Job-Creating Stimulus Program Nears End

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010 at 3:20 pm

You probably haven’t heard of the TANF Emergency Fund, a program tucked into the massive $787 billion Feb. 2009 stimulus, but the administration considered it so successful that it requested its extension into next year, with an estimated cost of $2.5 billion.

With TEF, the federal government offered to reimburse states for 80 percent of the cost of job-subsidy or certain public assistance programs. Thirty-seven states took the government up on it, leading to the hiring of 240,000 previously unemployed workers nationwide.

The House voted twice to extend the funding. The Senate failed to pass either extension. That means that when the fund expires on Sept. 30, the subsidy will go away and tens of thousands of workers will lose their jobs and move onto the unemployment rolls.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities summarized some of the Emergency Fund’s achievements. One county in Tennessee used TEF funding to bring its unemployment rate from 27.3 to 18.6 percent in eight months. North Dakota used it to provide jobs for jobless parents without the means to pay their child support. South Carolina used it to give jobs to parents who would otherwise collect welfare. Illinois provided 20,000 jobs, 67 percent more than its goal. Alabama used it to gin up rural jobs.

Today, Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) held a hearing to urge the TEF’s reauthorization. (Pennsylvania’s program, called Way to Work, led 4,200 businesses to hire 12,000 people. 3,000 will lose their jobs on Sept. 30, absent Congressional action.) Employers and employees who benefited from the program, scholars at think tanks, union leaders and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter all argued for it. Casey is looking for a vehicle for the funding, but the chances seem dim.

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