The TANF Emergency Fund has helped not just individuals and businesses but entire communities — especially those hit hardest by the recession. These communities now face a return to more unemployment and hardship when the fund expires. One example is Perry County, TN, the subject of a Tennessean article on Tuesday. Here are some highlights:
A small rural community with about 7,600 residents, Perry County saw its unemployment rate soar to 27 percent after a local auto parts plant closed. State and local officials and private employers worked together to put residents back to work by creating subsidized jobs, mostly in the private sector.
This initiative created jobs — many of which were funded through the Emergency Fund — for about 715 residents. By July, the county’s jobless rate had fallen nearly in half, to 14.4 percent. But hundreds of jobs will disappear when the fund expires, and unemployment is expected to climb back toward 20 percent.
One worker who will lose his job at the end of the month, a father of three young children who was laid off at a hardware store before the jobs program was created, said it was a success: “I didn’t lose my house, and the kids didn’t go hungry.”
An employer who hired several workers through the program noted that as his company expanded, it spent more in local stores, boosting the community as a whole. “It just snowballs,” he said.
Governor Phil Bredesen also praised the program, which “got jobs into the hands of people right away, so that they didn’t lose their house or car or get over their head in credit card debt. It was direct, simple and efficient, and I’m very proud of that. I wish we could do more of it.”
Tomorrow I’ll tell you about another worker who has benefited from the Emergency Fund.