I was so worked up about what got axed from the recently-passed House jobs/tax cut extender bill that I passed over two of the surviving provisions that will save and create jobs. One of them should also help mitigate further damage to our fraying safety net.
That one is an extension of the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund through the end of Fiscal Year 2011, with an additional $2.5 billion to be spent in the new fiscal year.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports that the extension will support more than 185,000 existing and planned subsidized jobs. It will also help states cope with their rising TANF caseloads and provide further short-term benefits to families with emergency needs.
Without the extension, the Emergency Contingency Fund will expire at the end of September. I’ve heard that states will not receive reimbursements the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has approved, but not cut checks for.
The House bill takes care of this problem. It would make funds already appropriated available through the end of this fiscal year for any of the authorized reimbursement categories. Funds for subsidized jobs in which individuals are placed during this fiscal year would be available through the end of FY 2011.
The other provision would provide $1 billion for youth work-related activities, including summer youth employment programs. According to the bill summary, it would support more than 300,000 summer jobs for 16-14 year olds.
When the Senate was considering its version of the jobs/tax cut extender bill, Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Patty Murray (D-WA) offered an amendment to add both the Emergency Contingency Fund extension and $1.3 billion for summer youth jobs.
As Half in Ten’s Melissa Boteach explains, it was blocked on a technical point relating to the number of years it would take for the amendment to be fully paid for, i.e, offset by reduced spending and/or revenue increases.
Now the Senate has another chance at the bill. If it doesn’t pass the Emergency Fund extension PDQ, states will begin closing down their subsidized jobs programs. And they’ll surely put plans for new subsidized jobs on hold. Summer youth employment programs will have to open with fewer slots–or not open at all.
Hard to know what will happen. The two provisions, along with the tax cut extensions and some other spending, are paid for by changes in the tax code that would close some remunerative loopholes. Affected parties and their lobbyists are hard at work to preserve these loopholes. To the extent they succeed, the spending provisions will have to be cut back–assuming that a critical mass of Senators still insist on the offset rules. I’m guessing they will.
Then too, we’re hearing a lot these days about the debts we’re leaving our children. And spending cuts seem to be a popular campaign platform. The TANF Emergency Contingency Fund in particular has been subject to gross distortion as part of an online project House Republicans cooked up “to defeat the permissive culture of runaway spending in Congress.”
Not a good environment for investments that would give poor parents and teens a pathway to gainful work. But maybe not toxic either.