Stimulus jobs end, Dems bank on extension
As about 140 federal stimulus-funded jobs ended Friday in Nevada County, program participants are crossing their fingers that lawmakers still will pass a $2.5 billion extension.
Called the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families’ Emergency Contingency Fund, the money allowed for subsidized jobs over the past year. The federal government paid 80 percent of wages, while the remainder came in the form of an in-kind contribution of training and supervision from the host business.
Eco Community Thrift in Grass Valley bade farewell to two women who had worked through the program for the past six months.
“I’m saddened we have to say good-bye,” said owner Curtis Smith. “They’ve become like part of the family.”
Smith and his wife operate the thrift store by themselves, but “having two people here has built up our organization to be nice and full and well-represented.”
Business has grown in the six months the subsidized employees have been there, “but not to the level we need to hire someone.
“But if the program were extended another six months, we could built up that much more,” Curtis said.
The story is similar at many of the 65 Nevada County businesses, nonprofits and government agencies who have taken on subsidized employees. In spite of the on-the-job skills they acquired, only a handful of them were hired on full-time; the rest will return to unemployment rolls.
Language to extend the program – which officially ends Sept. 30 – has been tacked onto a “tax extenders” in the Senate. No action has been taken on it yet.
California’s Senators Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein have supported the program consistently, representatives said. Carly Fiorino, a Republican running against Boxer, did not respond to an inquiry about how she would vote on the bill if she were in office.
Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove, has opposed all federal stimulus spending. Should the bill clear the Senate, it would go on to the House of Representatives.
“It’s a prime example of a well-intentioned program that’s doing more harm than good,” McClintock said.
As unemployment remains high – Nevada County’s rate was 11.3 in August – only a reduction of government taxes would stimulate businesses to create permanent jobs. Efforts like the subsidized jobs program “actually increase unemployment,” and the deficit spending to support them takes away money that could be used for business loans that would create permanent jobs, he said.
“I realize the quiet panic that stalks every waking hour for an unemployed family,” McClintock said. “The only way out of that nightmare is a permanent job, and we’re making that less possible with these policies.”
While the program could expire, an extension could be passed at a later time, allowing the program to ramp up again, said Nevada County Social Services Director Alison Lehman said.
“That’s not beneficial to the business owner (employing people through the program) nor to the client who is participating, and it’s not cost-effective” for her staff, Lehman added. “We were seeing such great, great outcomes.”
At places like The Studio in Grass Valley, where program participants learned to sew and fashioned toiletry kits that were donated to nonprofits, employees said they were very thankful for the program.
Participants used their newfound skills to design quilts, which won 10 awards at the Nevada County Fair.
A 75-year-old woman named Barbara – who is eligible because she is financially responsible for her teenage grandson – said the program lifts morale for people weary of chronic unemployment.
“You can see the change in them,” Barbara said. “They’re taking more pride in what they do.”
To contact Staff Writer Michelle Rindels, e-mail email@example.com or call (530) 477-4247.
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