Tens of Thousands Jobs Threatened as Federal Job Creation Program Expires

September 29, 2010 | Pacifica Radio |  Link to article

Tomorrow marks the end of the fiscal year. In the absence of a funding bill, Congress is working to pass a short term funding measure to keep the government running. One thing that is not expected to be included is a funding extension for a job creation program that was part of the stimulus bill and has put 240,000 people to work. FSRN's Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.

TRANSCRIPT:

Terrance Meacham is a computer technician, but was laid off during the recession. He took odd jobs and was on unemployment when he wasn't working.

But last spring, he got a job at a place he volunteered. He became a community organizer for unemployed and low income workers in Philadelphia.

TERRANCE MEACHAM: This job actually involves helping people, and that in itself has been an amazing experience for me.

Meacham got that job through a stimulus program. It subsidizes the wages of new employees. The employees must be low income and must have children.  It put 3,000 people to work in Philadelphia alone, a city that has about 12% unemployment.

But Meacham, a father of three, is once again looking for a new job. That's because the federal program expires Thursday and his employer will lose funding for his job.

MEACHAM: It's discouraging, but I'm hopeful, optimistic type of person so I'm going to be looking for work.

Meacham is one of 240,000 people in 37 states that got a job through the Emergency Job Fund. State have spent 1 billion dollars on the program in the past year.

Workforce Solutions in Fort Worth, Texas uses the Emergency Job Fun to place heads of households with criminal backgrounds in jobs.

Shannon who did not want to use her real name, is one of 140 people in Fort Worth who have benefited from the program.

SHANNON: Not only with the economy it was tough finding employment,  but then having any kind of criminal background it was a huge deterrent. I was very discouraged and getting very depressed. I feel like it's really important to get up every morning and have a purpose.

Texas will continue to fund the program until January of 2011. Debbie Katky runs the program.

DEBBIE KATKY: I have more people on the waiting list than I could ever serve, so It's sad to me that such a great program might not be continued.

A one-year extension of the program is stuck in the Senate. The House of Representatives passed it, but the Senate has been unable to move the measure.

Three Democrats tried to pass a three-month extension Tuesday, but Republicans objected. The measure has been a part of other larger spending or tax cut bills but has been caught up in the Senate stalemate.

Elizabeth Lower-Basch is with the Center for Law and Social Policy in Washington DC. She said this program is the epitome of an effective stimulus.

ELIZABETH LOWER-BASCH: It's really heartbreaking that this is a program that worked and got a lot of support from both Republicans and Democrats at the state and local level and it's a shame that Congress couldn't figure out how to continue it.

Pat Quinn, the governor of Illinois, announced that he will extend the program, although he doesn't know how he'll pay for it. Illinois employed 26,000 people through the Emergency Jobs Fund.

Small businesses and non-profits say they benefited from the program. They hired new employees without having to pay for some or even all of their salary.

John Dodds is Director of the Philadelphia Unemployment Project. He was able to hire 6 new employees through the stimulus program.

JOHN DODDS: It allowed us to provide more services and reach more people. So we had people doing outreach and providing services and had clerical assistance so they were a big help.

Unless Congress acts, he will have to let all 6 of those employees go on Thursday.

Leigh Ann Caldwell, FSRN, DC.

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