For Immediate Release: February 16, 2011

New Report Shows Recovery Act Dollars Worked

TANF Emergency Fund Subsidized Jobs Program Helped Individuals, Communities and Business

A review released today of the subsidized jobs programs operated in 2009 and 2010 with TANF Emergency Fund dollars found that they were highly effective at putting unemployed people to work in private sector jobs during the economic downturn. 

Published by CLASP, the Center for Law and Social Policy, and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the review (Creating Subsidized Employment Opportunities for Low-Income Parents: The Legacy of the TANF Emergency Fund) also found that small businesses particularly benefited from the programs, which allowed them to bring on new staff during a challenging economic time.  Some of the programs also provided job opportunities to workers with low employment prospects due to limited education, little or no work experience, or criminal records. 

"Bottom line is that people want to work, and if you give them the opportunity, they will take it," said Elizabeth Lower-Basch, a senior policy analyst at CLASP and one of the paper's authors. "The program also was good for employers because it allowed them to hire at time when they may not have been in a position to take on the full, added cost of a new employee."

Created February 17, 2009, as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the TANF Emergency Fund provided $5 billion over two years to help states cover the costs of providing more assistance to low-income families suffering from the ill effects of the economic downturn. Thirty-nine states, and the District of Columbia used $1.3 billion from the fund to create new subsidized employment programs or expand existing ones. 

The program expired Sept. 30, 2010, but over its life provided myriad benefits to individuals, businesses and communities. It placed more than 260,000 low-income adults and youth in paid jobs during a time of high unemployment. And it also provided opportunities for these individuals to maintain a connection to the labor force and build new skill.

Equally important, the program demonstrated that private/public partnerships can be an effective way of employing people while also helping businesses. Tens of thousands of employers participated in the TANF Emergency Fund subsidized jobs program because, they reported, it was easy to do.  States worked to keep paperwork to a minimum and provided businesses with employees who matched their needs.

 "While the Emergency Fund ended in September, many states are trying to continue these programs, although on smaller scales," Lower-Basch said. "The fact that they are doing this, given their terrible budget situations is evidence of how useful and effective this program was. Subsidized jobs should continue to be a part of TANF moving forward."

The report concluded: "By helping families get work and helping employers maintain and even expand in tight times, the subsidized jobs programs gave a needed boost to communities trying to recover from the recession. These accomplishments should ... become part of any conversation about how to build pathways to a better future for unemployed individuals who face dim employment prospects."

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