Time Running out on Subsidized Jobs for Parents
June 24, 2010 | San Francisco Chronicle | Link to article
A program that uses federal stimulus dollars to create jobs for lower-income parents will end Sept. 30 unless Congress passes a bill that would provide additional time and money.
A test vote on the bill, which includes a host of other tax and spending measures, failed in the Senate last week. The Senate could take it up again as early as this week.
With time running out, some counties including San Francisco have stopped enrolling new people in their programs, which go by different names but are often called subsidized employment. San Francisco's version is called Jobs Now and has created about 3,250 jobs, just over half in the private sector.
Although rules vary somewhat, in California public, private and nonprofit employers can generally receive up to 100 percent of a worker's salary when they hire a person who has at least one minor child and is either in CalWorks (the state's welfare program) or has family income less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
If the program is not renewed, workers will lose these jobs after Sept. 30 unless employers pick up their salaries.
That worries Nonna Veinstein. After she was laid off in January 2009, Veinstein could not afford her apartment. She and her 17-year-old son moved into a one-bedroom apartment with her sister in San Mateo.
During her unemployment, Veinstein was trained in medical billing and attended a green jobs academy but couldn't find a job. When unemployment benefits ended, she applied for CalWorks and got subsidized employment in April with the San Mateo County clerk. That job ends Sept. 30 unless Congress extends the program. "I am very disappointed and upset that I will be unemployed again," she says.
Money for the program came from the federal stimulus act passed in February 2009. It gave state welfare agencies $5 billion in temporary emergency funds for needy families, which they could use to handle increased welfare caseloads and for subsidized employment. The money has to be used by Sept. 30, or it will be forfeited.
Not all funds spent
From that pot, states had been awarded about $2.8 billion, although not all of that has been spent. Of that amount, about $615 million has been awarded for subsidized employment programs, says Elizabeth Lower-Basch, senior policy analyst with Center for Law and Social Policy. States plan to create more than 180,000 jobs.
California can draw up to $1.8 billion from the $5 billion pot.
Some counties are using part of this money to fund a summer jobs program for low-income youth that was funded last summer by a different pool of stimulus money.
Youths can qualify for subsidized employment if their families meet the income requirements or are in CalWorks, says Denise Boland, social services administrator for Santa Clara County.
The House and Senate versions of the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act would provide an additional $2.5 billion in funding and extend the deadline for another year. This provision has not been the target of criticism because it would be paid for and not increase the deficit, Lower-Basch says.
An early version of this provision would have allowed people losing unemployment benefits to get subsidized jobs even if they didn't have a child. The current version retains the kid requirement.
Counties must decide
If the bill is approved, there's no guarantee that every subsidized job will remain subsidized; each state and county will have to decide how to allocate the additional funds.
Santa Clara County's subsidized employment program, SCC Works, expects to place about 2,400 people by July. That includes about 1,000 teens working in summer jobs. Of the 1,400 adults, about half are working full time at companies and half are working part time in public-sector or nonprofit jobs and in school part time. Santa Clara County limits subsidized employment to 1,000 hours for part-timers or six months for full-timers. The hope is that after six months, employers will retain the workers at their own expense, Boland says.
Santa Clara County is still enrolling people but will stop in August if Congress hasn't passed the extension.
San Francisco has stopped accepting applications from job seekers but will place people who have been previously certified with employers who have been certified. "We are still taking applications from new employers but will only process them if we get the federal extension," says Trent Rhorer, executive director of San Francisco's Human Services Agency.
Contra Costa County has stopped taking applications from employers and employees. "We have about 450 (employees in the program) right now. We are also funding a summer youth program that will add another 600," says Gerry Dunbar, the county's subsidized employment and training coordinator.
San Mateo County's program, SMC Works, is still enrolling people. It has placed 225 employees with 64 employers. It got off to a slower start than some counties that already had a subsidized employment program, says Amanda Kim, spokeswoman for the county's human services agency.
Hoping for extension
Alameda County's program, AC Hire, has placed 888 people in subsidized jobs, of which 76 percent are in the private sector. It is still enrolling people and is averaging about 50 job placements per week, says Sylvia Soublet, spokeswoman for the county's Social Services Agency.
"We do anticipate that without an extension we will see a significant drop-off as we get closer to the end of September," she adds. If the program is not extended, "we expect that some employers will retain employees without a subsidy and others will not."
To see if your county offers subsidized employment program, contact its human or social services agency.