"A Jobs Program That Works" is New York Times columnist Bob Herbert's apt description of the TANF Emergency Fund, which more than 30 states are using to help create private -- and public-sector jobs for nearly 200,000 adults and youth. The job market's continued weakness shows why these programs remain important tools for boosting employment and the overall economy. But as I've warned, many states will begin shutting down their programs in the next few weeks unless Congress extends the fund.
States as diverse as Illinois (which is placing as many as 500 people a day in subsidized jobs), South Carolina (which expects to place 600 people in jobs by the fund's September 30 expiration, most of whom would otherwise receive cash assistance), and Montana (which expects to place 300 adults and 300 youth) have taken advantage of the fund. The subsidized jobs are temporary but can lead to permanent jobs as employers take over the full cost of maintaining the workers on the payroll.
This isn't the kind of program that Congress can simply extend at the last minute. Some states have already stopped placing people in subsidized jobs because few employers want to take on new employees who can only work for them until September 30. Other states believe they can hold out until the end of July but no longer. Meanwhile, states have employers and unemployed individuals waiting to participate in the program.
Further delays in extending the fund will mean that programs will place fewer people in jobs and some people who are currently employed will return to the ranks of the unemployed -- the opposite of what the economy needs right now.
LaDonna Pavetti is director of the welfare reform and income support division at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and blogs regularly at Off the Charts.