Opinion: Time’s a-wastin’ on fund to preserve and create jobs
By CLARE S. RICHIE/Georgia Budget and Policy Institute
The good news is that the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Fund created by the federal Recovery Act of 2009 is creating jobs for poor families who have limited prospects. This program has the added benefit of stimulating local economies as these newly employed individuals spend their wages close to home.
Thanks to the TANF Emergency Fund, states are expected to create more than 240,000 subsidized jobs in the public and private sectors for TANF recipients, the long-term unemployed and low-income youth.
Georgia set a goal of placing 5,000 unemployed adults and 15,000 low-income youth into jobs by Sept. 30, 2010, the current deadline. The program is subsidizing 80 percent of adult wages for six months and has already subsidized youth summer employment. To date, Georgia has created new jobs for 14,800 youth and 1,558 adults.
Mother of Many Children is a privately owned day care provider in Savannah. Owner/Director Yvonne Bass was excited when she learned her small business was approved for the TANF-subsidized employment program administered by the Georgia Department of Human Services. Through this program, Bass was able to hire up to three additional employees to assist in providing optimal child care for her clientele. Bass is extremely hopeful that the program will be extended because she will reinvest the savings she gains from the jobs program into her business so she can expand the square footage of the center and serve more families, and thus hire more qualified child care workers.
Unfortunately, the TANF Emergency Fund expires on Sept. 30. Without an extension, Georgia will close down this successful subsidized employment effort for those hardest hit by the recession, whether or not it has spent all of its allotted funds. In fact, the Georgia Department of Human Services (DHS) has already stopped accepting applications and projects, falling short of its adult goal by 1,500 jobs.
That’s not all. Newly-employed adults stand to lose their jobs on Sept. 30. Most states like Georgia encourage, but do not require, employers to hire program participants once the subsidy ends due to the uncertainty of the current economic climate. At a time when Georgia’s unemployment rate is 9.9 percent, such job losses are troubling and unnecessary.
Georgia can avoid these job losses as well as employ substantially more adults and youth if Congress enacts a one-year extension. The House has twice passed an extension of the TANF Emergency Fund that was fully offset (so as to avoid increasing the deficit). The Senate has failed to act, despite the thousands of jobs at risk and pleas from program administrators and governors in states across the nation.
Extending the TANF Emergency Fund has received support from a majority of senators but has fallen short of the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster. Georgia’s two senators have twice failed to support the extension, despite Georgia’s high unemployment and rocky economy. As a result, instead of continuing these proven and cost-effective programs, states are closing their doors to new job seekers and businesses employing low wage workers like Mary’s — and determining when current participants will receive their very last paycheck.
If Congress extends the TANF Emergency Fund before Sept. 30, Georgia would:
- Place thousands more of the 480,000 unemployed Georgians into subsidized jobs.
- Create and preserve thousands of jobs.
- Boost local economies as newly employed workers begin spending their paychecks.
- Maximize the use of funds available in the TANF Emergency Fund. As of the current deadline, Georgia will leave nearly $100 million on the table.
Without an extension, Georgia and other states will close down their successful subsidized employment programs, which will cost thousands of jobs, remove much-needed income from local economies, adversely affect local businesses, and make it impossible for many low-income parents to cover basic expenses. Georgia and the nation cannot afford to lose these jobs.
Clare Richie is senior policy analyst for the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute. Analysis and recommendations for the use of TANF Emergency Funds can be found at www.GBPI.org.