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Poverty’s Up, But Jobs Program Is Almost Gone

“Perhaps the biggest scandal of all — especially after last week’s Census Bureau finding that one in seven Americans is living in poverty — would be to allow the expiration of an emergency fund included in the stimulus to subsidize jobs for low-income parents and young Americans,” columnist E. J. Dionne wrote yesterday.  But that’s exactly what will happen unless Congress acts within the next ten days to renew the TANF Emergency Fund, which 37 states have used to provide one-quarter of a million people with jobs.

If Congress lets the fund expire on September 30, thousands of people will lose their jobs and businesses will lose support that is helping them weather the recession.  The House has already voted twice to extend the fund, so everything depends on the Senate.

As Dionne pointed out, the fund “embodies a value every conservative campaigns on:  that the best anti-poverty program is a job.”

The fund’s impact on poverty is unmistakable.  For example, in Illinois, where nearly 30,000 jobs are at stake, workers earn $400 a week — enough to lift a family of three 20 percent above the poverty line if they work a full year.  Without the subsidized job, this family would be eligible for just $432 a month in cash assistance from the state’s regular TANF program, which does not even get them to half the poverty line.  And of course, the skills and experience the family gains from the subsidized job will give them a much better chance of staying out of poverty in the future.

Tomorrow, we will begin a countdown until the fund expires.  Each day, we’ll provide an example of an individual or business that has benefited from the fund — and whose future may be threatened by its expiration.