09/03/2010 02:59 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Putting Americans Back to Work: Congress Should Extend Emergency Jobs Fund

For the nearly 15 million unemployed Americans who seek the dignity of work and pride of a paycheck, a jobless economic recovery is no recovery at all.

As the Mayors of San Francisco, California, and Providence, Rhode Island, we know intimately that cities are grappling with this reality as unemployment rises, foreclosures increase, and revenues decline. More and more families face the risk of poverty. Cities are taking action to implement their own local economic recovery efforts and looking for federal dollars to help revive the local economy and stimulate job creation. San Francisco and Providence are slowly digging their way out of the economic hole by taking bold steps to create jobs by investing in small business, infrastructure, and 21st-century technologies that will rebuild our tax base, create new jobs and generate economic opportunity.

$5 billion dollars was appropriated for job creation in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Emergency Contingency Fund (TANF/ECF) in the original federal stimulus plan allocated and available until September 30, 2010.

In San Francisco, since May 2009, more than 3,800 San Franciscans have been put back to work through the JOBS NOW! federal stimulus program, working in partnership with hundreds of business and non-profit employers to boost our local economic recovery and give hope to many families in challenging economic times.

Similarly, the city of Providence started JobsNow Providence in February 2010, followed by a statewide JobsNow RI program that has seen more than 365 people hired under the federal stimulus program in this short period of time.

But beyond the numbers, there is a human face to this lingering recession, with families across America struggling to make ends meet everyday -- more than 250,000 human faces in 37 states across the United States.

This is not just a San Francisco or Providence program. Programs like San Francisco JOBS NOW! and JobsNow Providence are working around California and Rhode Island and other cities and states across this country. As a result of this federal stimulus funding, hundreds of thousands of Americans who would otherwise join the unemployment rolls are supporting their families and local businesses are continuing to thrive.

But our success locally in putting San Francisco and Providence residents back to work could come to an end as stimulus funding is set to expire on September 30, 2010. If this TANF/ECF funding is not extended, more than a quarter of a million families across the United States are at risk of falling into unemployment again.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that $4.23 billion in TANF/ECF applications have been approved, including $1.038 billion approved for subsidized employment for 37 states. By formula, Rhode Island is allowed to apply for up to $47 million, and to date, the state has been approved for more than $6 million in wage subsidy funds. But it is unlikely employers will come close to using all of the approved funding in time and will put Rhode Island and many other states in the regrettable position of having to return dollars approved for private sector wage reimbursement back to the federal government.

Democrats and Republicans alike know that keeping people working is far better for our economy and for our local communities than pushing people into unemployment again. San Francisco and Providence and many other communities have leveraged these federal stimulus dollars to put people back to work, exactly as intended. This is a federal stimulus program that works.

We cannot afford a new surge in our national unemployment rate. When Congress returns from its August recess, it must act quickly to extend TANF/ECF to ensure that employers have enough time to expend all funds approved to the states.

We call on both political parties in Congress to do what needs to be done to extend this program so we can put Americans back to work.