I've been calling the TANF Emergency Fund the Recovery Act's best-kept secret, but the secret is out -- just ask the nearly 190,000 adults and youth who will get jobs through one of the many subsidized jobs programs the fund supports across the country (see map). The Senate is considering jobs legislation that would extend the fund (which expires September 30) for a year and fully offset the cost. This may be the last chance for congressional action before both the fund and most of those 190,000 jobs disappear.
If the Senate doesn't pass a jobs bill with this provision, many states will begin to wind down their programs as early as next week and most programs will end altogether by September 30.
Here's what's at stake:
The TANF Emergency Fund provides just what is needed in this sluggish economy with very high unemployment: jobs at a very low cost. Because the jobs are mostly entry-level positions, the wage and payroll costs are quite low; creating a $10-an-hour job for 40 hours per week costs under $500 per week or under $3,000 for six weeks, the typical length of a subsidized job. Administrative costs also are low because many states have been able to operate these programs by building on existing job placement programs.
The House has already voted -- twice -- to extend the fund. But if the Senate doesn't act, most of the people who've gotten work through the program will soon become unemployed. That would be a terrible loss, and a preventable one.
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 Chartshttp://www.offthechartsblog.org/.