Philanthropist Gene Epstein says he will donate $1,000 to charity for every time a small business in the Philadelphia area hires an unemployed person.
"I think it's unbelievably simple, this program, and it's a no-risk, all-win situation," said Epstein in an interview with HuffPost. "People see the money's gonna go to charity -- the business person's not going to hire somebody because the government says we're going to give you a tax credit!"
Epstein, 71, says he's ready to give out $250,000 altogether, and that he thinks his plan could actually deliver a boost to the economy by creating some optimism. "I spoke to two dozen business people that I know, I called them and asked their opinion, and 22 out of 24 thought it was a good idea."
Epstein has fielded several inquiries, and two businesses in the Delaware valley told HuffPost that Epstein's scheme has encouraged them to make hires.
"I saw his story on action news...and I thought that it sounded like a really great idea," said Gretchen Bearoff, who co-owns a commercial real estate appraisal company with her husband. "My husband and I had been putting feelers out but hadn't made a final decision and this helped to push us over the edge. We're ready, our business is doing better, so let's do it."
Bearoff told HuffPost that a brand new employee who'd been underemployed (he formerly worked for himself) just started at the company on Wednesday, expanding the company payroll to four. Bearoff said a $1,000 donation would be going to the Pennsylvania SPCA.
"He's quite a philanthropist. It sparked us," said Christian Roach, a member services executive at TruMark Financial Credit Union. Roach said he had been considering hiring a social media specialist when he heard of Epstein's plan (though Roach said he didn't know if the company would make a special effort to hire an unemployed person). "I was on the fence with the social media position, but it kinda made you go know what, maybe it's time.... He moved me off the dime."
Before his successful careers as a car dealer and real estate investor, Epstein says he and his mother opened a candy store to save their home when he was a teenager, not long after his father died. They took an apartment above the store. "I opened the store at 6 a.m. and closed it at 10 at night. At the end of the year we sold it, paid all our expenses and recaptured our home."
Epstein talks about his plan with fervor, stressing that partisan policy solutions haven't been working. He doesn't care if a policy egghead would point out that we're out eight million jobs since the start of the recession. "When I went to Temple I had an economics professor who was an adviser to the White House," he said. "I never understood what the hell he was talking about. I know what it is to make a living."
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