in which we are cutting that are hurting our long-term competitiveness,” Senator Coons said. “That short-term cuts in things like education, or infrastructure, or research and development produce longer-term reductions in our capacity, and that we should be prioritizing things that will accelerate growth – that we should not be simply trying to get through this difficult fiscal time in a way that focuses on austerity; that we should also be investing in a way that sustains growth.”
When asked about policies that could accelerate growth and help the long-term unemployed, Director Elmendorf said, “Of all non-defense discretionary spending, half represents investment of some sort. About 20 percent of non-defense discretionary spending is investment in physical capital, such as highways, another 15 percent goes for education and training, and about 10 percent goes for R&D, such as health research. Over all, we think those investments help to build a stronger economy in the future and cutbacks in those investments would reduce output and income in the future.”
The problem of long-term unemployment, Elmendorf noted, also “has important economic effects over time… It poses a very large risk of there being some set of people who will not find their way back to work at all or will not find their way to the productive sort of work that they were in before they lost their jobs.”
Elmendorf said the CBO has “reviewed the evidence on a large number of different ways of trying to help people get back into the labor force,” a number of which “have been successful on a small scale and have not been tried on a large scale.” Elmendorf pledged to work with Senator Coons on developing policies that help the long-term unemployed get back to work.
Watch the entire exchange: