10/09/2012 04:10 pm ET Updated Oct 09, 2012

Robert Dold's Unemployment Bill Offers $7,000 Subsidy For Hiring Long-Term Jobless

A Republican proposal would give businesses piles of money for hiring the long-term unemployed.

Rep. Robert Dold (R-Ill.) introduced legislation that would ask the U.S. Labor Department to test giving $7,000 certificates to Americans who've been jobless six months or longer. The certificates, in turn, would entice employers: If the job candidate was hired and stayed on a company's payroll for six months, the company would get the cash.

The money would come from existing federal job training programs, which Dold called "well-intentioned" but ineffective amid persistent long-term unemployment.

"My approach would create an incentive for employers to hire and retain long-term unemployed workers, while giving these job seekers a powerful tool in this difficult job market," Dodd said in a Monday press release.

Dodd is a moderate freshman Republican in a close race against Democrat Brad Schneider. His bill has zero cosponsors. But specific proposals from elected officials to help the long-term unemployed, who number nearly 5 million, are rare lately.

Dold's bill is similar to past proposals from President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who also have sought to encourage businesses to hire the long-term jobless. Obama has pushed tax credits for businesses that hire the long-term jobless, while Romney has advocated training grants for companies that pick up unemployed workers. In 2010, Congress created a smaller tax credit for businesses that hired jobless workers, with unclear results.

Dold's office said that the congressman's idea would give more power to jobseekers, rather than relying on the tax code or business cooperation with job training schemes. Instead, job candidates themselves would be able to pitch the financial benefit of hiring them.

Though his bill is sympathetic to workers, Dold may not get much love from labor advocates. Rick McHugh, a staff attorney with the National Employment Law Project, said existing job training funds should not be redirected for unproven subsidies, and he questioned whether the incentive would simply go to businesses that already intended to make hires.

"But," he added, "we do think that a significant wage subsidy program targeted on hiring long-term jobless workers is something that Congress should consider next year, but not at the expense of underfunded job training funds."

The National Employment Law Project on Friday called for Congress to reinvest in public reemployment services, such as "job placement services, in-person job search assistance, and pre-training counseling."

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