Debbie Velarde is one of more than 100,000 people who will lose their jobs by September unless Congress extends a stimulus bill provision that gives states funding to create jobs programs for low-income parents and young adults.
"I'll have to pay for everything and I don't have the means to do that," said Velarde, who earns $8 an hour through the program as an administrative assistant at Lifetime, a California membership organization that helps low-income parents pursuing post-secondary education. "They need to leave this program open a little longer."
On Tuesday, Senate Republicans (and four Democrats) defeated a $1.3 billion measure that extends funding until March 2011 for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Emergency Fund, the program that pays Velarde's salary. Those lawmakers explained their opposition by saying that the amendment was not paid for and will increase the budget deficit. It was the second time in two weeks that Republicans pitted deficit reduction against the poor and unemployed -- last week, Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) obstructed an unemployment benefits extension. The Senate also defeated $1.3 billion for a stimulus-created summer jobs program.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Wednesday that Senate Democrats will revisit the measure soon:
"It's an important program. It allows people who are on welfare to be working," he said. "We're going to come back but the longer we wait on summer jobs, the less important they become."
In fact, while summer jobs are indeed jeopardized by the delay, so too are the jobs created by the TANF program. According to a report by the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, "Some of the jobs will start disappearing this spring and summer -- well before September 30."
"Employers typically do not want low-wage workers who would be with them for only a month or two because it takes time for new hires to learn their jobs. Accordingly, most people are placed in these job slots for a period such as six months. Many employers who participate in these programs will cease to accept new workers for subsidized jobs well before September 30, if they expect the program to terminate on that date and subsidize no wages paid after that."
The CBPP, in an analysis with the Center for Law and Social Policy and the National Transitional Jobs Network, estimates that the TANF program is more efficient than almost any stimulus program under consideration in Congress.
In an email to HuffPost, Ross Eisenbrey, vice president of the progressive Economic Policy Institute, blasted a bipartisan tax credit for businesses crafted by Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and said the TANF program "is a far more cost-effective expenditure of tax dollars than the Schumer-Hatch new hires tax credit, which cost $13 billion and will probably create fewer than 200,000 jobs -- if it creates any."
Diana Spatz, Velarde's boss, said Velarde and two other women with children will lose their salaries in September if the program is not extended.
"The senators who voted against that bill are idiots," she added.