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Bipartisan Jobs Bill in Connecticut a Template for Congress

Nov 30, 2011

By Elizabeth Kenefick

As federal lawmakers continue to negotiate the right fix for the nation's high unemployment, one state has stepped up and passed a jobs bill that includes provisions to aid low-skill workers by funding subsidized jobs.

Connecticut's Act Promoting Economic Growth and Job Creation in the State passed nearly unanimously in both houses of the state Legislature, and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed the bipartisan bill into law recently.

The two-year, $626 million jobs package funds a wide variety of proposals. Notably, it includes the Subsidized Training and Employment Program (STEP), which authorizes the state Department of Labor to spend $20 million over the next two years to subsidize the first six months of eligible new employees' employment and training costs at small businesses and manufacturers. Both programs are for new hires, and the small business STEP grants are targeted to low-income, unemployed adults.

The new program mirrors the successful provision in the Recovery Act (TANF Emergency Fund) that enabled states to operate subsidized jobs programs for low-income workers. From 2009 to 2010, the TANF Emergency Fund placed more than 260,000 low-income individuals in subsidized jobs at a total federal cost of $1.32 billion. States could choose whether to target long-term unemployed workers, welfare recipients, or other populations. Through this federal program, Connecticut ran subsidized employment programs for youth and adults and placed more than 6,000 participants before the program expired in September 2010.

Unfortunately, at the federal level, major jobs legislation has failed to move. President Obama introduced a comprehensive jobs bill just after Labor Day, and senators failed to bring the measure to the floor for a vote. Smaller pieces of the bill were introduced and met the same fate, except for some measures to encourage hiring of veterans which passed mid-November.

Most recently, Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Rep. George Miller introduced the Pathways Back to Work Fund in the Senate and House. Originally part of President Obama's American Jobs Act, the measure would provide $2 billion for subsidized employment programs modeled on those operated under the Emergency Fund.

Congress should take a page from Connecticut's book and be reminded that putting people back to work should be a top priority and subsidized employment and training is a viable and important part of the solution.

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