Despite hopeful signs that the worst of our nation's economic crisis is behind us, unemployment rates across the nation remain stubbornly high. In California, December payrolls were down another 40,000 jobs and at 12.4%, our joblessness rate remains among the highest in the country. For the millions of Californians who seek the dignity of work and pride of a paycheck, a jobless economic recovery is no recovery at all. As local elected leaders, we see the human face of this lingering recession every day - the families and small business owners struggling to make ends meet.
That's why we're heartened by the renewed focus demonstrated by President Obama and Congressional leaders from both parties in Washington on helping local communities and our small and medium-sized businesses create jobs. There's been much discussion lately about how many jobs have actually been created since last year's passage of the $800billion stimulus package. And in his State of the Union recently, President Obama called on Congress to pass a new federal jobs bill to help put people back to work. The new jobs bill is an enormous opportunity for lawmakers to give a boost to a little-noticed program from last year's federal stimulus package that Los Angeles and San Francisco Counties are using right now to create thousands of private, nonprofit and public sector jobs.
The 2009 American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) set aside $5 billion nationwide - and $1.8 billion for California alone - to create what is called the "Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Emergency Contingency Fund (TANF-ECF)." That's federal stimulus jargon for a work-subsidy program that provides federal funds to pay 80% of the wages for unemployed workers with a dependent child, including subsidizing wages for private sector and non-profit employers. By combining this program with funding for youth employment, Los Angeles County has already placed more than 10,000 County residents in jobs. In San Francisco, we call the program JobsNow, and we've put more than 1,700 people back to work for more than 800 local companies and nonprofit organizations.
Sound too good to be true? Thousands of people now working under this program in San Francisco and Los Angeles Counties and other California counties prove otherwise. As a result of this federal stimulus funding, thousands of Californians who would otherwise join the unemployment rolls are supporting their families and local businesses are continuing to thrive.
This JobsNow program is exactly in line with the Obama Administration and Congressional leaders of both parties' priorities when it comes to incentivizing job creation. But our success locally in putting people back to work could come to a screeching halt - and throw thousands out of work again - when the program expires this year on September 30. Amidst a jobless recovery, it simply makes no sense to end this program.
Fortunately, in his proposed Fiscal Year 2011 budget, President Obama is supporting an extension of the program for one year, to September 30, 2011. California's own Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein are also supporting amendments to extend the program in the federal jobs bill. Representatives Judy Chu and Peter Stark are sponsoring a similar proposal in the House of Representatives.
California is America's largest economy. Economic recovery and job creation here will help drive economic and job growth across the country. We strongly urge members of Congress from both political parties to support an extension of this program in the new federal jobs bill. Let's continue a federal stimulus program that's working exactly as it was intended - putting thousands of people back to work in private, public and nonprofit sector jobs now.
Gavin Newsom is the Democratic Mayor of San Francisco
Don Knabe is a Republican Los Angeles County Supervisor
Follow Gavin Newsom on Twitter: www.twitter.com/GavinNewsom