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“Our Blue-Collar Great Depression”

In an op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal (“Our Blue-Collar Great Depression”), Rockefeller Foundation executive Janice Nittoli makes a compelling argument for extending the TANF Emergency Fund.  I’ve written several times (see here and here) that Congress should extend this Recovery Act-created fund — which states and localities are using to help create some 240,000 subsidized jobs in the private and public sectors — beyond its September 30 expiration.  As Nittoli explains:

  • Job losses in this recession have been concentrated among workers who are under age 30 and less well-educated, with those in blue-collar industries suffering the most.  Employment among this group has plummeted by nearly one-fifth, comparable to the decline in employment in the nation as a whole during the Great Depression.
  • Long-term unemployment not only causes loss of income but also destroys marriages, weakens families, and devastates communities — problems that are costly and difficult to solve.
  • To help young blue-collar workers potentially facing years of unemployment, we need to create work opportunities using a mix of older and newer strategies that have proven successful, including subsidized jobs created through the TANF Emergency Fund.

“If we want to write a history of that future that leaves many fewer behind, we must start now,” Nittoli concludes.  Unfortunately, Congress’s failure to extend the fund before its summer recess has forced some states to begin shutting down their programs, despite growing concerns about unemployment.  Congress needs to rectify this — and fast — when it returns in September.