Code Blue For TANF Emergency Contingency Fund

Back in March, I wrote about the need to extend the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund. It seemed at the time that the extension stood a good chance of passing as part of the then-latest version of the jobs/tax break extender bill — the American Jobs and Tax Loopholes Closing Act (H.R. 4213).

The House had twice passed an extension — once in March as part of the Small Business Jobs and Infrastructure Act (H.R. 4849) and again in May as part of H.R. 4213. But the small business bill is still hung up in the Senate. And the big jobs/tax break bill was ultimately whittled down to just a temporary extension of expanded unemployment benefits.

So here we are nearing the third week of September, with the Fund due to expire at the end of the month.

Republicans seem dead set against more stimulus spending. The Obama administration seems reluctant to step up to the plate, though Jared Bernstein, the Vice President’s Chief Economic Advisor, has blogged in support of an extension.

Hard to know whether the Democratic leadership in Congress will tee up the extension again or focus on high-stakes fights, e.g., the expiring Bush tax cuts, the energy/oil spill legislation, must-pass appropriations and maybe (given the egg recall) the long-pending bill to strengthen the federal food safety system.

Some of the major liberal research and advocacy organizations are trying to get the extension on the agenda — notably, CLASP, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Center for American Progress. But this is not a typical liberals versus conservatives issue.

Kevin Hassett, an economist at the quite conservative American Enterprise Institute, told the Senate Finance Committee that a major expansion of at least the subsidized employment provisions of the Fund would be a good idea, if focused “as much as possible” on private-sector jobs.

Beyond the Beltway, the bipartisan National Governors Association, National Conference of State Legislators and National Association of Counties have all come out in favor of an extension. Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi, former Chairman of the Republican National Committee and now  Chairman of the Republican Governors Association, wants an extension too.

At least two West Coast nonprofits are drumming up grassroots support. One — Mission Neighborhood Centers — is a social services provider in San Francisco. The other — Internet Archives — offers free access to digitized books and other resources.

What’s brought these strange bedfellows together are the subsidized jobs programs that state and local agencies have created or expanded using Emergency Contingency Funds.

Those who follow this blog know that I’ve got serious reservations about the District’s use of these funds for its Summer Youth Employment Program. I’ve none at all about programs like San Francisco’s Jobs Now!, which has placed more than 3,600 unemployed and underemployed low-income parents in temporary jobs that build workplace skills and experience.

Or Mississippi’s STEPS, which also focuses on low-income parents and provides phased-out wage reimbursements intended to promote regular hires. Or Tennessee’s program, which has focused on a rural county where the unemployment rate shot up to 25% after an auto plant closed.

All-told, 36 states are operating subsidized jobs programs. A new CBPP brief indicates that they’ve placed more than 250,000 parents and teens.

Only four states will indefinitely continue their year-round programs at the current level if the Emergency Contingency Fund isn’t extended. Twelve will immediately terminate their programs, and three will continue operations only till their current funding runs out.

This will be bad for the many thousands of people who will be thrown out of work and for those who would be eligible for future placements. It will be bad for small businesses that have managed to stay afloat and, in some cases, expand because they’ve had subsidized workers. It will be bad for our economy as a whole, which, as we know, needs more consumer spending.

Close to home, the District could claim nearly $27.8 million if Congress passes the extension that’s been under consideration. It could use the funds for a broad range of purposes, including support and training for its TANF participants, homeless services for families and (dare one hope?) a robust, well-targeted subsidized jobs program.

So if you live outside the District, I urge you to sign my petition (a new one) in support of an extension of the Emergency Contingency Fund. And if you’re disenfranchised like me, please pass the word along.

5 Responses to Code Blue For TANF Emergency Contingency Fund

  1. Sara Bradley says:

    I recently sent this to Governor Purdue in NC:

    Dear Governor Perdue,

    Jacob’s Ladder Job Center (JLJC) is one of five partners with the Department of Social Services in Mecklenburg County. ‘The Opportunity Project’ has placed 470 people. JLJC has placed 75 of those people. I am asking for an extension of the funds for six months instead of through the end of the year. Here is why:

    • 61 of the 75 people are still working.
    • As it stands now, 8 of the 61 people will continue beyond 9/30/10.
    • With continued funding and support for six months, employers estimate they will have the ability to create an additional 41 (or a total of 49) permanent jobs from 75 placements.
    • With additional time, we can match others with employers who can provide a stable work environment and continue to coach the placements with job sustainability.
    Out of the 61 people:
    24 Under $12/hr 39.3%
    13 Between $12 & $14/hr 21.3%
    24 Over $14/hr 39.3%
    61 Jacob’s Ladder Job Center Placements

    • 39% are making under $12/hour but learning job sustainability. With coaching, half of those have the ability to move on and be ‘matched’ with employers to create an additional 12 jobs.
    • 50%, or 37 people placed in the program have a real shot at moving on without public assistance if funding is continued for three to six months.
    • 39% are making more than $14.00 hour. The ability to earn those wages means those individuals will not return to TANF.
    • Estimated additional gross wages to continue Jacob’s Ladder Job Center placements beyond 9/30/10, for six months is $349,460.79.
    • $349,460.79 across six agencies is $2,096,764.74 in gross wages for six months of funding.
    • Multiply 37 people not returning to public assistance across six agencies that is 222 people we have the ability to impact.
    The statistics do not even begin to cover the domino effect these jobs have in the overall economy, local unemployment, crime rates, and to local employers. It took the program some time to get up and running. The program was only in existence for half the time it should have been. These are amazing statistics. Let this program continue to make an impact. Please extend the deadline until the funds are used.

  2. […] Security retirement benefit in July 2010. What will happen unless Congress renews the now-expired TANF Emergency Contingency Fund is an open question since a majority of states have used a portion of their allocation for basic […]

  3. […] The President also proposes a new fund to provide low-income youth and adults with job opportunities and on-the-job-training. He seems to envision something like the subsidized jobs programs that were supported by the now-expired TANF Emergency Contingency Fund. […]

  4. […] the good news is that TANF won’t die the way the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund did. States will still get their regular block grant payments through March 2012. A brief reprieve, […]

  5. […] the good news is that TANF won’t die the way the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund did. States will still get their regular block grant payments through March 2012. A brief reprieve, […]

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