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GOP Senators Kill Successful Jobs Program

Jeremy Sprinkle
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The TANF Emergency Fund which expired this week was created by the Recovery Act.

TANF Emergency Fund ends, layoffs begin

Terrible news from the AFL-CIO Blog:

Senate Republicans turned their backs on workers one more time before they left town for the Nov. 2 elections when they refused to allow a vote to keep alive a jobs program that has created nearly a quarter of million jobs. Many of those jobs were in some of the communities hardest hit by the nation's unemployment crisis.

The program was a small part of the economic recovery package known as the TANF Emergency Fund and it directly subsidized jobs in government, nonprofit organizations and small businesses for unemployed workers.

On Tuesday, Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.)—with the backing of Republican leaders—used Senate rules to block an extension of the TANF fund. The program expired today and the layoffs are beginning.

LaDonna Pavetti at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities explains what the TANF Emergency Fund accomplished for workers still suffering the consequences of the Great Recesssion:

  • Provided jobs for about 250,000 low-income parents and teens who would otherwise have been unemployed.
  • Helped low-income families avert homelessness.
  • Helped communities respond to the growing need for food assistance.
  • Helped states respond to the increased need for cash assistance.
  • Stimulated local economies.

The fund allowed states to subsidize up to 80% the cost to business to hire new employees, and it enjoyed broad bipartisan support in the states, explained Christine Owens and George Wentworth writing for Politico this week:

Mississippi's [Republican] Gov. Haley Barbour, for example, hailed his state's program, STEPS, for "spur[ring] job creation in the private sector by assisting business owners with the upfront costs of hiring new workers." In just nine months, the STEPS program of gradually decreasing wage subsidies has placed more than 3,200 workers in private-sector jobs. Early results show that nearly all program completers have become permanent employees.

Allowing it to expire means killing jobs when we should be saving them, throwing hundreds of thousands back into joblessness at the very moment we need to put America back to work.

The problem the TANF Emergency Fund faced wasn't that it failed to create jobs (it did) or was unpopular (it wasn't) or costs too much (not even a fraction of the cost to extend the Bush tax cuts for the rich). The problem with this program was Senate Republicans were more interested in saving their own jobs than saving ours.